Matt Harmon, Alpine A524, 2024

Alpine explain key changes in “very aggressive” new A524

Formula 1

Posted on

| Written by

Alpine fell well short of their expectations in 2023, which had consequences for its top management.

Team principal Otmar Szafnauer was shown the door at mid-season and sporting director Alan Permane joined him, subsequently taking up a new role at RB. Technical director Pat Fry also chose to take up a new challenge at Williams.

However Alpine had sussed before then that the A523 did not provide a sufficient improvement over its predecessor to compete with the front running teams. That prompted an extensive overhaul for the third car the team has produced for the current, ground effect-focused rules.

“The A523 didn’t quite deliver what we wanted,” technical director Matt Harman admitted at the team’s launch yesterday. “We needed to look at ourselves, we needed to look inwards and understand what we needed to do differently.”

The initial steps were taken late in 2022, when the A523 was already in production. “We started that process, actually originally from concept work back in week 45 of 2022, but more so after the first few races of 2023,” said Harman. “We decided to take a very bold approach.”

The result is “a brand new car from front to back,” said Harman. “I think only the steering wheel survived.

“So we’ve really tried to look at every single area of the car to make sure that we leave no stone unturned, and we give ourselves a car that can have potential through the year. We plateaued a little bit in A523 and I think with this car we have that potential.”

The team took “a very aggressive approach” and hopes to unlock more performance from it quickly once the season begins. “We’ll see where we are when we go to the Bahrain test,” said Harman. “But we’ll be relentlessly upgrading this car and we have an awful lot of potential to extract and we’ve not anywhere near achieved all of it just yet. So I look forward to it.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Front wing

Alpine A524 launch, 2024
Alpine A524 front wing, 2024

The extent of the changes can be seen in the foremost part of the car, which is distinctively different from the flowing wing design used by the team at the end of last season. Harman says the front wing has “a completely new philosophy,” this year.

“Structurally it’s very challenging, as they always are. But it’s a front wing that will give us a good load, good aero balance, but also a aero balance with speed characteristic, which is very important to us.

“It’s very tricky in here, it has a homologation requirement, as we know, with the nose, and it’s important that we do a good job of that, but we also do it with a good structure with a good mass. So that was a real good body of work done by the people at Enstone.”

The team has also sought to address feedback from drivers Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly about the car’s feeling under braking, which is a vital for their confidence in the car and its performance in time-critical slow speeds corners.

“Both Esteban and Pierre really do need to be consistent and precise on the braking system,” said Harman. “That’s the first order. But after that, it’s also an aerodynamic device.

“We need to cool the brakes. We need to cool the callipers. We need to cool the brake disc, but we also need to manage the temperature going into the tyres. And that’s done by a combination of not just the blankets that you see on the television, but also the manner in which we let heat pass through into the carcass of the tyre. So we spent a lot of time on this, optimising that, making sure that it’s aerodynamically capable and it fits with the rest of the front end of the car.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Suspension and power unit

Alpine A524 launch, 2024
Alpine A524 front suspension, 2024

Unlike Sauber, who revealed the first details of their new car this week, Alpine has not followed the Red Bull route of using pull-rod suspension at the front of the car. But they have refined their push-rod configuration.

“The front suspension is a similar concept that we had on the on the A523, but it is much more optimised,” said Harman. “The kinematics are very different. The inboard suspension is slightly changed to give us more flexibility and understanding on how we can control that.”

Alpine A524 launch, 2024
Alpine A524 launch, 2024

Alpine “squeezed every single thing that we could” in the packaging of the A524’s internals to maximise its aerodynamic performance. “We need to push the structures, and we also need to give the underbody of the car the ability to increase the flow rate through the car,” said Harman.

“Fundamentally, the chassis has been designed to give us the maximum amount of volume too for our aerodynamicists to express themselves freely in terms of concepts, not only for the launch car, but for the first, second, third, fourth race updates.”

One notable weakness for the team in recent seasons has been the performance of its Renault power unit. Alpine also tried, unsuccessfully, to lobby the FIA for a break from the power unit development freeze to improve its performance.

As that has been turned down, the team has concentrated more of its efforts on how it can ensure its power unit can perform to its best.

“There are a reasonable number of things that we can do to make sure that we install the power unit well into the car, making best use of all the hard work that is done by Viry-Chatillon [where its engines are built].

“It’s really, really important that we do that. We make a lot of calculations on how we maintain all the work done by the engine. So, for example, we’ve integrated the tailpipe that exits the the engine into the suspension carry-around via the transmission, basically to straighten it, to reduce the pressure drop across there, making sure that every single bit of work done by the power unit is delivered at the crankshaft and therefore at the rear wheels.”

The car’s battery pack has also been repositioned. “We’ve moved the ERS unit rearward to help us with the weight distribution of the car. It’s quite a reasonable weight in the car and we’ve moved it where it’s very optimal, but it really helps when we move it in that direction.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Weight saving and rear wing

It’s clear from the team’s minimal paint job that it did not want to add one gram more weight than was necessary to its car. They have also worked hard to cut weight elsewhere on the A524.

“We want to be under the weight limit, but we don’t want to be too far, to the point where we’re not using the mass to spend back into performance,” said Harman. “So it’s really important for us to optimise that.

“We’ve done just that. We’ve taken a considerable amount of mass out of the transmission, which is required a lot of validation that has been validated in line with our full car dyno, where we also had the full powertrain system with the power unit, all of the heat rejection systems and every part of the car, including the chassis. That allowed us to do well over 3,500km, which is a fantastic collaboration between the engineers at Viry and Enstone.”

In trying to optimise the performance of its rear suspension, the team has taken the rare step of accepting an aerodynamic compromise, but it is one Harman believes will bring rewards.

“The inboard rear suspension has been completely revised,” he explained. “The outboard suspension is also the same. We’ve got a brand new kinematic on the rear suspension that allows us to make and take an advantage from the manner in which the car behaves under certain conditions around the track.

“We’ve also tried to make sure that we optimise it aerodynamically. We took a little bit of an aerodynamic hit for taking that kinematic [gain], but we believe we will drive through that. We are already back to where we started and we believe we will get well and far beyond as we develop the rear of the car further.”

Alpine A524 launch, 2024
Alpine A524 rear wing, 2024

Red Bull, which have dominated F1 since the current technical regulations came into force, have done an especially good job of maximising their downforce while also minimising drag, giving them a potent car in a straight line. Alpine has been seeking similar gains with the design of its rear wing, which it intends to customise to a greater degree from race to race this year.

“The rear wing is an area where I think we could have done better last year,” Harman admitted. “There were certain tracks where we weren’t as efficient as we wanted to be, in terms of the downforce versus drag.

“Monza was one in particular. We learned from that, we designed some new things, we went to Las Vegas, we raced there, we understood some things, we included that in this car design.

“This year the rear wings will be matched more heavily towards each individual event, making sure that for certain types of downforce versus drag requirement that we’re more optimal, we’re closer to where we want to be for an optimum lap time.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free


Alpine A524, 2024
Alpine A524, 2024

As is always the case with the current generation of cars, one of the greatest contributors to overall performance is the floor, which by nature is hidden from view. Harman explained some of the changes which have gone on here.

“We all know that predominantly the floor creates an awful lot of downforce for a car. It’s a real driver for a lot of performance upgrades that we will see and an awful lot of the work that we’ve done in the centre of the car is to free up volume and space to express ourselves properly with that floor.

“You will also see on the edge of the floor there’s some fantastic design work gone in here. We’ve got some very interesting elements on the floor that allow us to make the most of the air passing over that area, and that actually is in combination with the bodywork.”

The floor layout contributes not only to how much downforce the car produces, and how consistently, but also the car’s cooling. Harman indicates the team was too conservative in this respect last year, and decided this was another area they could make progress.

“Underneath the bodywork is what we call the internal bodywork. So there is another set of bodywork which you cannot see and this allows us to control all of the mass flow through the car from the beginning as it enters into the side, all the way through to the rear. That allows us to make sure that we optimise the cooling behaviour of the car.

“We were a little bit more open than we would like to have been last year. This year we were in a much better position. That reduces the drag of the car and allows us to have an optimum lap time. We’ve also controlled a lot of the thermal behaviour under there.

“So for example, we try not to cool the exhausts. That sounds very counterintuitive, but cooling the exhaust takes away the energy of the exhaust. Taking away the energy of the exhaust means you don’t have as much power at the crank. So we tried to make sure we use our air where we need it and not where we don’t, like we do everywhere else on the top of the car.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Formula 1

Browse all Formula 1 articles

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

14 comments on “Alpine explain key changes in “very aggressive” new A524”

  1. Wow, what a great article! Am I imagining how rare it is for a team to be open about their development direction? I know I’m just a layman but to me this is how you build respect with an audience, not just PR marketing “5 year plan” hand-wavey speeches. Consider me a fan.

    Best of luck to them, clearly a lot of sensible work gone into the car based of what they’re saying. I hope it pays off and all that underfloor expressive freedom leads to some improved competitiveness. Obviously there’s some learning to be done there leading to the drivers’ recent statements. Some nice exclusive photos to boot!

    Alpine also tried, unsuccessfully, to lobby the FIA for a break from the power unit development freeze to improve its performance

    This makes me think back to 2007-2008 at Red Bull during the freeze at that time how Webber at every press conference possible was talking about how their engine was down on power. I don’t think we really heard boo about it from Gasly or Ocon. A missed opportunity perhaps? It’s a political game after all.

    1. Yeah great article! Sometimes when you read all those hollow PR statements from the teams – you forget all the passionate people that are working for those teams. This interview speaks volumes – and it’s a great inside in the development of this years car – curious to see how it will perform on track.

    2. +100 this was a great article. Cynically I suppose it probably helps that Alpine likely doesn’t have a lot to hide that the other teams are queuing up to copy, but I loved it! Kudos RF and Alpine.

    3. Yeah, I agree. It’s become so rare to read an actually insightful article from a team talking about their cars instead of endless phrase words and hype. Great job both Alpine and Racefans to give us this

  2. Great article and details.
    Much better than merely discussing the colours and decals.

  3. It’s interesting how often he brings up the internal arrangement of the components, and how that relates to both weight distribution, cooling or deliberately no cooling, room for the floor and potential upgrades. A lot of that is hard if not impossible to see, and thus usually missing from stories that seek to explain the performance of each car.

    That said, given these cars usually tend to be within 1 to 2 seconds at most in qualifying from the very best, it’s always good to keep that in mind when people say they’ve made “huge” gains or “big” changes. It’s all very similar, but getting all the little refinements in and making sure they work in sync is a real challenge.

  4. That matter of internals, it’s interesting. If I’m not mistaken, in average, the A523 last year was 0,9s off the RB19 pace in qualifying. It’s clear the car had aero issues, the matter of engine. But when Harmann talk about this much and what type of issues that were killing the car performance, makes you wonder if that 0,9s gap, if this huge amount of refinement happened last year, could be they ended maybe only a half a second slower than the best car, which could’ve been a really game changer for them.

    1. I think they’d acted correctly by putting all their eggs in the 2024 basket. Rather than developing a flawed car which probably wouldn’t have made a difference in their constructors position given the massive gap to 5th. That’s a smart allocation of resources in the circumstances.

      1. You have a strong point, montreal95. Now you made me think, last year their development through the season was locked, only a few bits had space to act. They brought a fresh platform now, and the aero department can use their learnings of last year to bring way more aero performance. This is better than use a half baked solution. Perhaps they can close the gap to the top 5.

  5. It’s why I like Alpine/Renault: despite they getting bashed a lot and criticized heavily the public opinion and medias, these guys really work hard, but the judgement that comes due to how terrible their past leaders were, overshadow good stuff like this.

    I’m really interested to see how it’ll go. It’s clear that in terms of aero, for the start of the season, it’ll be no major change, or them pulling a major move to be fighting up there. That will happen progressively. But all of those changes that went in mechanical side, PU, placement of stuff, chassis dimensions, this while doesn’t lead to clear gains of laptime as direct consequence, produces what I call “brute performance”: it’s a better and quicker platform (somewhere between 0,5s to 1s in the best of worlds), and once you start to add downforce points and develop it way more, the car responds well in terms of laptime. If they do this right, could be that if they start the season in the low heights of the grid, they may end it in a good shape in Abu Dhabi, glued on the top 4 cars. But that will depend on how well they develop the aero platform. I’m looking forward to it.

  6. Will it be reliable? is one question I find myself asking however this is a cracking bit of work. I expect Alpine to be close to 4th this season and to come alive in second half of the year

    1. They probably do not want the ICE to be reliable as they’re not allowed to change it except for “reliability” reasons. They need to turn up the dial and break it more often ;)

  7. Well, now if the Alpine still isn’t competitive they can blame the old steering wheel.

  8. Finally I believe Alpine will be faster than their client teams using the Renault engine..

    Oh wait…

Comments are closed.