until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

In detail: AlphaTauri’s plan to right the wrongs of last year

by Edd Straw
5 min read

AlphaTauri expects to get “back to business” with its 2023 car after a poor season last year, with its new machine aiming to benefit from unlocking more aerodynamic potential and the phasing in of more rolling updates throughout the season.

The AlphaTauri AT04 will be revealed tonight, with a launch event being held in New York as part of the city’s fashion week. Although the car used at the event isn’t expected to be the 2023 car, there is set to be imagery released of the real design.

AlphaTauri scored only 35 points last year and slid to ninth in the championship, although it had the seventh-fastest car on average and underachieved thanks to a combination of unreliability problems and ill-timed operational errors.

The most significant of these was in Monaco where the car was third-quickest behind Red Bull and Ferrari in the hands of Pierre Gasly, but after a red flag in Q1 he wasn’t released into the pitlane queue early enough to complete his out-lap and set a laptime to advance to Q2.

But even if AlphaTauri had produced the results it should have done last year, it still would have been disappointing for a team that made significant progress in F1’s midfield in the preceding years, winning a race in 2020 and then finishing fifth with a car capable of battling with McLaren and Ferrari in ’22.

There are many reasons for its slump and it was perhaps not unexpected that one of F1’s smaller teams struggled with the transition to the new ground-effect technical regulations.

It also went through a process of moving in to share Red Bull’s windtunnel (although as per F1 regulations aerodynamic data cannot be shared between the teams), a process completed early in ’21 but that will have had an impact on the team as it adapted both in terms of how it conducted windtunnel testing and switched to producing 60% scale models (instead of 50%).

But despite those challenges, technical director Jody Egginton accepted that the team underachieved in ’22 – something that it intends to put right this year.

Yuki Tsunoda Jody Egginton AlphaTauri F1

“I’m not going to give that excuse because as the leader of that group, I know what the team is capable of and I take ownership of when things don’t go well,” Egginton told The Race in an interview late last year.

“I believe in the people, we’ve got the processes in place. It’s not easy moving windtunnels but we didn’t have to make that decision but we did and it was the right thing to do. And year two, the expectation is that we get back to business and operating along that trajectory we showed in 2020 and 2021.

“We’ve proven the level we can deliver at. And the team objective of wanting to operate in the top five in the constructors’ championship, we’ve proven we could do it. We’ve just got to do it and we’ve got most of the tools. We’re a little bit smaller – we have to work a little bit harder and a little bit more efficiently. But what we might lose in firepower, I like to think we can recover with quick reactions and tenacity. That’s the goal.”

AlphaTauri will again use Red Bull components alongside its supply of the RBPT Honda engine, which includes continuing to use Red Bull’s gearbox and hydraulics.

The chassis will be changed, partly because of the change in primary roll structure regulations, as well as tweaks being made to open up aerodynamic development opportunities – potentially including moving the front suspension forwards, which Egginton confirmed was being evaluated.

Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri F1

“The chassis will be significantly modified because there’s a change in the rollhoop regulations and we need to look at it from a structural perspective because of that,” said Egginton.

“But there’s also aerodynamic benefit to be had like every other team, we’re interested in moving the front suspension forwards. It’s a key aerodynamic driver.

“But if you make mods to the chassis, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re starting from a completely new tooling and a complete new chassis pattern. There’s many steps between carrying over physical parts and just modifying tooling, so it will be a mix. The budget cap really forces you to look at it and the key point is to make sure that we modify all the structural parts which could be aerodynamic key drivers.

“There’s a lightweighting opportunity, but we should be able to get weight out of the car without doing anything new. We’re aero-driven ultimately, so we’re also in a position to hopefully take advantage with some carryover If you’re not investing in certain parts of the car and you can more efficiently use that money elsewhere to develop other parts of the car.”

The other area of weakness last year was erratic aerodynamic development. That led to stuttering introduction of upgrades and AlphaTauri becoming less competitive as the season progressed.

There were several significant packages introduced and it wasn’t that there was a lack of new parts, but AlphaTauri wants to more steadily and consistently phase them in.

AlphaTauri F1

In 2023, the ambition is to have more, smaller upgrades. This is in keeping with the strategy AlphaTauri adopted in the years before ’22, which followed struggles in 2018 with making a major upgrade package work.

“Our development in season has been inconsistent in terms of the consistency of finding aero performance,” said Egginton. “At some point, we’ve delivered some good tunnel results and we’ve got the parts of the track and that’s good. But in other periods, we’ve been a little bit behind relative to previous years.

“That, in some ways, has forced us to roll updates into larger updates, which goes against the direction we were going in the previous two or three years. And that’s something we’re going to get back to more of a rolling development in 2023.”

The hope is that the rolling development approach will make it possible to more consistently “nibble away” at improving car characteristics. And the aim is that the AT04 will not only be a car that has greater aerodynamic load, but also that allows the team to have more fine control over the sensitivities and characteristics – and to once again aspire to fight at the front of the midfield.

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