Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN’s technical director, Jan Monchaux is optimistic ahead of the up and coming 2021 season.
Despite all teams only being able to undergo limited development on their cars with a token system being in place, Alfa Romeo have focused their development tokens on the nosecone of the C41 which is visibly thinner compared to the bulkier nosecone seen on the previous years car.
Monchaux admits that like many other teams this years C41 is a development of the C39 which was used in 2020. It is a highly unusual winter break for Monchaux in that he and his team are not designing an entirely new car for the approaching season, but it helps all the teams in managing budget and spending in the current climate.
“The C41 shares a lot of common parts with the C39, simply because of the regulations that were voted in as a result of the pandemic,” said Monchaux. “It is a very unusual situation in Formula 1 not to be able to build an entire new car for the new season, but it makes sense in these circumstances and with the objective of keeping costs under control.”
Initially the huge regulation changes which come into play in 2022 where planned for 2021 but the changing of years hasn’t really affected the design process for the Swiss-based team. After the team returned from the lockdown which was imposed on all teams they were able to focus development on the 2020 car knowing that the regulations had been pushed back a year.
“After last year’s cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix, the sport went into shutdown at the time in which we would have started working on the 2021 car. When we came back, we did it knowing about the regulation changes: we could concentrate on developing the car for 2020, which would be carried over in large parts for 2021, and therefore we weren’t too affected.”
Monchaux doesn’t think that the regulations for 2022 will change any of the running order in 2021, usually the year before a regulation change some teams may totally focus all their efforts on development for the regulation changes whereas some won’t but with cars remaining mostly the same Monchaux doesn’t think that this will happen. Once the budget caps come into play he expects to see the gap in performance between all ten cars on the grid being reduced.
“I don’t think any effect of the budget cap on the teams’ competitiveness will be evident in 2021. The budget cap is only being introduced for this season, when the 2021 cars were already completed: there will be in-season development, of course, but with the regulations remaining stable from last year I don’t expect any overhaul beyond some minor changes in the pecking order.
“We will start to see some more impact from 2022, when all the teams will have the same budget ceiling to develop the car: I think this will result in the gaps in performance to be reduced, although the full effect of the new regulations will take a few years to become apparent.”
Testing this season is shorter than usual and Monchaux expects the days of testing to be hectic due to the shorter time limit and testing being at a different venue. One of the most important aspects of testing will be testing the new tyres, which teams only had limited miles of testing with in 2020.
“Testing in Bahrain will be hectic: I expect every team to put in as much mileage as possible in an attempt to tick off all the boxes on their plans. One of the key elements of testing will be the new tyres, which we were able to test in a couple of occasions last year, so there will be a lot of work to be done in this field.”
Alfa Romeo’s plan development wise for the season is to first see how the car perform’s on track, one of the most important aspects of this is listening and taking onboard the feedback of the drivers. However, updates will be limited for the team compared to a usual year with Monchaux deciding to switch focus to the 2022 regulations relatively early on in the season.
“The plan is to go to the track for testing verify that reality matches our expectations for the new car. That’s the first moment in which we can really verify what we have achieved with the C41. It will be crucial to listen to our divers and take onboard their feedback about the driveability of the new car and their confidence in it.
“In terms of development for the season, we are planning to bring updates through the year but certainly fewer than we would do in a regular campaign, because of the ending of the current regulations. Our focus is on 2022, which is going to be a complete revolution.”
The team have stuck with the same driver line-up for the third year running of Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi, allowed the team to be able to focus their development on mitigating parts of the car that the two drivers didn’t like. The stability is also helpful for the engineers to set up the car in the best way possible so that the drivers are able to have the highest level of confidence in the car that they are driving.
“A crucial element is that, from the very start, you know with certainty what your drivers like and what they don’t. The 2021 car is a very close development of last year’s and, knowing what Kimi and Antonio want, we were able to focus on mitigating the aspects they did not like.
“The stability on the drivers’ front definitely helps our engineers focus on giving them the tools to be confident at the wheel and extract the most from the car.”
Fans will not have to wait long to see Monchaux’s C41 on track with the team taking a filming day at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on the 26th of February. After that all the cars including Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN’S will be on show at the pre season test at the Bahrain International Circuit, which precedes the first Grand Prix of the year at the same circuit on the 28th of March.