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Formula 1

Alpine upgrade is first hint of teams following Ferrari’s lead

by Rosario Giuliana
4 min read

When Alpine presented itself for the Bahrain Grand Prix, it became the first Formula 1 team to bring a substantial sidepod update since the end of 2022 testing.

The initial design choice on the A522, in regards to the management of the airflow in the sidepods, was to keep rather high bodywork and to then have a downwash in the final part.

It was a very similar choice to that of Red Bull and AlphaTauri, which have very high radiator inlets and bodywork that drops towards the floor towards the rear wheel to bring air into the outer wall of the diffuser.

But the new sidepods Alpine brought for the first race in Bahrain include a modification right at the rear, with a raised edge that looks like it could be inspired by – and is certainly taking the same direction as – the aerodynamic philosophy of the Ferrari F1-75.

Alpine F1 sidepod drawing

The raised wall indicated by the arrow forms a sliding channel for the flow of air in the part above the sidepods, acting as a barrier so as not to disperse the flow and retain it in the central part.

It is clear that it is not an identical copy of the Ferrari F1-75 design, but it is a first approach that suggests Alpine is trying to take inspiration from the unconventional shape chosen by Ferrari on the 2022 car.

Ferrari F1 sidepod

Is this a first indication that Ferrari’s solution can be copied by the adversaries? Or given the lead times in producing upgrades, that other teams were already coming round to the same conclusions as the team that started 2022 with a 1-2 finish?

It is perhaps too early to tell, but Alpine is certainly the second team after Ferrari to form a ‘gutter’ to channel the air over the sidepods.

Other teams have instead kept the direction of the downwash as in 2021, creating a slide on the bodywork behind the radiators to bring a portion of air that passes over the sidepods above the floor.

Whether the choice made by Ferrari for the bodywork is ultimately the winner on these 2022 cars we will probably find out in 2023.

The complete Ferrari shapes will be difficult to copy in the current season, as the solutions other teams have chosen are too different overall and would require them to change the aerodynamics too much.

The Ferrari shapes are also quite close to the limit with the regulation, which in addition to constraining the volumes also limits the concavities.

The new Alpine sidepods are a sort of hybrid version between Red Bull/AlphaTauri and slightly Ferrari. The new specification brought to Sakhir also included changes in the front of the sidepods, under the radiator inlet. The new shape shows a wider undercut, which seems to collect a greater flow of air above the floor.

Alpine F1 sidepod comparison drawing

The update brought by Alpine is not something as revolutionary as what was produced by Mercedes, which already had its new project on the way before the start of winter tests.

Alpine may have studied this solution after seeing the Ferrari presentation, and could now be testing the aerodynamic philosophy of the F1-75 on its A522.

The new Alpine sidepods were already brought to Bahrain on Thursday, and first glimpsed during the routine technical checks. But when they broke up on Esteban Ocon’s car in Friday practice, only Fernando Alonso ended up using the new version.

Fernando Alonso Esteban Ocon Alpine F1 sidepod comparison

Alpine has also brought a new floor, to reduce the much-hated porpoising. On the new specification, used by both drivers, an extra slot has been added to take away part of the airflow that creates the aerodynamic stall on the straight, causing the car to bounce. The floor seems different even in the outer wall.

Alpine F1 floor comparison

Given the doubts surrounding the direction of the Alpine team, and a difficult pre-season test at Barcelona in particular, it had a respectable start to the year.

Alonso’s upgraded car was an encouraging eighth in qualifying, though in the race it was Ocon who came through to seventh, two places ahead of his team-mate.

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