The major change Alfa Romeo made after being “stuck in a corner” last year

2023 F1 season

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Two anticipated trends in 2023 Formula 1 car design were evident in the first new chassis presented for the upcoming season today.

While Red Bull, Haas and Williams relied on models or old cars to reveal their new liveries over the past week, Alfa Romeo became the first team to show something approaching a genuine 2023 machine.

Their video broadcast showed Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu revealing the car in a similar configuration to what they will run when testing begins in Bahrain in two weeks’ time. The team also issued images of its car in launch specification.

One obvious change is the shift towards a darker livery, just as fellow Ferrari power unit customers Haas have done. Teams have been removing paint and exposing the carbon fibre beneath for years in an effort to save weight, but the introduction of new regulations last year prompted many to go a step further. It’s striking that Alfa Romeo, who began last year with one of the lightest cars, has felt the need to do the same.

A similarly striking revision is apparent in the profile of the C43’s sidepods. They slope downwards much more steeply at the end, echoing the successful design employed by dominant 2022 champions Red Bull.

Alfa Romeo’s technical director Jan Monchaux freely admits the team were “stuck in a corner” with the design they adopted last year and had to wait until the off-season before adopting the “better solutions” observed on rivals’ cars. He said the C43 is “well born” and “looks mean”.

“Not only the new geometries, but also the livery which gives it an additional level of being mean. I find the car pretty sexy,” he added.

Having risen two places to sixth in the championship last year, Alfa Romeo have had their allocation of car development time fall by more than any other team – including Red Bull after their penalty for breaking F1’s financial regulations. They have focused their resources on improving the rear of the car, where they felt they had the most gains to make.

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Rear end

Alfa Romeo C42, Zandvoort, 2022
Alfa Romeo C42, Zandvoort, 2022
Alfa Romeo C43 launch, 2023
Alfa Romeo C43 launch, 2023

Alfa Romeo began the 2022 season in good shape. Valtteri Bottas put his C42 on the third row of the grid for the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix and scored the team’s best result of the season with fifth place in the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix the following month as Alfa Romeo made the most of having a lighter car than their rivals.

However the team realised others had hit upon more successful aerodynamic solutions for the new 2022 regulations, as Monchaux explained. “We’ve been seeing the evolution of the new cars, the new regs last year and had to acknowledge that there were better solutions how to manage the flow to the diffuser [and] the flow going to the rear tyres.

Red Bull’s sidepods are a clear inspiration
“But because of the decision we had made on an architectural point of view, we were stuck in a corner. So we effectively have been doing the changes. I’m sure by looking at the pictures you will notice on the rear [axle], which then allowed us to have a different cooler arrangement. And this then opens the door to quite a change for us in terms of bodywork and how we handle the hot air coming from the radiators compared to last year’s car.

“So it’s not a revolution, similar solutions were on the grid already last year, but it’s something we couldn’t implement without a major change of the architecture and it’s also what we’ve been doing there.”

Based on the simulation work they’ve done, Monchaux believes this change will address the shortcoming last year’s car had in high-speed corners.

“We also think, and from what we’ve seen, some of the weaknesses we had on an aero point of view, which was effectively in a very simplistic way high-speed performance, has been also significantly improving, thanks to also the new potential we unleashed with this new bodywork and this new way of working the floor between the rear tyres.”

The revisions to the suspension had knock-on effects for the rest of the rear of the car and allowed Alfa Romeo to unlock further opportunity for improvements, said Monchaux. “Redoing the rear suspension, and also therefore the gearbox casing, then opens the door to new layouts, especially on the cooler side. Which, once in place, allowed us to develop the bodywork as we’ve been doing, which last year during the season was not possible.

“The concept we had followed last year, we were of the opinion that we’d come to a sort of plateau, and to unleash the next level of performance we had to do all those changes. So that’s been quite a journey for us because it’s a big, big complex part we had to redo. And then, evidently, how all the rear end works with the floor, alongside the new regs. So we’ve really been putting a lot of effort on the second part of the car, while the front will be successively developed during the season.”

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Front end

Alfa Romeo C43 launch, 2023
Alfa Romeo’s front wing resembles the one introduced late last year

Alfa Romeo introduced a late upgrade package last season including revisions to their car’s front wing, which helped them cling on to sixth place in the constructors’ championship under fierce pressure from Aston Martin. Monchaux believes there is less performance to be found at the front under the rules introduced last year.

“The front end is more difficult in terms of development in the numerical world and in the wind tunnel,” he said. “The return on investment is smaller.

“It doesn’t mean there is no performance. I mean, as long as we are not first on the timing sheet, we have performance to grab up everywhere. But since you’ve got a limited amount of wind tunnel runs to test and you’ve got also limited resources at some point you need to make strategic calls.

“Where am I investing the majority of my resources? Am I more in favour of doing one thing properly than starting five different dishes and then end up with solutions that are just marginally better?”

Nonetheless he said there will be “significant changes” to the C43 “at the start of the season”.

“But generally speaking for us it’s an area where we struggle more to put performance because of the constraint also of the regulation than on the floor, which is offering a lot more freedom.

“When you look at what was done last year throughout the pit lane there is a clear sign that people have been working harder or bringing more updates on the floor than on the front wing. It’s simply because it’s more difficult to bring performance through the front wing with those rules. But there’s still performance to grab, no doubt about that.”

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Expectations for 2023

Alfa Romeo C43 launch, 2023
It will be a tall order for Alfa Romeo to finish higher than it did last year

Having narrowly taken sixth place last year, and finished over 100 points behind fifth, climbing further up the championship table is a tough ask for Alfa Romeo. As was the case last year, Monchaux expects to see progress from the start of the upcoming season.

“Will it be quick enough? This we will see at the start of the season. Our hopes are high that we can continue where we ended the season, and fight for those high positions in the midfield, but we need to be a bit patient.

“First we have homework to do during the winter test to also prepare the first race. So we go step-by-step. At the end of this week we go to Barcelona, then we go to Bahrain to do testing, and my team and me, we have a lot of boxes to tick. And then the week after we will go racing and we will see.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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3 comments on “The major change Alfa Romeo made after being “stuck in a corner” last year”

  1. The way he talks about the rear suspension and gearbox casing, you’d almost think they’re not buying those from a certain other F1 team.

    Which I guess would signify said certain other F1 team also switching to “similar solutions [already having been] on the grid already last year”, wouldn’t it?

    1. AMuS reports that Sauber are designing their own gearbox casing (and one would imagine suspension elements, too) for cost reasons, so that drives a stake directly through my speculation’s heart.

      1. They didn’t buy the suspension and gearbox casing last year neither, so nothing has really changed.

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