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Monday, March 8, 2021

What AlphaTauri did (and didn’t) reveal in new F1 car images

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While McLaren showed off photographs of its MCL35M on Monday, and had a real-life run at Silverstone the following morning, AlphaTauri instead offered some renders of its AT02 and video of last year’s car with this season’s livery.

By looking closely at what AlphaTauri has shown us, we can already pick up some changes that have been made – and be alerted to those areas that remain secret.

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The first thing to note is that Alpha Tauri has indicated that it has opted to spend its development tokens at the front of the car, introducing a new nose and front suspension in order to unlock additional mechanical and aerodynamic performance. As a consequence of these changes, the team has also updated some of its steering components with parts supplied by Red Bull Technology to its sister team last season – as permitted by the technical regulations.

AlphaTauri AT01/AT02 comparison

Photo by: AlphaTauri

The studio images of the AT02 suggest that it is keeping those cards close to its chest at this stage, with the designs seen in the images only subtly different to the ones used on the car in 2020. However, when we dig a little deeper there’s plenty for us to chew on while we wait for more images from the filming day it has scheduled for February 24.

Let’s kick things off with the floor, which is one of the most interesting design features of the AT02…

AlphaTauri AT01/AT02 floor comparison

AlphaTauri AT01/AT02 floor comparison

Photo by: AlphaTauri

In order to comply with the new regulations for this year, teams must take a slice out of the edge of the floor ahead of the rear tyre. This is bound by dimensional requirements within the regulations, but still leaves some scope for individualism, just as we’re seeing here.

When viewed from above, the AT02’s floor cut-out has a Z-shaping around 200mm from the point where the diagonal boundary starts (highlighted in green, above). When viewed from the side we must also note that this juts into a substantial floor scroll, forming a partnership with an outwardly angled floor strake.

This trio of design elements is clearly an attempt at recouping some of the losses associated with the loss in floor span ahead of the rear tyre and the inability to add fully enclosed holes within 100mm from the floor’s edge, as was possible last season.

Interestingly, the team has also added another floor scroll ahead of the rear tyre, with a similar sized flap mounted atop of it. All of these design decisions are born out of a desire to influence the turbulent wake that’s created by the rear tyre and would otherwise result in a loss of performance from the diffuser.

AlphaTauri AT01/AT02 side view comparison

AlphaTauri AT01/AT02 side view comparison

Photo by: AlphaTauri

The area ahead of the sidepods has also been refined, taking the opportunity to move to the ever popular Venetian blind-style horizontal deflector panelling (blue arrow, above). The forward-most deflector panel has been bought forward over the floor’s axehead and squared off at the connecting point with the bargeboard clusters boomerang (black arrow).

The rear panel in the deflector has also been detached from the sidepod, whereas it had previously arched over to meet with it (red arrow).

This batch of changes have an impact on how the turbulence created by the front tyre is handled. They also improve the performance of the airflow moving around the sidepods and can influence the flow across the rear tyre.

The yellow highlight added on the sidepod bodywork indicates how much work has been done by the team and Honda to improve its cooling package, which in-turn allows it to improve the car’s aerodynamics.

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The sidepod bodywork has been shrink wrapped to the internal components much closer than before as there’s less fear of overheating, which has also allowed the team to follow a trend whereby the bodywork’s contouring bleeds down to the floor much earlier. This is especially important this season with the floor’s real estate having been shrunk back.

The bargeboard cluster has also been optimised in numerous ways, but the most intriguing aspect is the arrival of a new fin mounted about halfway up the assembly, with the twisted foil offering a supportive surface for the airflow to be manoeuvred against.

AlphaTauri AT02

AlphaTauri AT02

Photo by: AlphaTauri

Even though AlphaTauri had the opportunity to update its rear suspension and gearbox without having to spend any tokens, it has opted to carry over the 2020 specification parts.

This, as we can see from the rear shot (above), has allowed the team to refine its cooling packaging around a known quantity, with the main outlet framed by the upper and lower wishbones. This view also affords us an opportunity to take another look at the work done on the sidepods, which now cascade down more elegantly to the floor than they did last season.

The double swan-neck rear wing pillars that were introduced during 2020 have also been retained, while the diffuser shown is largely a carryover from the design used last season.

However, the strakes have been cut down by 50mm to come in-line with this year’s regulations, although that could change when the car hits the track.

AlphaTauri AT02 front wing detail

AlphaTauri AT02 front wing detail

Photo by: AlphaTauri

Circling back to the front of the car, there are a couple of things worth mentioning, including the changes made to the front wing – with an inboard footplate added (red arrow, above), the outer footplate re-profiled and the overall shape of the flaps altered as the team look to adjust the airflows transit around the front wheel.

The front brake duct is similar in size and shape to the one used toward the end of last season but this, along with the currently blank section beneath, could well change during testing as the team adds the fins we have seen become commonplace up and down the grid (green arrow).

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