The general atmosphere at Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda following the launch of its new AT02 car and going into the 2021 season definitely seems to be one of overarching optimism. That’s something that’s echoed by the team’s Technical Director Jody Egginton, an Formula 1 veteran who has previously served in stints with the Sahara Force India F1 Team and Caterham F1 Team as well as a short one-year period with the Tyrrell F1 Team in 1996 as a junior designer.
Whilst 2021 was originally supposed to be the first year of the drastic new regulation changes, that’s all changed now that the decision to postpone those regulations to 2022 was set in stone last year due to the effects of COVID-19. Whilst the AT02 will be roughly similar to the AT01 that it’s replacing, there are still differences in the regulations between 2020 and 2021 that AlphaTauri had to adhere to.
There are changes in the aerodynamic requirements for 2021, something which has caused subtle but noticeable differences between the 2020 and 2021 cars all across the grid.
“With the changes to the aero regulations targeting a reduction in downforce, we have been presented with a number of changes we have got to make to the floor, the diffuser and rear brake ducts and this has required a lot of work to re-optimise around these changes,” Egginton said about the changes that needed to be done to make the AT02 compatible with the 2021 regulations.
“The work which has been undertaken to develop our car for 2021 goes far beyond compliance with regulation changes and has involved changes to nearly all aero surfaces and also development and repackaging large parts of the car, which are hidden, in order to achieve these changes. We have spent a lot of time working to recover the aero losses as a result of the regulation changes, while also focusing on increasing and improving the cars aerodynamic operating window.“
“This activity will continue into the season, with the split of resource between the 2021 and 2022 projects reviewed and adjusted as required to maximise the potential of both projects.“
With the new aero regulations partly being intended to slow the 2021 cars down a little bit, there have been worries about whether performance will be substantially impacted across the board. This is a challenge that the McLaren F1 Team, to name just one, has already talked about having to overcome with their 2021 package. That’s something that Egginton doesn’t seem to be concerned about, though, saying that: “The headline aero numbers have been affected by the aero change, but we have been working really hard to recover the lost performance and also improve the aerodynamic operating window for the car.“
“How fast will our car be? It’s not something I would want to put an exact number to just yet. Overall, taking everything into account, I would say we will probably see a performance level similar to that seen mid-2020.”
As with all teams, AlphaTauri was hit heavily by the effects of COVID-19. It was something that especially affected AlphaTauri as an operation that operates between Italy and the UK.
“As soon as the full extent of the Covid situation became clear we modified our working practices and methods,” said Egginton. “I believe we have adapted quite well as a team and it’s something we are learning to live with. An increase in remote working has been part of strategy but it’s been well implemented and people have reacted well to the challenge this presents – as a team everybody has been working hard to adapt to the situation as it evolves.“
“Another aspect of the changes, due to Covid, has been the fact that we were required to stop activity on what was at the time the 2021 car and have only been able to restart this since January 1st 2021 – as a result we have adapted the resource planning accordingly.“
As well as those changes, Egginton stated that “we have recently transitioned our wind tunnel testing from our Bicester 50% wind tunnel facility to the Red Bull 60% wind tunnel facility, which is a further major project to deal with.” Whilst that’s been a difficult move to do under a pandemic situation, Egginton said that “it was important to make the jump to a 60% model and the team working out of Bicester have managed this transition very well, so far limiting any disruption as much as possible.“
When he was asked about the AT01, a car that had performed remarkably well during the 2020 season, Egginton was very clear in what he thought about AlphaTauri’s 2020 package.
“Yes, I really believe the AT01 was the best car to be produced by the team,” he said. “The STR14 was not a bad car but the AT01 developed very well through the season and its performance was a credit to the hard work of everybody involved in the project.“
The reduced use of tokens has been a huge challenge for all the teams on the grid this year, something which Egginton was very well aware of when planning for what changes the AT02 would have over the AT01.
“For 2021 major changes to the car require the use of ‘tokens’ and each team is limited to just 2 tokens, as such we have elected to carry over the Safety Cell. We believe the chassis and power unit provides a good baseline, so we are happy to have spent our tokens elsewhere for 2021.”
With the recent news that Red Bull’s new company Red Bull Powertrains Ltd. would be taking over the Honda F1 project from the end of 2021, Egginton had a lot of positive things to say both about Honda and about the new powertrain arrangement.
“Effectively, Honda is giving us a new Power Unit for this year and have taken the opportunity to develop the packaging around it,” Egginton remarked about what Honda is doing on their end for 2021. “Honda is very determined to push right to the end of 2021 and we are sure the power unit will continue to provide all that is required from it.”
“We’ve been very happy with the Honda Power Units supplied to us over the last few years and I believe we can continue to race competitively using them, so this announcement is really great news for the team,” said Egginton in regards to the deal between Red Bull and Honda over the F1 powertrains. “It’s a huge commitment from Red Bull to make but it will allow both Scuderia AlphaTauri and Red Bull Racing to remain competitive by using a PU that we’re already very comfortable with.“
“As a customer team you often have to make compromises – such as to the chassis – that can inhibit the true performance of a car, so retaining the PU in-house through Red Bull Powertrains Limited allows us to maintain the best possible package.”