Harman believes Alpine has a good appreciation of what made Red Bull’s car so competitive in 2023 and also understands what made other cars fast.
However, he insists that such knowledge should only provide inspiration for the team’s own direction, as it has to make a big step after finishing only sixth in the constructors’ championship.
“We think we’ve understood it quite well,” he said of the RB19.
“We think we understand what they’re doing. You can’t click your fingers and just imagine it overnight. We understand our direction. But I think we’ve also understood some of the other cars on the grid as well.
“There are some other great cars there as well that have got some really interesting developments. And it’s about trying to understand what you’re doing, what they’re doing.
“In the end, if we just follow those people, we will never be in front of them. I think it’s a real mantra for us that we need to be inspired by these people, but we need to follow our own way.”
All teams face an extra challenge heading into this season as they have to create cars that will also form the basis of their 2025 challengers.
That’s because the all-new rules for 2026 will become the focus of development and soak up financial and aerodynamic testing resources.
Teams cannot start aero testing for 2026 until the start of next year, but there are no limits on mechanical work.
“I think the important thing is to look beyond the cars you see around you,” said Harman. “If we turn up with a car that people see now, by the time we get to 2025, it’s going to be very out of date.
Photo by: Alpine
Matt Harman, Technical Director, Alpine F1
“It’s really important to be inspired by what you see. But we need to be aiming well past that, to give us that two-year horizon.”
Harman admitted that the fundamental architecture of the A523 meant that the team couldn’t pursue some planned developments last season.
It has instead held them over for the 2024 car, which has been designed to accept them.
“The chassis and what we call the suspension carrier, or the main case, that has given us a few issues in terms of volume,” he said. “Not just for what other cars have in terms of their IP but our own ideas and our own development, it was limiting us a little bit.
“We had a floor update coming for later on in the season, which we decided not to do in the end, and we baked that performance into next year’s car. Just because actually to extract full performance from it, we needed a little bit more volume in there, and we didn’t have it for that car.”
Harman insisted that the A523 had some strengths that can be built upon: “I think there’s some really nice things on our car. We’re trying to be humble about these things. We know we’re not quite where we want to be, and we’d like to talk about what we need to get better at, not what we think we’re good at.
“I’d rather just focus on what we need to do better to be honest, rather than show off about what we think we might have done well at!”