@Femi to attempt to tackle your question... remember when teams use to have cars with different downforce settings /rear wings on different tracks?
Now it only changes much for Spa and Monza, Monaco n such extreme tracks. In Monaco, the car is loaded with dirty downforce (i.e. downforce with high drag penalty but they don't care cos of the track), while in Monza, downforce with a certain level of drag penalty is taken off.
The Red Bull car and philosophy has been to load the car always with a lot of downforce, that is how the car is built.... they get some drag penalty, but it is not so much that they are unable to win. Basically there will be tracks where that extra downforce will make them hard to beat e.g. Spain / Hungary.
For example, turn 9 in Spain, if you carry more speed through there, the benefit is not just through that corner but the long straight after...
But on tracks with a few more straights and less high speed corners the effect is lessened.
Basically optimum aero efficiency params for each track is different but because of the rules, tires and DF being at premium, most tracks need as much DF as possible short of ban door rear wings.
Apart from pure downforce, one of the big strengths of the RB in 2010 and 2011 was the offthrottle blowing thing, which made their car considerably faster in slower corners or off throttle than the rest. Before this, mechanical grip and normal df was the big thing in slow corners.... with the ban/limitations, it will be mechanical grip/ normal df again.
So now, how can car B with lesser downforce be faster than A? It depends on the track and the qualities of car B. If car B has more straightline speed and better mechanical grip/suspension than A, depending on the track, the driver may be able to compensate for lack of downforce... e.g. a track like Canada with long straights and slow corners.
As for balance, it is quite complex.. the simple thing will be that front df/rear df/weight distribution params/driveability etc are ideal enough to give the driver confidence when attacking the track.
The RedBull always looks the most balanced, but as LH has shown attimes in his time at McLaren...it can still be beat on pure pace with a car that doesn't look as "balanced".
E.g. in Abu Dhabi last year, the Red Bull still looked on rails but with the upgraded McLaren, LH was able to do his thing in qualifying.
Which brings me to my final point why I still don't fear Red Bull as much as some reports suggest I should... the biggest thing RedBull had in their most fearsome days wasn't just pure downforce, it was the off throttle thing... its the difference btw LH's competitiveness in qualifying in Abu Dhabi in 2012 and 2011/2010. It was where they had the most advantage over everyone. As long as they don't have some trick to replicate this again, they shouldn't be so far away from the pack.
Overall, my feeling is that if other teams did indeed find more downforce over the winter, they should be closer to Red Bull enough to make Red Bull's lack of straightline speed pay on some tracks.
Edited by bauss, 10 March 2013 - 13:30.