AlphaTauri started the season with an uncompetitive package, but launched a barrage of incremental floor updates that brought the AT04 back into the midfield battle.
In conjunction, it took the Red Bull RB19’s rear suspension from Singapore onwards, which enhanced the car’s rear stability and help exploit its floor progress.
It allowed drivers Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo to make a late lunge in the championship, finishing just shy of Williams in eighth after having languished at the bottom for the majority of the season.
While AlphaTauri’s emphatic floor development attracted attention from its rivals, its suspension choices also played a part in its progress and CEO Bayer says not having taken Red Bull’s rear suspension earlier was an “error”.
“The initial decision to go our own way with those critical parts simply was an error, and the people [who made the decision] back then are not with us anymore,” Bayer told Autosport.
“I guess engineers always have plenty of arguments why you should do certain things, but I think everybody in the paddock understood now that with this new regulation change and the new downforce pattern, which is so reliant on the floor, the suspension is the next most important thing.
“You’ve got the floor and then you’ve got the suspension. If those two don’t work together, you might as well not go out.”
When asked if there was any sense in trying to be smarter than Red Bull, the dominant force in the past two seasons, Bayer grinned: “I guess that’s the big learning for us for this year, yeah.
Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images
Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, Nyck de Vries, AlphaTauri AT04
“But at the same time, what is tricky for us as a customer is you get a piece, but you have to make that piece work and it’s very difficult.
“Look at some other teams who have hired ex-Red Bull aerodynamicists and engineers, they made some quick gains but then constant development is not as easy as it looks.
“We’ve seen in Singapore something seemed to work slightly better, but we weren’t really sure. And that’s one of the key aspects of [technical director] Jody [Egginton’s] team, they put a lot of effort into understanding the global concept.
“How can it be actually possible that this [Red Bull] car is so stable, that it has this ability in slow corners, fast corners, straight-line speed? And that’s where Jody and the guys sort of had a breakthrough moment.”
AlphaTauri’s decision to revert to taking Red Bull’s suspension, as it has done in the past, is one that made sense on a technical level for its AT04. But it can also seen in the context of the Anglo-Italian squad further aligning closer to Red Bull as far as F1’s regulations allow, which was a demand from new Red Bull chief Oliver Mintzlaff.
For 2024, Egginton confirmed to Autosport that the yet-to-be rebranded team will also take Red Bull’s 2023 front suspension as he explained why its level of synergy with its sister squad has varied in recent years.
“Each year on synergy we’ve done something different since 2019,” Egginton said. “And some years, we’ve done a bit more and done something different, some years a bit less.
“Next year, we’ll carry over our rear end and on the front we’ll take the Red Bull front suspension on the current car. So, we will be one year behind.
Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool
Jody Egginton, Technical Director of Scuderia AlphaTauri
“There have been years where for various reasons we’ve done something a little bit different.
“But we’ve got the opportunity to do this and the regulations permit it, so we’ll do it as a number of other teams do.”
When asked if it’s a difficult exercise to make Red Bull’s suspension work on its own car, Egginton added: “Yeah, but it’s got a lot of positives.
“We’ll design and manufacture a new chassis for next year, so we’ve got the opportunity to adopt some parts.
“When the regulations change, you have to look at it slightly differently, but we take it year by year.”