With new technical regulations in place for 2022 that has resulted in a “clean-sheet design”, Scuderia AlphaTauri Technical Director Jody Egginton shares his perspective on the development of AT03 and the technical experimentation that will define the coming season.
“We’ve been developing the process of how we work for the last two to three years and we’ve applied that to this car as well. Statistically and from the results we’ve had in the last period, we’ve been reasonably successful, so I would say we’re on the right trajectory in terms of how we are operating.
“However, it’s not as simple as that as it’s a clean sheet of paper for 2022 which provides potential rewards but also carries risk. The rate at which the car is being developed is a key metric but an important question is, how far are we down the ‘development’ road relative to the competition? You don’t really get to know that until the first race of the season when the gloves come off.”
The cost cap plays a role in the development of these brand new cars, with smaller teams such as AlphaTauri expected to benefit from a more level field. Egginton said that the impact of the cost cap, however, may not be immediate.
“I think we can expect a certain amount of levelling up, to use the phrase of the moment! I think the cost cap will take a little bit of time to be fully absorbed into what teams are doing, so there are for sure some benefits in there for teams who, pre-cost cap, did not have access to the budgets of the bigger teams. You’ve still got to spend your money in a smart way.”
Egginton predicts that aerodynamics will be a main topic of discussion as the season gets going, with each team bringing their own unique design concept to light.
“With the change to the aero regulations being extensive, there is clearly a lot of scope to experiment with new ideas and new aero concepts, but at the same time the new regulations also provide an increased risk of going down the wrong development path.
“I am quite sure there is plenty of scope for teams to come up with innovative aero solutions but at the same time, I expect that the hidden details of aero development will be a significant contributor to what teams are able to achieve from the aero regulations.
“I’m pretty confident people are going to turn up at the first test with an interesting range of interpretations of the regulations and this will provoke discussion and investigation of possible development directions for all the teams’ in-season development plans.”
The team had to contend with new chassis requirements as well, as they worked to strike a balance between chassis compliance and aerodynamics.
“The new regulations include significant changes to the crash test requirements, including dimensional changes resulting in a larger chassis structure.
“The changes to the chassis homologation tests are obviously welcome as they further improve safety, but they required a great deal of effort in order to firstly, pass the various tests and also optimise the structure, whilst also minimising mass increase and compromise to aero development. However, it’s fair to say that the design process of the 2022 chassis has gone pretty much to plan, as did homologation.”
Another key change for 2022 is the new 18-inch Pirelli tyre, an element Egginton said may have a large influence on aerodynamic development.
“It’s a significant change as the influence of the wheel and tyre on aero behaviour is quite large. I expect the new tyre-wheel package, as well as the brake ducts and the many aero surfaces and flow structures, which are influenced by and interact with the corners of the car, to continue to be an area where we can nd performance as we develop our package.
“In terms of the tyre itself, we were able to try them last year using our ‘mule’ car, so we have data and a good read on a number of the basic tyre parameters. I think the objectives Pirelli have been pushing to achieve are valid in terms of trying to reduce the amount of tyre management required and to better align the performance delta between each compound.
“The way the new tyres respond and work is different, and our vehicle performance group has been working hard to ensure that our 2022 car can exploit these characteristics. This work will continue as we learn more about our car in season and there will be performance to be found during this process. It’s a significant and welcome change but it gives Pirelli an opportunity to develop a new product aligned to the other regulation changes.”
With all the changes, some elements of the team will remain consistent. The power unit won’t have a Honda badge, but the team behind the component will continue into the new era. AlphaTauri’s technical collaboration with Red Bull Racing is another continuation.
“For 2022, the areas of synergy [with Red Bull] are at the rear end – gearbox, hydraulics, rear suspension, which is pretty similar arrangement to what we have had in the past. The difference is that, because of the regulation change, both teams will be running the same specification of parts in 2022, whereas before we ran parts to a year-old design from Red Bull.”
Egginton sees AlphaTauri’s team dynamic as a foundation for further success. With a strong basis of people, developed team processes and open communications, the team’s structure is providing benefits.
“Overall, I think the basic philosophy about how we develop the car and go about racing is well-established now and this is providing a good foundation to work from. People have really got onboard with the aims and objectives of the team and are enjoying the challenge of developing cars which are competitive against strong opposition.
“In F1 terms we’re still one of the smaller teams but the way we are structured means we are able to move resources at short notice which should provide a quicker turnaround of priority projects.
“The ethos of the team is that we’re very open and honest with each other, and I think that’s really important. People are not afraid to speak up if they have a view. If something doesn’t go to plan, we’re focused on resolving it, which makes for a good environment to work in, allowing people to grow.”