AlphaTauri experienced their best F1 season yet last year. The season’s highlight for the team (if not F1 fans as a whole) was Pierre Gasly’s Italian Grand Prix victory. Now, having finished the season in 7th position of the Constructors’ Championship, the sister team of Red Bull Racing is looking to the future at what is in front of them on track - as opposed to behind. The team will no doubt benefit from access to Red Bull Racing’s high performance wind tunnel which is now possible due to a change to the regulations. As such, the team believes that they will gain a 'big advantage' for designing their 2022 car...by using the wind tunnel this year.
A strong AlphaTauri team can only benefit Red Bull Racing and so it should be no surprise to hear that following the rebranding of Toro Rosso as AlphaTauri last year, the Italian manufacturer will now no longer use its own wind tunnel from 2021 onwards.
An interview published on motorsport.com has revealed that the team will instead be switching to Red Bull’s facility at Bedford to complete all development work on its 2022 car.
More often than not, new F1 regulations tend to put teams on the backfoot, however, now as a result of the new handicap system on wind tunnel time - AlphaTauri and Red Bull Racing are permitted to use the same wind tunnel.
At a time when aerodynamics is more crucial than ever, an increase in accuracy of performance tests will reap dividends for the popular Italian manufacturer – and this is what awaits AlphaTauri. Starting from 2021 they will have access to the 60 percent Red Bull Racing model wind tunnel. Whereas previously, all their Bicester based wind tunnel could muster was a 50% performance.
AlphaTauri Team principal Franz Tost spoke to motorsport.com and was clearly confident that the future is bright for his team.
“It’s a big advantage to change to the 60 percent wind tunnel, because up to now we’ve always had to work with the 50 percent.”
“The 60 percent is of course more accurate and provides us with hopefully more valid data…Then we have the second year of the cost cap, which means the top teams should not be in a position to invest so much more money as we do.”
AlphaTauri have shown they have good pace in their car and the talent of Pierre Gasly is clear for all to see. When this is coupled with the potential new arrival Yuki Tsunoda will bring to the team – there is reason for all those in blue and white to be excited.
“I am looking forward to this new regulation, the cars of ’22. Where we are then from the performance side, I don’t know yet because there are many, many different parts which have to be brought together in the best possible way.
“I hope that our engineering team will be able to do this, and we will compete successfully in 2022.”
The reason for optimism did not only come from Franz Tost seeing how the same publication interviewed AlphaTauri technical director Jody Egginton. From his remarks, it is clear as well how enthusiastic he is for the coming season as well as 2022 due to the impact using Red Bull Racing’s wind tunnel can have. Although, Egginton also knows that such a move is not without its risk.
“Our tunnel is quite good, and we understand it quite well. It’s not something where we can say this has been holding us back,” Egginton remarked.
“I wanted to go to 60 percent, and that was the obvious choice, so that’s why we’ve done it really. It is a challenge. I think any wind tunnel move is not without risk.”
“But medium-term, it’s the thing to be doing really. We are the only one at 50 percent, and it was a growing question mark in my mind. So given the opportunity to have a 60 percent tunnel, we took it. When you’re the last person, the last of anyone doing something, and everyone has gone another way, you sort of think, ‘there’s something in this!’.”
“Our goals are to be more competitive. This removed a question mark, so we’ve done it…Time will tell. It’s a case of getting our head around it. We’ve got to get on top of it quickly and understand the wind tunnel.”
This final point is key. Just because the members at AlphaTauri now have access to these Red Bull Racing riches, does not mean they are guaranteed to ensure that the untapped potential of their challenger is brought to the surface.
However, the beauty of Formula One is that rapid progression and ingenious can design can happen in a short space of time. Just ask 2009 F1 Constructors’ victors Brawn GP about ‘overnight success’.
Therefore, one cannot help but wonder, due to the talented drivers in the AlphaTauri ranks, how long it will be before they match their more senior family member, Red Bull Racing, on track and not just in the wind tunnel?
As the aim of 2022 is clearly to bring the grid closer together, there is every chance of seeing early signs of progress from AlphaTauri in 2021 – and I look forward to it greatly.
Meanwhile, the question remains as to how many Grand Prix will successfully take place in 2021: