It’s safe to say that Pat Fry hasn’t exactly had the most normal start to life at Alpine, joining the team in February 2020, a couple of weeks before the country and factory’s alike went into lockdown.
2021 will be Fry’s second year as Chassis Technical Director and the Briton will be focusing on development for this years car – The A521, but he will also have to heavily focus on the regulation changes for 2022 which Alpine have previously publicly said they are targeting.
Since joining the team, it has been a whirlwind of factory’s shutting down and regulation changes being postponed. With all team’s car’s being a carryover of their previous years car including Alpine’s (at least on the underside,) Fry believes that the team has coped reasonably well with the nature of last year, but with programs running for development of the A521 and for the 2022 car the work has stepped up for the Enstone based team.
“Well it wasn’t quite a normal year! I started the job towards the beginning of the year, and there was about seven weeks of getting to know the company and different departments before we all went straight into lockdown.
“It was then followed by the decision to delay the 2021 rules a year and large parts of the 2020 car carrying over to now. I think the team has coped well with the stop-start nature of the last year, but there’s been a huge amount of work to effectively keep three car programs running at one time.”
As previously mentioned, this year’s car is on the most part, a ‘carryover’ of the R.S.20, but the team have done as much as they possibly can within the regulations to improve on the high performance levels which were shown last year. Fry’s team have also had to adapt to the regulation changes to the floor of the car which were announced relatively late has led to a busy winter for Fry and his team.
“The 2021 car has a large amount of enforced carryover from the 2020 car. We’ve tried to do as much as the rules allow in terms of re-designing and improving the car. This combined with some late aerodynamical rule change has led to a significant development program.”
“The delayed rule changes to 2022 and with the FIA ban on testing to this set of rules in the CFD and wind tunnels from the end of March 2020 to January of this year, meant all teams had to put their aero development on hold for next season’s cars.
“We picked this up in anger like all the teams will have done from 1 January this year. This still doesn’t leave a huge amount of time to adapt to a completely new set of regulations, but we are working hard on this new era along with developments for this season.”
There are no surprises in Alpine’s car for this year like many others with the car being effectively a development of the previous years. There are a couple of things which have been developed through their allocated development tokens but the team have remained relatively secretive on how these have been spent, however looking at the car, similar to Alfa Romeo it seems that the team have focused development on the nosecone of the car.
“This year’s car is a logical development from 2020, with us looking to improve on the aerodynamic performance while working around the structures that have been homologated between this year and last. There are a few things that look a little different, but it’s evolution rather than revolution.”
The atmosphere at the factory in Enstone is a little strange down to the current climate, with many working at home but at the same time the car for 2021 being put together. This period of time is always a challenging time for all team’s but with the shorter off-season this year it has made it even busier. The developments made, look good on a computer, but they can never tell how they will look until they are stacked up against their competitors at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
“I think anywhere in the country feels a little strange at the moment. We have a large proportion of people working from home where possible and at the same time we have been putting the 2021 car together for the first time. This is always a challenging period at the best of times and it has certainly not been a standard winter this time around. We’ve made some good progress on developments for the car, but time will tell how we stack up with the competition.”
There’s a huge amount of work to do in the Chassis department, the 2022 regulation changes have been a constant presence in the design office, even when developing the A521 over the winter, there are challenges not only in the chassis regulation changes, but in the cost cap which is also being introduced for the season which increases going into 2023.
“There’s a huge amount of work to do, our aerodynamic development program is now back up to speed after the enforced break and there has always been a constant design presence on the project in the engineering office. There are challenges on all fronts both in terms of performance and the cost cap – the effect of which ramps up further for 2022 and then again for 2023. The whole company is taking on the challenge to shape the team for this new future in Formula 1.”
Fans of the newly rebranded Alpine will not have to wait long before they get to see their new car out on track being driven by both drivers, after Esteban Ocon recently took a filming day at Silverstone, with the pre-season test at the Bahrain International Circuit commencing on the 12 March.