Alpine has launched the A524 2024 Formula 1 car that is tasked with firing some life back into Renault’s stuttering works programme.
Car limitations and an engine deficit made Alpine’s 2023 challenger inconsistent and only a sporadic nuisance to F1’s top teams, and resulted in significant management changes as Alpine’s CEO, team principal and long-serving sporting director were replaced throughout the year.
Now headed by Bruno Famin, who has been made permanent team principal after holding the role on an interim basis last year, Alpine needs the A524 to be a course correcting F1 car.
It was launched on Wednesday at Alpine's Enstone base alongside its Hypercar challenger for the World Endurance Championship, with renders and - in a first for 2024 launch season - what Alpine says was the real thing that will run in Bahrain for a shakedown on February 20.
The A524 has a dark livery with a black base, and the mainly blue accents will be replaced by pink at eight races this year, to give title sponsor BWT more prominence at these events.
Eschewing the largely blue and pink designs of recent years since its Alpine rebrand means this team disappointingly joins the ranks of those going with more bare carbon in this era, to save weight.
While this was said to be the real car, it will be interesting to see if it has evolved by the time testing begins.
Alpine calls it “completely revised” with an “aggressive design philosophy” it hopes will give maximum potential for the final two years of the current ruleset but it looks similar aerodynamically to the A523.
ONE BIG VISIBLE CHANGE
There is an enhanced undercut and a less bulky sidepod which, linked to a slightly increased airbox area, implies some relocation of the cooling.
Making a “completely redesigned” chassis lighter is among technical director Matt Harman’s list of key differences along with new rear suspension, optimised front suspension, a new heat rejection system and better brake thermal management.
Of those, the biggest and most significant visible change is the redesigned rear suspension with a relocated pushrod.
This is to improve entry rotation and through-corner balance, a key factor in the main weaknesses of the 2023 Alpine - poor ride and poor balance.
Harman had previously teased the rear suspension as the main area of focus on the A524 and as most of the detail will be in the internals on the hidden inboard side, it is a much bigger deal than it looks.
To achieve more consistent through-corner balance ideally needs some help from the rear suspension, to help enhance the initial rotation but without then inducing oversteer, and Alpine moving the outboard location point of the pushrod further away from the toe link may give an enhanced rear steer effect in transition.
A LINGERING DEFICIT
One 2023 weakness that will only be partly mitigated, at best, is the engine. Alpine believes it was around 15bhp down to the best last year but has not been granted a release from F1’s current engine freeze to address that.
Harman has said it is possible that some car/engine compromises can be tweaked slightly, “not to parity but to a level we believe is manageable”.
A lighter chassis may help and Alpine may take a more aggressive approach to engine use this season too - basically, run it harder at every event, and accept that will probably mean using more engines through the year and more grid penalties.
But a dramatic change in engine performance is not expected. That is partly because there is a huge emphasis on the 2026 engine project at Viry to ensure that a familiar hybrid era deficit is properly eliminated by then, and nobody wants to distract from that.
It cranks up the pressure for this A524 to be a big step from its predecessor, to help counter at least one built-in performance deficit.