The second generation of ground-effect single-seaters, the 2023 Formula 1 cars will be designed differently than their predecessors, AlphaTauri’s technical director exclusively told us.
WHERE IS F1 2023 IN JANUARY?
What happens in January in Faenza, a small town in Emilia-Romagna where the main factory of Red Bull’s little sister is located?
“In January, we are at the full stage of the production of aerodynamic surfaces, i.e. body parts. Pragmatist Jody Egginton, CTO of Alpha Tauri, details. At the moment, the chassis is homologated and installed at the factory. It should be noted that although pre-season tests are held at the end of February, the first race is held only in March.
“In January, the launch version of the chassis is in production, but we are already focusing on the evolutions programmed for the Premier Grand Prix: new front wing, rear wing update, new flat bottom model, etc. “These parts are going into production at the end of January, beginning of February, because they need them for the opening round in Bahrain or, ideally, the last day of testing.”
Before reaching that final straight line, fourteen months of design, CFD (digital wind tunnel), wind tunnel passes, CAD design, molding for the carbon components will take place to bring F1 2023 to life. machining the monocoque, mechanical parts… (Check out the monthly build schedule for F1 here).
AZ DOOR LEFT OPEN
However, this January doesn’t feel like the beginning of 2022, when engineers were designing F1 from a blank slate, subject to an entirely new technical regulation.
“Last year we designed the car in such a way that we could develop it in one way or another, we left a few doors open. He remembers Egginton. “During the design phase, we realized that the sensitivity of some aero parts was different from what we expected.”
“My philosophy at the time was to design a car that offered a lot of flexibility, a lot of potential for development. Especially if we made a mistake in the pontoon area, we had to leave ourselves a large margin of safety to be able to change the car.
“Today, with a full season behind us, we know we’re not going to go one way or the other with F1 2023. As a result, the boundaries we’ve set in certain places are no longer valid because we know they won’t be. Be helpful.”
“For example, we can install structural elements in some places of the monohull that we did not do last year, because today we know that they will not obstruct the flow of water and air. A year ago, everything was more uncertain…”
“Well, the opposite is also true: we know we’re going to have to move some mechanical elements that turn out to be out of place.”
In the case of AlphaTauri, another factor changes the game. For the AT03, the Italian engineers in obscurity designed their parts to fit what they didn’t know the final dimensions of the Red Bull elements. As a result, these home-made components were, as a precaution, of extreme dimensions and stiffness, resulting in considerable excess weight.
The AT04 will have fewer Red Bull parts as the team’s aerodynamicists learn how to use Formula 1 ground effects:
“After a year of driving, we have a lot of experience with these cars. Chief engineer Jonathan Eddols confirms. We know the window in which they operate. So we no longer need to be flexible in certain parts, which will save us weight. We will do certain things differently because these cars, these tires, etc. we know how it works.
DRIVEN BY DATA
Inspired by its predecessor, the AT04 will not be designed in the same way. While engineers had to rely solely on simulations to design the AT03, this winter they were able to use billions of data collected from 22 races last season:
“We rely on the data collected throughout the yearEgginton explains, aero data, chassis figures, wheels… Compared to 2022, we know how the main elements of the car work and take them into account. In addition, there is some information from our competitors. That way, we know what our strengths and weaknesses are and have an idea of who the competition is. From all this, we identify the areas where we need to make great progress and the areas where we only need to consolidate.”
“Specifically, these data help me form the technical characteristics of the car. These specifications describe in detail quantitative objectives by areas : what kind of load will be created on this or that part of the body, the degree of tire degradation, the balance that will be achieved as a result of the return of the drivers, etc.
“All this helps us understand which part of the car we should focus on. This is the same process followed in the development program, but in the case of a new chassis it is obviously more important.
“Furthermore, the kilometers completed last year refine our correlation. In the winter of 2021, when we were working on the first F1 of the new generation, we had no idea. We only relied on simulations and were anxiously waiting to see if we were wrong… [Rires].”
“Today we are less worried about F1 2023 because our models are more accurate. Be it wind tunnel, CFD, tire thermal degradation, etc. our relationship is better.”
COMPLIANCE WITH F1 2023 TECHNICAL REGULATIONS
Finally, the engineers had to integrate changes to the F1 technical regulations for the 2023 season.
“These changes are not surprising, assures our faithful interlocutor. We have discussed this extensively between the technical directors and the FIA, or directly in meetings with Federation officials. We were afraid that certain modifications would force us to redesign the chassis, but the FIA took our fears into consideration. Thanks to these consultations, measures should achieve their goals (restriction pumping or “porpoising”) without penalizing either team too much.
“Well, some of the changes, like the strengthening of the roll bar, came a little late, which made life difficult for us. But that’s just the lateness of the events that led to them. [l’accident de Zhou Guanyu a eu lieu au départ du Grand Prix de Grande-Bretagne, dixième manche du championnat].”
“Obviously, the biggest improvement will be at the low end. This is the biggest performance difference with this type of car.“
If the changes to the flat bottom cause F1 2023 to lose half a second, it needs to make up for that deficit with more informed design and development.
But only to a certain extent does the FIA focus on slowing down the engineers’ progress.
Because, as Vialatte says, “Nothing stands in the way of progress. It stands on its own”.