What’s behind Alpine's jumbo airbox

Alpine caused a stir on the opening day of Formula 1 testing when it emerged with a rather exaggerated mega airbox and engine cover.

What’s behind Alpine's jumbo airbox

With the modern trend being for teams to try to shrink wrap the bodywork around the powerunit components, Alpine’s solution is unique and something we were more used to seeing in the 1970’s.

But the first thing to say is that the airbox and roll over structure of the A521 has not changed if we compare it with the RS19 or RS20. Instead, it’s the bodywork behind that’s been significantly increased in size.

Alpine A521 cover

Alpine A521 cover

Photo by: Alpine

Renault R.S.20

Renault R.S.20

Photo by: Renault

The reasoning for this, although it might sound odd at first, is predominantly to mitigate the incoming regulation changes that narrow the floor and rear brake ducts and see the lower portion of the diffuser strakes lopped off.

Read Also:

Whereas the rest of the grid have pushed-on and developed the downwash style sidepod arrangement which generally results in the airflow running over the top of the sidepod and meeting with the floor as quickly as possible, the A521 has an arrangement more akin to what teams used in the pre-hybrid era.

This is for a more heavily undercut frontal section and higher waisted sidepod along the entire length.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A521

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A521

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

This creates more space between the sidepod and the floor in order that the team deals with the issues created by the new regulations in its own unique way.

However, to achieve its aerodynamic goals, the team had to rethink the cooling architecture of the car, resulting in the radiators and other hardware housed within the sidepods having to be repositioned.

The arrangement that Renault has run in previous years has already seen a great deal of that hardware packed in around the powerunit due to the makeup of its cooling package. But with even more hardware to deal with, the region has increased quite dramatically in size.

Renault F1 Team R.S.19 powerunit install

Renault F1 Team R.S.19 powerunit install

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

So, in essence, the changes are driven by the regulation changes and are simply Alpine’s way of dealing with these issues, whilst trying to recover as much performance as possible, without damaging the car’s overall performance envelope.

Irrespective of the genuine technical reasoning behind the changes, it’s easy to draw comparisons with a variety of different airbox and engine cover solutions in Formula 1’s past...

Jacques Laffite, Ligier JS5 Matra

Jacques Laffite, Ligier JS5 Matra
1/5

Photo by: Sutton Images

When you think of jumbo airboxes in Formula One you can’t really think past the Ligier JS5 to be honest.

Jacques Laffite, Ligier JS5 Matra

Jacques Laffite, Ligier JS5 Matra
2/5

Photo by: Ercole Colombo

Here it is from the side...

Emerson Fittipaldi, McLaren M23

Emerson Fittipaldi, McLaren M23
3/5

Photo by: Ercole Colombo

McLaren’s M23 with a high airbox solution which was latterly banned.

Lotus 72D 1972 airbox detail

Lotus 72D 1972 airbox detail
4/5

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The Lotus 72 with the bullet shaped airbox.

Mercedes W01 airbox comparison, full blade design used at this race, rather than compromises inset

Mercedes W01 airbox comparison, full blade design used at this race, rather than compromises inset
5/5

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The other end of the spectrum - Mercedes used a blade roll over structure and very small inlets beside it on its W01.
shares
comments

Related video

F1 Bahrain 2021 pre-season testing - Day 2 as it happened

Previous article

F1 Bahrain 2021 pre-season testing - Day 2 as it happened

Next article

Verstappen hails more "predictable" Red Bull F1 car

Verstappen hails more "predictable" Red Bull F1 car
Load comments

About this article

Series Formula 1
Teams Alpine
Author Matt Somerfield
Why Bottas feels the time has come to be “more selfish” Prime

Why Bottas feels the time has come to be “more selfish”

We’ve seen five distinct versions of Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes as he’s tried to fulfil his own ambitions while being a consummate team player – two difficult, competing missions which have been challenging to reconcile. Speaking exclusively to Stuart Codling, Bottas explains his highs and lows… and why he still believes he can be world champion.

How long can Verstappen and Hamilton keep it clean? Prime

How long can Verstappen and Hamilton keep it clean?

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen have been evenly matched so far in the 2021 Formula 1 title race. Neither has been afraid to get aggressive against each other on track, teeing up an enthralling contest as the year unwinds. But how long will their battle remain clean? Jonathan Noble ponders that exact point

Formula 1
May 13, 2021
How Brabham’s one-hit wonder was boxed into a corner Prime

How Brabham’s one-hit wonder was boxed into a corner

The Brabham BT46B raced once, won once, then vanished – or did it? STUART CODLING reveals the story of the car which was never actually banned…

Formula 1
May 11, 2021
The changes Barcelona needs to provide a modern-day F1 spectacle Prime

The changes Barcelona needs to provide a modern-day F1 spectacle

Formula 1’s visits to Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya over recent years have been met with familiar criticisms despite tweaks here and there to the track to improve racing. With the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix largely going the same way, proper solutions need to be followed to achieve F1’s wider targets

Formula 1
May 10, 2021
Spanish Grand Prix Driver Ratings Prime

Spanish Grand Prix Driver Ratings

Often described as Formula 1's laboratory, the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona gave the clearest demonstration yet of the pecking order in 2021. And it's the key discrepancies from that order which illuminate who is excelling, and who needs to hit the reset button.

Formula 1
May 10, 2021
How Red Bull's deja vu set Hamilton on the winning path in Spain Prime

How Red Bull's deja vu set Hamilton on the winning path in Spain

An aggressive first corner move from Max Verstappen appeared to have set the Red Bull driver on course for victory in the Spanish Grand Prix. But canny strategy from Mercedes - combined with the absence of Red Bull's number two from the lead group - allowed Lewis Hamilton to pull off a demoralising reversal

Formula 1
May 10, 2021
The Barcelona practice times that prove Red Bull has hidden pace Prime

The Barcelona practice times that prove Red Bull has hidden pace

Lewis Hamilton led the way in Friday practice for the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix, but there was one major encouraging sign for Red Bull. However, making good on that gain will require Max Verstappen to avoid repeating a mistake that left him well down the FP2 order...

Formula 1
May 7, 2021
Why McLaren doesn’t doubt Ricciardo can escape his ‘dark’ place Prime

Why McLaren doesn’t doubt Ricciardo can escape his ‘dark’ place

Three points finishes from as many starts represents a decent opening innings on paper, but Daniel Ricciardo has endured a tough start to his McLaren career - only magnified his teammate's excellent form. Yet both he and the team have good reason to expect a turnaround soon.

Formula 1
May 6, 2021