Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis
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Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

Why Alpine's low-drag F1 updates should pay off in the short term

Alpine arrived at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix with a suite of new parts designed to improve the aerodynamic efficiency of the A522, with an emphasis on drag reduction.

Why Alpine's low-drag F1 updates should pay off in the short term
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This is because of a run of tracks with medium/low downforce characteristics, so the updates are expected to pay out over the course of the next few races.

The most substantial change comes around the car's midriff, as the team has redesigned the forward section of the sidepod. This will not only have an impact on cooling, given the now squarer inlet shape, it also has several aerodynamic consequences.

In order to achieve this redesign, the team increased the length of the sidepod, drawing the forward section closer to the front wheels.

Increasing the sidepod length in this manner results in less room to work with, owing to the regulatory bounding boxes that govern the size, position and shape of the bodywork. However, it's a design scheme we've already seen championed by AlphaTauri, Aston Martin and to some extent Red Bull, albeit the latter's solution has an open top.

While the inlet might seem smaller than its letterbox-like predecessor, the volume of the frontal section of the inlet will be relatively similar, as the sidepod also balloons outwards thereafter.

The extra length also has a significant bearing on the external airflow, with the bodywork better able to direct the wake generated by the front tyre more effectively, especially in the undercut region, which will likely have a knock-on effect to the performance of the floor below too.

Not new, but also worth noting, are the two winglets mounted on the side of the halo (red arrow, main image) that help to correct the airflow as it passes by.

Alpine A522 rear wing comparison

Alpine A522 rear wing comparison

There was also some considerable buzz around the new rear wing specification introduced by Alpine in Baku, as the upper elements clearly took up considerably less space within the allowable box region, resulting in a wing with a tiny profile.

When compared with the lower downforce rear wing configuration previously used in Jeddah and Miami, this wing also has the rear corner endplate cutouts that we've become accustomed to, rather than being infilled (inset, red arrow above).

The team also revised its beam wing layout, being the first to take inspiration from the stacked layout that we've seen Red Bull use since the start of the season.

Alpine A522 beam wing comparison

Alpine A522 beam wing comparison


Red Bull gives you more wings...

On the topic of Red Bull, it too made changes to the rear wing for Baku in an effort to reduce drag, without compromising too much of the downforce necessary to be quick in the middle sector.

This resulted in using one of its lower-downforce offerings, with which it duly endured DRS issues with during Free Practice again. But the main change was the use of just a lower single element for the beam wing, as the upper elements (red arrows, inset below) were removed.

Red Bull Racing RB18 beam wing comparison

Red Bull Racing RB18 beam wing comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola


...as does Ferrari...

Ferrari also made changes to the F1-75 as it also looked to reduce drag on the 2.2km straight, without compromising performance in the middle sector.

In order to achieve this, the Scuderia fitted the new rear wing configuration that was ready for Miami but it had opted not to race – it preferred a higher-downforce option to preserve the tyres there.

The new specification (below left) is still a spoon-shaped design but you'll note when comparing the two wing designs just how much less wing there is in the allowable box section, while the flat edge in the central section of the mainplane and upper flap is much wider.

Ferrari F1-75 rear wing Azerbaijan GP

Ferrari F1-75 rear wing Azerbaijan GP

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari F1-75 rear wing detail

Ferrari F1-75 rear wing detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola


...and Mercedes

Mercedes has been fighting a straightline speed issue all season, with the team introducing a new lower downforce rear wing in Miami that it used again in Baku.

However, Toto Wolff remarked that his drivers had said it was like driving with a parachute attached to the rear of the car, with the W13 down by up to 20km/h relative to its rivals on the 2.2km straight.

Mercedes W13 rear wing

Mercedes W13 rear wing

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

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