The tweaks hidden inside Alpine's new A521 F1 car

Alpine got off to a stuttering start with its virtual launch of the A521 earlier this week, but let’s investigate if the car has what it takes to fast-forward the rebranded team up the grand prix grid.

The tweaks hidden inside Alpine's new A521 F1 car

There are three things to really consider when looking at the latest batch of cars: how have the team handled the new regulations that reduce downforce by approximately 10%, how have they reconfigured the car under the homologation and token system and what progress have they made from an aerodynamic perspective aside from the change in regs.

In terms of how this team has handled the new regulations, we’ll have to wait to see the physical car, as the renders released by the team fall short of revealing any of this detail. The floor clearly meets the dimensional requirements issued by the FIA but, like the floor it tested in Abu Dhabi, this falls short of displaying any of the aerodynamic trinkets that will likely occupy the space ahead of the rear tyre.

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The rearward and top views disguise the areas of interest, or have been intentionally darkened to prevent anyone from capturing a glimpse of anything significant. That said, let's take a closer look…

Alpine A521 front wing detail

Alpine A521 front wing detail

Photo by: Alpine

At the front of the car the team has a cape with slotted sections that follow the curvature of the nose. The slots and the protrusions that they create are reminiscent of a design feature we’ve seen employed before to help bridge the gap between the aerodynamic surfaces mounted separately on the chassis and the nose, such as on the Ferrari SF90 (below).

Ferrari SF90 turning vanes detail

Ferrari SF90 turning vanes detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

These not only appear to be mounted to the cape but also appear to cover quite a significant distance in comparison.

The bargeboard cluster and sidepod deflectors’ general concept carries over from the ones used in the latter part of 2020 but have both undergone slight modifications to account for the new flow structures needed downstream.

The sidepods and engine cover appear to be where most of the action is at when comparing the A521 like-for-like with its predecessor and it’s interesting that Alpine also appears to have taken a slightly different path to the rest of the field in doing so.

Alpine A521

Alpine A521

Photo by: Alpine

Generally, teams have moved away from the traditional sidepod undercut, instead favouring a sloped section in the middle of the sidepod that falls away in-line with the radiator inside to meet with the floor.

It appears that Alpine, having started down that path in recent years, has made a U-turn as the A521 features a high-waisted arrangement that opens up more floor space – a critical factor given the new narrower floor regulations.

Alpine A521

Alpine A521

Photo by: Alpine

In order to achieve this very narrow, high-waisted undercut arrangement the team appears to have repackaged the area around the power unit, moving even more of the car’s ancillaries into a region that was already packed full of hardware.

This has resulted in a rather large section of bodywork that the team has done its best to turn into more of a boat-tail shape.

Alpine A521 detail

Alpine A521 detail

Photo by: Alpine

Renault F1 Team R.S.19 powerunit install

Renault F1 Team R.S.19 powerunit install

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The team has also incorporated an outlet in the bodywork on the trailing leg of the halo that helps to reject heat from within the sidepod. This is a design we’ve seen used many times up and down the grid and was trialled by this team last season too.

The rest of the car feels decidedly similar to last year’s, which is to be expected considering the effects of the homologation and token system, but we could just as easily see revised aerodynamic parts arrive at testing with the front and rear wings being likely just placeholders to throw rivals off the scent.

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