AlphaTauri are in the spotlight this week after the mid-table team brought impressive floor upgrades to Melbourne in Australia. However, there’s more than meets the eye as Mark Hughes and Giorgio Piola illustrate.
Looking like just an ordinary and routine upgrade, when looked at under a looking glass, shows the genius of the engineers. You can see exactly what they’ve been targeting to shave off lap time in the ground-effect era which was introduced last year. The engineers had to work tirelessly on this upgrade as just one change requires a lot of backchecking and work.
AlphaTauri’s Jody Egginton talked of a series of changes being lined up. “It’s a series of small updates,” he said, “and they form the new baseline from which the car will be improved further. Because what these do is allow you to develop your beam wing, bodywork and other updates, safe in the knowledge that the flow structures of the floor are healthier.
“The new floor – as well as bringing a couple of tenths’ worth of extra load – also improves the robustness of some of the vortices which are being created by the fences and floor edges.
“Our big focus for improvement at the moment is the car’s performance at high rear ride heights – so slow-speed corners. That’s where we feel there is the most lap time to be found with the car as it is at the moment. If we can improve rear stability, then the driver can commit early to the corner and start it earlier, with less of a ‘V-style’ entry.
“Then when we get to the apex, there are mechanical tools we can use to manipulate the balance there. This should give us higher mid-corner minimum speeds. These floor changes and the development direction we are following are with the aim of providing that greater stability at greater ride heights.”
This new floor and diffuser was used by both Nyck de Vries and Yuki Tsunoda, however, Yuki damaged his floor and have to revert back to the original design for FP2 onwards. This unexpected crash gave the team an opportunity to compare these models back-to-back over the full weekend of running. This allowed them to conclude that the new floor design was infact performing as intended.
“It works on a large part of the things that we’d identified as possible weaknesses,” said Egginton.
The team comments that currently, development is focused on increasing the downforce of the car and improving the rear stability when ride height is increased. This issue is even more pressing since recently the minimum ride height was increased.
“We were in no doubt what we wanted to do,” said Egginton. “We were looking to improve rear load at high rear ride heights in very basic sense. And it’s the load drop-off of these ride heights at the moment which causes our instability.
“If we’ve improved the rear load on the entry phase, if you’ve got more rear load, you’ve got more stability. And we’re working on trying to carry that further into the corner, so that the driver can push harder towards late entry apex.”