Following the success of Pierre Gasley’s Italian Grand Prix, Mark Hughes takes a closer look at the Alfatouri AT01 with technical illustrations from Giorgio Piola.
Thanks to the performance of Pierre Gasley in the Monza The Alfatouri AT01 is now the car that won the Grand Prix. This is the second machine from the small Fenza team to achieve this status since the 2008 Toro Rosso STR3. But then the rules were different and that car drives Sebastian Vettel to victory at Monza, Essentially the then Red Bull RB4, albeit with a different engine (Ferrari rather than Renault).
Teams are no longer allowed to share designs but AlphaTouri will use their technical assistance with the parent team within the limits of the regulations.
Using the current Honda Power Unit Red Bull RB16, Chassis design revolves around AlphaTouri’s own non-extensive Red Bull technology hardware, including the rear end from last year’s Red Bull RB15. This includes the gearbox, rear suspension and associated hydraulics and electronics.
The interior of the front suspension – i.e. the springs, dampers and linkages inside the nozzle – plus wheelbase also came from the Red Bull last year, while the exterior Wishbones, pushroads, etc. are owned by AlphaTouri.
A comparison of those pre-desires shows how complex the Red Bull is. They are subtle in very different planes to enhance their aerodynamic effect on the specific airflow of the Red Bull.
AlphaTouri’s are simple and straightforward, although they are fashionable – like the Red Bull – from carbon-fiber. A similar difference can be seen in detail on barge boards where the Red Bull is visually more complex.
It is a reflection of the greater resource of the parent team with more tools and staff to investigate the last small increments of aerodynamic performance. This is in addition to the growing profits that widen the gap.
The RB16 has qualified an average of 0.64s faster than the AT01 so far this year. Those 0.64s would cost multiples.
The results of Red Bull’s sophisticated research on the AlphaTouri do not apply to the small team car as aero gains, for example, the distorted profile of the Wishbones or the shapes of the barge vanes are unique to that car’s surfaces.
They do not work if AT01 is applied to different body surfaces. The body surfaces of the car and all the details should be done by the team itself.
AlphaTouri was heavily affected by RB15 last year. It has the same fat, smaller contours of the nose (unlike the thinner one in the current Red Bull). Although the bodywork shape has only surface similarities, the same gearbox and rear define the wheelbase of both cars identically.
However, there is a complete difference in approach between the front wings of the two cars. The Red Bull board opts for a board-loaded wing, with elements that use full allowable depth, the AlphaTouri, like its 2019 Toro Rosso predecessor, has an inboard-loaded wing, the wing elements sinking to a depth at the end of the outboard, as you can see in the comparative illustrations below.
This is again the work of the parent team’s more simulated resource – because the boardboard – loaded wing has been found to provide greater efficiency, but it is more difficult to maintain its airflow in the car. Hence the greater complexities of those surfaces.
“The outboard-loaded wing gives a lot of interesting numbers in the wind tunnel,” said Jody Egginton, the team’s technical director, last year, “but it’s too high for us. We could not work with the same consistency.”
One area where AT01 gained more than last year’s Toro Rosso is in rear end packaging. Last year the Toro Rosso used the rear of the 2018 Red Bull as a Honda-powered car, a Renault-powered car (the senior team switched from Renault to Honda after the junior team).
The two engines have a very different structure, with Honda using a split turbo (turbine and front-mounted compressor separated and connected by a shaft), while Renault hangs a conventional composite compressor / turbine at the rear of the engine. This puts the engine in a slightly different position on the chassis.
The Renault can be mounted further forward, but does not allow the turbo bodywork fitted at the rear to be riveted. So last year the Honda-powered Toro Rosso had to drive more wheelbase than it needed because it was using a gearbox configured around the Renault engine. This year AlphaTouri is using a gearbox designed around the Honda-powered RB15 and is therefore not compromised.
The sheer complexity of the rear end of the Red Bull RB16 – with the extreme rear sweep of the viscera, sees that the rear bottom viscera is attached to the crash structure – meaning that AlphaTouri is not produced before designing their aerodynamics around it.
Hence the use of the back end of 2019, although there are no regulations preventing the use of RB16s.
Next year AlphaTouri is expected to be based on a more extreme RB16 rear-suspension layout. Although the teams have to retain the existing chassis into ’21, the aerodynamic surfaces are still being developed and the new rear suspension diffuser offers significant aerodynamic gains.
In summary, while Red Bull is constantly pushing the boundaries of F1 design, the junior offshoot team should not be so much, but doing an excellent job of enhancing pre-existing technology.