Technical Analysis: Red Bull parts AlphaTauri become a top-5 team in 2024?

Technical Analysis | Can Red Bull parts make AlphaTauri a threat in 2024?

10 January at 08:00

With 25 points scored in the 2023 season, the AlphaTauri Honda team secured the 8th place in the Constructors’ Championship, fighting with Williams for the 7th place until the last race in Abu Dhabi. However, during the first half of the season, the Italian team scored only 3 points.

They had massive growth in the second half, especially after the Singapore Grand Prix, scoring 22 points. Starting in 2024, the team will get more parts from Red Bull. The rear suspension (as it happened in 2023) and the front suspension will make the team gain a reasonable amount of performance over their competitors. Can it be the key to becoming a top 5 team in 2024? 

Bad start, but good development

At the beginning of the season, the AT04 had similar shapes to those seen on the RB19, especially for what concerned the design of the sidepods (aimed at maximising the Coanda effect to push the air towards the diffuser and at increasing the undercut under the cooling inlet). However, the results were completely different, with a car which suffered from a lack of downforce and great instability during the first few races. 

To solve their problems, the team decided to bring a major upgrade package in Singapore, including some aerodynamic changes to the car and the RB19 rear suspension. The sidepod featured a modification in the upper part, with a "hump" in the external part, to create a sort of "waterside" (in the inner area) useful to generate an air channel directed towards the diffuser. Furthermore, it was also possible to notice modifications both to the floor fences at the inlet of the Venturi channels and at the diffuser, with the new forward floor edge that helped draw increased mass flow under the forward floor between the fences and with the modifications to the diffuser useful for increasing the local load.

As for the rear suspension, it now featured the rear arm of the upper triangle directly connected to the rear wing support pylon, with the front arm with a greater inclination than the previous version. The front arm of the lower triangular was placed far forward and downwards to create a free passage for the flow directed towards the rear end of the car.

These solutions had the main goal of minimising the rear stability, which had slowed down the AT04 during the first half of the season, making them score only 3 points. Despite no top-10 scores in Qatar and Japan, the updates provided to Tsunoda and Ricciardo provided a more stable car to drive (not only from an aerodynamic point of view but especially from a mechanical one). The team decided to bring another floor evolution to the United States Grand Prix to increase the level of downforce generated by the underfloor: the main changes concerned the floor edge and the floor shape around the lateral impact structure. These changes allowed the team to better manage the turbulence coming from the front wheels and seal the undisturbed flow under the floor, generating more downforce. 

The results were immediately evident, with five points scored in Austin. Daniel Ricciardo had a stellar weekend in the next round in Mexico, as he qualified in P4 and eventually finished the race in P7. 

The team's growth since they changed this neuralgic area of the car had been incredible, and to better understand whether they had chosen the right path for 2024, they decided to bring another new floor spec for the last race in Abu Dhabi. The new version included major changes to the floor edge, to the Venturi inlets and to the floor shape around the SIS: as regards the two most external fences at the entrance to the Venturi, they have been brought closer together, and their trend has been changed, with a shape useful for pushing the negative flow towards the outside. Furthermore, as can be seen in the photo, the aerodynamicists have created a sort of "step" around the deformable structure, with a very similar shape to that of the floor fences just described.

This geometry of the upper part of the floor, in fact, pushes part of the flow towards the floor edge and, therefore, generates that vortex useful for sealing the air flowing underneath the car, while the "internal" airflow (closer to the chassis) flows above the upper part of the bottom towards the diffuser and the beam wing, creating a second channel useful for feeding this area.

All these big upgrades succeeded, as the car generated more downforce from the Venturi inlets, allowing the drivers to have better tyre management during the race, as Tsunoda was able to finish in P8. 

Stronger than competitors in 2024?

In 2024, the Scuderia AlphaTauri could make a really big step forward. Starting this year, the Italian team will get from Red Bull Racing not only the rear suspension of the RB20 once the development is finished, but they’ll also receive the RB19 front suspension, which could make the team gain quite a lot in terms of performance. In fact, having the Championship winning team’s front and rear suspension system will allow AlphaTauri to have a solid and balanced mechanical platform, especially in the high-speed and changes of direction, from which they can create a strong aerodynamic platform too. This will give them a strong car on the majority of the circuits. However, the bet is on: the Faenza-based team engineers have to prove their ability to build a car in the same way they developed the one from last year, and in this way, the AT05, especially in Tsunoda and Ricciardo’s hands, could really be a headache for some teams ahead.