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Alpine Took ‘Bold New Approach’ with A524 Development

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Alpine took a ‘bold new approach’ when developing its latest A524 Formula 1 car after a challenging season last year, according to the team’s technical director Matt Harman.

The A524, revealed on Wednesday, features several new features and improvements over the A523, which marked a step back for Alpine in terms of results. The Renault brand, which operates its F1 programme between an engine facility at Viry-Chatillon in France and a factory at Enstone in the United Kingdom, dropped from fourth to sixth in the constructors’ standings after two years of the current ground effect regulations.

Harman explained that Alpine was prompted to ‘look inwards’ as it sought to understand how to reclaim that lost ground. During the A524 launch event, where the actual car was presented alongside Alpine’s new LMDh prototype, he highlighted the key technical areas that needed an overhaul.

‘We started that process originally from concept work back in week 45 of 2022, but also after the first three races of 2023,’ said Harman. ‘We decided to take a bold new approach.

‘It’s a brand-new car from front to back: only the steering wheel survived. We’ve really tried to look at every single area of the car to make sure that we leave no stone unturned.’

(Racecar Engineering)

The chassis was one of the focus areas during development of the Alpine A524. Significant time and resources were also spent on the bodywork underneath the visible surfaces, as the team sought to control the mass load throughout the car and optimise the cooling. Alpine has tried to make space under the centre of the car to ‘free up volume and space’ for the underfloor channels that generate the downforce-inducing ground effect.

‘We’ve controlled a lot of the thermal behaviour,’ said Harman. ‘For example, we try not to cool the exhausts. That sounds very counter intuitive, but cooling the exhaust takes away the energy of the exhaust. Taking away the energy from the exhaust means you don’t have as much power at the brake. So we try to make sure that we use our air where we need it, and not where we don’t, like we do everywhere else on the top of the car.’

‘[Regarding the chassis] we need to make sure that the driver is comfortable in the car. Equally, we also need to push the structures and we also need to give the underbody of the car the ability to increase the flow rate through the car.

‘But, fundamentally, the chassis has been designed to give us the maximum amount of volume for our aerodynamics to express themselves freely in terms of concepts, not only for the launch car, but for the second, third and fourth race upgrades.’

(Racecar Engineering)

The Alpine A524 sports a new front wing and the nose is noticeably wider than it was last year. The sidepods also have flatter openings compared to the A523 when it was launched, and build on the direction Alpine took as the 2023 season progressed. The front suspension builds on last year’s concept with some changes, whereas the rear suspension has been subject to a more comprehensive reworking.

‘The kinematics are very different,’ Harman said of the front suspension. ‘The inboard suspension is slightly changed to give us more flexibility and understanding in how we control that.

‘The inboard rear suspension has been completely revised. The outboard suspension is also the same. We’ve got a brand-new kinematic on the rear suspension that allows us to take an advantage from the manner in which the car behaves under certain conditions around the track. We’ve also made sure that we’ve tried to optimise it aerodynamically. We took a little bit of an aerodynamic hit for taking that kinematic, but we believe we will drive through that.’

(Racecar Engineering)

Alpine’s 2023 car weighed less than the 798kg minimum stated in the F1 technical regulations, enabling the team to use ballast to adjust the weight distribution at different tracks. It has continued that philosophy this year, with Harman highlighting the transmission as one of the main components that has been made considerably lighter. The car’s full powertrain system and chassis have completed 3,500km on Alpine’s dyno ahead of pre-season testing this month. Dropping two places in the standings came with the silver lining of the team having just over 11 per cent more wind tunnel tests to spend on the A524 compared to the start of last year.

Harman admitted that the rear wing was an area in which Alpine ‘could have done a lot better’ last season. The current rear wing design includes elements that Alpine rolled out in its upgrade package for the penultimate round of the 2023 season in Las Vegas.

‘There were certain tracks where we were not as efficient as we wanted to be in terms of the downforce versus drag,’ explained Harman. ‘Monza was one in particular. We learned from that. We designed some new things. We went to Las Vegas and raced there and included some things from that in this car design.

‘This year, this car’s rear wings will be matched more heavily towards each individual event, making sure that for certain types of downforce versus drag requirement, we’re more optimal and closer to where we want to be from an ultimate lap time.’

(Racecar Engineering)

Putting everything together, Harman indicated that Alpine has taken a ‘very aggressive approach’ to the A524 design.

Such an attitude is required for a team that dropped positions in the standings as the likes of Aston Martin and McLaren made large strides at different ends of the 2023 season. Alpine is hopeful that the work carried out over the winter will enable it to make a similarly impressive step as its rivals, rather than reaching a performance plateau as it did with the A523.

‘We’ll see where we are when we get to the Bahrain test,’ concluded Harman. ‘But we will relentlessly upgrade this car and we’ve got an awful lot of potential to extract that we’ve not anywhere achieved all of just yet.’



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