The AlphaTauri Formula 1 team will introduce a new floor during the British Grand Prix weekend that’s characterised as the first upgrade that targets a significant improvement in what has been the biggest weakness of the AT04 so far this season.
AlphaTauri, which is set for a new identity next year with much of its facilities now set to be relocated to the UK, has managed only two points this year and is last in the championship.
While it has made a little progress at improving its low-speed performance with floor upgrades introduced for race three in Australia and race six in Monaco, it needs a big step to be a points threat at more than only the tracks that play to its strengths, such as Barcelona where Yuki Tsunoda finished ninth on-the-road before dropping out of the points with a penalty for forcing Zhou Guanyu off the track.
Nyck de Vries, who has endured a difficult first full F1 season so far with a best finish of 12th, characterised the problem in an interview with The Race last month as “you have late-entry instability and then mid-corner understeer”. This is a problem that also blighted the 2022 AlphaTauri.
A new rear wing and beam wing was introduced in Austria last week worked as expected, but according to head of trackside engineering Jonathan Eddolls it “wasn’t enough to propel us forwards”. But then again, it was only ever expected to be a small step.
He describes the British Grand Prix floor upgrade as “a more significant step” that the team hopes should make it more competitive. Certainly, its performance would already be expected to be better at high-speed Silverstone.
“The late-entry instability, which was the biggest weakness, that’s the area we’ve been working on,” said Eddolls when asked by The Race in Austria about the progress in tackling the problem over the season.
“We have improved it, it’s still a weakness I would say. The package we’ve got for the next event is probably one of the first that should really start to address that as a targeted area. The parts that we have on for this event are sort of across the map and efficiency steps.
“So the next event should be the first that’s targeted this weakness, and then we’ve got some further updates coming in the season. So that’s the direction of the aero development.
“But when you change aero development (direction), there’s an inertia. It takes time for those parts to get to the car. So from now on, we should start seeing the effect of the say the change of target in that area of the map.”
It’s hoped there will be a compound gain from the changes given set-up compromises made to tackle the weaknesses are weakening the car in other areas.
Eddolls hopes that trade-off will be lessened with the developments AlphaTauri is bringing. In the congested midfield, that could be enough to turn AlphaTauri into a bigger points threat and allow it to get back into the thick of what’s becoming a four-car battle for seventh in the constructors’ championship with Haas, Williams and Alfa Romeo.
“With the late-entry being a weakness, to try to address that you end up making other other areas of the car slower,” said Eddolls.
“For example, let’s say you wanted to add aero balance for high speed, which improves the balance but also gives you more load. If your low speed entry is a limitation, that can limit how much flat or aero balance you can add to it. So a weakness in one area can actually have implications everywhere.
“We’re trying to find a compromise that gives us globally the best lap time. That’s the trade-off we’re doing each week.”
Alfa Romeo also aiming to take a step
Sauber-run Alfa Romeo, which had the slowest car on outright pace in Austria and slipped to the slowest on average pace over the season after a difficult weekend at the Red Bull Ring, also has an upgrade planned for Silverstone.
The Race understands this will include floor modifications and it’s hoped that it will build on the progress made with the major upgrade package introduced in Monaco in May that included tweaked sidepods/engine cover, floor modifications and revised aero fairings on the rear suspension on top of circuit-specific changes.
It’s hoped that the changes will make further improvements to the car in terms of its high-speed performance. This was an area Sauber’s 2023 car made gains on but is still seen as a weakness along with the car’s overall drag level.
“The biggest asset is how it behaves,” said Valtteri Bottas of the car. “The balance overall we’ve got quite nice and that way in the race it’s actually quite good for the tyres. Also, recently it feels like we’ve been able to predict the set-ups pretty well, so we’ve only had to have to do minor changes in the race weekend so hopefully that helps us this weekend if we can get it right again.
“And weaknesses I would say still high speed corners are not our strength, definitely. The upgrade we have for Silverstone is mainly improving in the high speed performance without any losses from low speed.”
The team is also targeting improvements in qualifying given that its general trend for race pace is to be better than qualifying pace. Alfa Romeo has only reached Q3 once this season, courtesy of Bottas in Miami.
Williams, which introduced a major upgrade package in Canada, is also expected to bring development parts to Silverstone on what could be a significant weekend in impacting the balance of power in the four-car group battling for seventh to 10th places in the standings.