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Formula 1 Las Vegas GP

How Alpine’s intriguing Las Vegas tweaks helped its F1 charge

Alpine has endured some pretty challenging times in Formula 1 this year, but it proved to be one of the surprise packages of the Las Vegas weekend.

Alpine A523 front wing comparison

Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

Giorgio Piola is the preeminent Formula 1 technical journalist. Born in Genoa, Italy, Giorgio has covered the F1 World Championship since 1969, producing thousands of illustrations that have been reproduced in the world’s most prestigious motor racing publications.

With Pierre Gasly grabbing fourth place on the grid, and Esteban Ocon charging from 16th to finish fourth in the race itself, the A523 appeared well-suited to the high-speed demands of the Las Vegas track. 

And it was interesting to see how the team refined several aspects of its car for the weekend, which appeared to help it relative to the opposition. 

The squad has been pretty proactive in terms of refreshing the design of its front wing this season in order to offer the right front-to-rear balance in conjunction with the choices made at the rear of the car.  

In the case of Las Vegas, this came in the form of what first appeared to be just another upper flap trim, something that the team has done regularly already this season.  

However, there was more to it than that, as the team ran a modified version of the front wing it used at the beginning of the season.  

The variant introduced at the British Grand Prix, which has been subtly modified since, features a different flap distribution arrangement, which is more prominent at the outboard end. The mainplane also stretches much further rearward. 

It is a design evolution that follows a trend that’s emerged up and down the grid in order to help manage the front tyre wake. This is something that Alpine remarked would provide better low-speed management than the design it ultimately chose last weekend.  

This one had a narrower moveable upper flap, resulting in a wider static section near the nose, both of which were trimmed more than we have seen before. 

Alpine A523 technical detail

Photo by: Filip Cleeren

Alpine A523 technical detail

At the rear of the car, the team ran the low downforce rear wing last seen at the Italian Grand Prix. 

However, rather than being paired with the bi-plane beam wing arrangement used at Monza, the team opted for just the lower element, which was also trimmed to better suit its demands. In another effort to boost its straightline speed the team also removed the upper winglets from its rear brake duct. 

Ferrari plays with downforce levels 

Ferrari SF-23 rear wing comparison, Las Vegas GP

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari SF-23 rear wing comparison, Las Vegas GP

Ferrari made a crucial change to its aerodynamic set-up between second and third free practice, enabling it to produce a performance that should have locked out the front row were it not for Carlos Sainz’s power unit component penalty

The Scuderia had started out using the same rear wing configuration as the Belgian Grand Prix during FP1 and FP2.  

This design features a single, centrally mounted swan-neck pillar and its interpretation of the open-ended tip section and endplate juncture that’s become commonplace up and down the grid. 

Of course, that arrangement was considered suitable for the more technical middle section of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, which is sandwiched between two high-speed sectors.  

While it initially seemed good for Vegas’ varied demands, as the track gripped up it seemingly favoured a solution more firmly on the lower downforce end of the spectrum. 

This is where Ferrari’s lowest downforce option came into play, with the arrangement used during FP3, qualifying and the race last seen at Monza. 

In contrast to the rear wing used during FP1 and FP2, this specification does not feature the open-ended tip section and endplate juncture, with a more conventional rear cutout employed, while a double pillar arrangement and lower incidence mainplane and upper flap also feature. 

Red Bull does its own thing 

Red Bull Racing RB19 rear wing comparison, Las Vegas GP

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Red Bull Racing RB19 rear wing comparison, Las Vegas GP

While the rest of the field found it necessary to have a bespoke low downforce package at their disposal this season, Red Bull continued to buck that trend and employed the same tactic as Monza at Las Vegas. 

Rather than redesign the entire rear wing, Red Bull simply cut away a rather considerable section of the upper flap’s trailing edge. 

Notably though, in Las Vegas, only Verstappen opted for this configuration, which was paired with a Gurney flap on the trailing edge of the trimmed section, as Perez continued to run the full flap.  

In terms of how the two options played out, Perez’s RB19 was likely a little more stable under braking and through the corners and also gave a larger DRS delta when deployed. Verstappen’s RB19 was probably a little livelier but also marginally quicker on the straights when DRS wasn’t in use. 

McLaren MCL60 diffuser technical detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

McLaren MCL60 diffuser technical detail

McLaren was another team that looked at its Monza specification as a reasonable jumping off point for Las Vegas. 

It opted to tweak the layout, being mindful of the progress it has made in the time that’s elapsed between those events.  

It was also a case of marrying up the aerodynamic relationship between the rear wing and beam wing, as the team added a Gurney flap to the trailing edge of the upper flap. 

While it originally planned to run just the lower beam wing element, it ended up using its bi-plane arrangement instead.

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