The Covid-19 pandemic has had an undeniable impact on the business model of all Formula 1 stakeholders. Among its various side effects, the outbreak induced a serious threat to the survival of certain teams, in particular the smaller ones, whose budgets wouldn't have allowed them to cope with the reduced revenues the 2020 season brought them.
As a result, the sport management, in order to mitigate the financial impact of the sanitary crisis on teams, decided to carry-over the cars' designs into 2021, with a token system that freezes the design of some parts of the 2020's cars.
However, although teams are required to use the 2020 year's chassis in 2021, engine and certain aerodynamics features are nonetheless allowed to be improved. Teams thus have an allocation of two tokens, which help them to develop one or two of the fifty (50) parts that are actually frozen.
Customer teams have nevertheless an advantage: They can upgrade their vehicles in 2021 with new parts that were already used by the works team in the previous season. Apart from the engine, teams like Aston Martin - Formerly Racing Point—, Haas or AlphaTauri usually do not have the latest upgrades. Often the parts bought are components from the previous year.
Specifically, if you drove Haas 2020 with suspension components from Ferrari from the 2019 season, for example, the customer team could upgrade to the 2020 version of the Scuderia in 2021 without spending development tokens.
When questioned about that advantage gained by customers teams regarding their development range, Franz Tost - Alpha Tauri team's principal - highlighted the fact that customers were using old parts from works teams, which couldn't be seen as a new development.
He told Motorsport Magazin: "I don't think that's unfair because it's not about new parts, not new developments. They were developed and used before "
At first it was said that AlphaTauri would forego the free token upgrade, but the Austrian manager contradicted: " We have already taken over some parts of Red Bull. "
While remaining silent about the said Red Bull's parts, Tost asserted that works teams such as Renault benefit from significant financial and technical means, therefore the token solution couldn't be, in his opinion, an actual hindrance to their ambitions.
"Renault is a works team. They have so much money, manpower and know-how, they should be two or three steps ahead in development anyway "
Regarding the rear area, AlphaTauri is apparently not upgrading to the sister RB16 car level:
"We have the same transmission that we drove last year. We haven't changed the rear suspension either. Hydraulics and so on are the same components " Tost revealed.
In terms of aerodynamics, however, no stone remains unturned with the AT02. The aerodynamicists in Bicester have overhauled the front wing, underbody, side boxes, rear wing and engine cover.
There is also a new nose. The racing team issued the two development tokens for this. Because it's not just about an aerodynamic element. The nose acts as a front crash structure.
From this it can be concluded that AlphaTauri is also converting to a narrow nose. McLaren made this development step hastily in the previous year because they didn't have any tokens for the change in winter. Red Bull - Alpha Tauri's sister's team - has already introduced the development of the Mercedes-inspired narrow nose. Racing Point and Renault are also following the same development path.