Red Bull felt that spending development tokens on a new gearbox housing would give them the most bang for their buck, while AlphaTauri, who could have switched to the same arrangement used by Red Bull in 2020 without spending tokens, chose to upgrade its front end. rather.

To better understand AlphaTauri’s situation, let’s take a look at their gearbox, crash structure, suspensions and brakes from below, thanks to Giorgio Piolathe last illustration of.

The suspension layout of the AT01 and 02 follows the tradition of wishbone design, with the front arm constituting the wishbone.

In the much larger fairing behind this are the rear triangle leg, link, and driveshaft, as the team is looking to get the best from an aerodynamic point of view.

Suspension AlphaTauri AT02

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

If he had switched to the Red Bull 2020 arrangement, he would have adopted a layout that would divide the lower and rear elements.

But, as we’ve known from Red Bull’s 2020 campaign, the team had to grapple with an imbalance, perhaps created by this arrangement. AlphaTauri has therefore chosen not to hamper its own progress and stick to its 2020 gearbox and suspension setup.

From Red Bull’s perspective, it’s fair to say that the RB16 had a few issues the team had to tackle in 2020, including obvious instability that surprised drivers a few times during pre-season testing.

Aside from this eccentric, and perhaps even inexplicably linked to, rear behavior, the team was also struggling with a correlation issue.

This happens when a team’s simulation tools don’t accurately represent what’s going on in the real world. It requires refocusing on rectifying the situation while pursuing the search for performance.

It can also often be at odds with the current development cycle, as parts intended for the car will no longer be considered to offer the level of performance initially stated, forcing the team to modify them to suit them or to abandon this entirely. developing. .

For Red Bull, that meant a series of back-to-back tests in the first few races of the season, with data collected from both cars fed back into the loop. This of course takes time and takes away valuable preparation time for the current race. However, the value of solving the problem pays off quickly.

As a result, Red Bull quickly discovered that a new front wing and nose development introduced in the first race of the season was not delivering the expected performance advantage and withdrew the solution.

However, it had a rebirth for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, for some reason, on Max Verstappen’s car before being sentenced to parts trash again (the tight wing pillar arrangement before, inset, was dropped by Red Bull).

Red Bull RB16 nose specs

Red Bull RB16 nose specs

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

By addressing these issues early in the RB16 development cycle, the team may have inadvertently gained some leeway when the homologation and token system was introduced for 2022.

With the front end having been overhauled, the team decided that it would be better to spend their tokens on the rear of the car, with gains in structural integrity, mechanical flexibility and aerodynamic efficiency, as they made changes. to their gearbox housing.

That is, the actual gearbox remains unchanged for 2021, as modern F1 gearboxes are of a cartridge design, meaning they can be swapped out without having to replace the entire housing.

If a crash destroys the case but the cartridge is intact, the pilot does not have to face the prospect of a grid penalty as it can be inserted into a new case.

This modular design can also lead to weight savings over older designs as it can be shaped and manufactured differently.

The crankcase change coincides with a redesign of the rear suspension layout of Red Bull, which took inspiration from the Mercedes book to improve the layout and aerodynamics of the rear.

Rear Mercedes W11

Rear Mercedes W11

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

He did this by flipping the lower wishbone and linkage positions, mounting what would have been the lower wishbone front strut as far as possible onto the gearbox housing.

However, it was not able to achieve such aggressive packaging as the W11 / 12, as Mercedes has the rear leg crossing the crash structure in its layout (red arrow), which would have cost Red Bull a development token does not have at its disposal.

The changes in position brought about by the two pieces of equipment to its wishbone and its connecting rod have a significant aerodynamic impact.

First, it changes the behavior of the different flow structures that interact due to the protrusion of the diffuser when it comes out of the ground 150mm before the rear wheel axle.

Second, there is a change in the position of the hangers at the outer end relative to the brake duct fins housed on the fence. This is essential for 2021 given the changes made by the FIA ​​to reduce them in the lower half of the fence.

Third, most teams use a trench in the ground next to the pontoon bodywork to enlarge the coke bottle effect, which will also be affected by the positioning of the suspension components and the driveshaft fairing.

Finally, with the rear suspension element suspended high and as far back as possible, the air flow can also impact the flow exiting the diffuser.

Red Bull RB16B Suspension

Red Bull RB16B Suspension

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

If we look at the lineup of the rear of the Red Bull RB16, we can see how far the team hasn’t strayed too far from their 2020 setup.

However, the connecting rod is now the forward-most element (highlighted in blue, 5) with the two lower wishbones placed in series (2 and 3), while the driveshaft is housed in the rear fairing ( red dotted line).

The elevation of the suspension elements is evident when using the keel as a reference point (1), giving aerodynamicists the headroom they need to improve flow around the rear of the car and mitigate some of the losses created by the new regulations.

AlphaTauri AT02 front suspension

AlphaTauri AT02 front suspension

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

AlphaTauri’s decision to keep its 2020 gearbox and rear suspension setup and not to perform a free upgrade or spend its two development tokens on it was born out of the idea that it finds more. performance thanks to the modifications made to the front of the car.

This was also only viable due to the free upgrade path, as it moved on to the rear mounted steering rack which can also be found on the RB16 / RB16B.

All teams have tended to move their rudder sets and arms as far and as low as possible forward in recent years, generally putting them in line with the lower triangle.

This is done in order to improve aerodynamic performance, with the fairings wrapped around the assemblies designed to work in harmony with each other.

However, Red Bull and AlphaTauri have chosen to sacrifice some of that aerodynamic performance to help improve the overall packaging up front.

To alleviate some of these losses and generally improve the aerodynamic profile of the car’s front end, AlphaTauri spent its two tokens on a new nose, moving from narrow thumbtip styling to a wider body design.

It also helped them redesign the cape, as it has now adopted the side layout found on the Mercedes, which started the trend in 2017.

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