How under-the-skin changes can help Alpine overcome F1 engine deficit

The French manufacturer took the decision as long ago as November 2022 to push on with an aggressive revamp of its F1 car for the 2024 season.

The heavily-revised A524 was unveiled at a launch event at the team’s Enstone factory on Wednesday, with technical director Matt Harman suggesting that the only carry-over component from its 2023 car was the steering wheel.

But one thing that the team has not been able to work on directly is its engine – with it well aware that it is down on power compared to rivals. Insiders last year suggested that the deficit could be as much as 30bhp.

Despite an investigation by the FIA to see whether or not there were grounds to allow Alpine to equalise its performance against its competitors, it was eventually decided no action was necessary.

Alpine itself said it does not want to waste time worrying about the situation, as it knows the issue can only now be sorted for 2026.

But that has not stopped the team focusing on improvements to areas that interact with the engine that should help pay dividends on track this year.

Alpine A524 detail

Alpine A524 detail

Photo by: Jon Noble

One example is engine installation, with the team having gone into great detail to find marginal gains.

As Harman explained: “We know the power unit is broadly homologated, but that doesn’t mean it is entirely fixed.

“There are a reasonable number of things that we can do to make sure that we install the power unit well into the car. It is really, really important we do that.

“We make a lot of calculations on how we maintain all the work done by the engine. So for example, we’ve integrated the tailpipe that exits into the suspension around the transmission to reduce the pressure drop across that.

“It makes sure that every single bit of work done by the power unit is delivered at the crankshaft, and therefore the rear wheels.

“We’ve also moved the ERS unit, the battery pack, rearwards, to help us with that weight distribution of the car. It’s quite a reasonable weight in the car that we’ve moved.”

Harman said the team had also worked hard on reducing the weight of transmission components, with a view to it helping deliver more performance.

“We have taken a considerable amount of mass out of the transmission, which has required quite a lot of validation,” he said.

Alpine A524

Alpine A524

Photo by: Alpine

“That’s been validated in line with our full dyno, where we also have the full power train system with the power unit, all the injection systems and every part of the car. That analysis did well over 3500km kilometres.”

Some of Alpine’s A524 aero changes are very visible – such as its wings and sidepods – but Harman said there are important revisions made to how air flows inside the car too, which can help further with extracting the most from the engine.

“One of the things that you can’t see is underneath the bodywork, and under there is what we call the internal bodywork,” he said.

“This allows us to control all the mass flow through the car, from the beginning, as it enters into the sidepod, all the way through to the rear. That allows us to make sure that we optimise the cooling behaviour of the car.

“We were a little bit more open than we’d like to have been last year. This year, we are in a much better position. That reduces the drag of the car and allows us to have an optimal lap time.

“We’ve also controlled a lot of thermal behaviour. So, for example, we try not to cool the exhausts. That sounds very counterintuitive, but cooling the exhaust takes away the energy of the exhausts.

“And taking away the energy of the exhausts means we don’t have as much power at the crank. So we try to make sure we use our air where we need it and not where we don’t.”

He added: “We’ve taken a very aggressive approach. I think we’ll see where we are when we go to the Bahrain test, but we will relentlessly upgrade this car.

“We have an awful lot of potential to extract, and we’ve not anywhere achieved all of it just yet.”

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