What’s behind Alpine's jumbo airbox

Alpine caused a stir on the opening day of Formula 1 testing when it emerged with a rather exaggerated mega airbox and engine cover.

What’s behind Alpine's jumbo airbox

With the modern trend being for teams to try to shrink wrap the bodywork around the power unit components, Alpine’s solution is unique and something we were more used to seeing in the 1970’s.

But the first thing to say is that the airbox and roll over structure of the A521 has not changed if we compare it with the RS19 or RS20. Instead, it’s the bodywork behind that’s been significantly increased in size.

Alpine A521 cover

Alpine A521 cover

Photo by: Alpine

Renault R.S.20

Renault R.S.20

Photo by: Renault

The reasoning for this, although it might sound odd at first, is predominantly to mitigate the incoming regulation changes that narrow the floor and rear brake ducts and see the lower portion of the diffuser strakes lopped off.

Whereas the rest of the grid have pushed-on and developed the downwash style sidepod arrangement which generally results in the airflow running over the top of the sidepod and meeting with the floor as quickly as possible, the A521 has an arrangement more akin to what teams used in the pre-hybrid era.

This is for a more heavily undercut frontal section and higher waisted sidepod along the entire length.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A521

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A521

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

This creates more space between the sidepod and the floor in order that the team deals with the issues created by the new regulations in its own unique way.

However, to achieve its aerodynamic goals, the team had to rethink the cooling architecture of the car, resulting in the radiators and other hardware housed within the sidepods having to be repositioned.

The arrangement that Renault has run in previous years has already seen a great deal of that hardware packed in around the power unit due to the makeup of its cooling package. But with even more hardware to deal with, the region has increased quite dramatically in size.

Renault F1 Team R.S.19 
 powerunit install

Renault F1 Team R.S.19 powerunit install

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

So, in essence, the changes are driven by the regulation changes and are simply Alpine’s way of dealing with these issues, whilst trying to recover as much performance as possible, without damaging the car’s overall performance envelope.

Irrespective of the genuine technical reasoning behind the changes, it’s easy to draw comparisons with a variety of different airbox and engine cover solutions in Formula 1’s past...

Jacques Laffite, Ligier JS5 Matra
Jacques Laffite, Ligier JS5 Matra
1/5
When you think of jumbo airboxes in Formula One you can’t really think past the Ligier JS5 to be honest.

Photo by: Sutton Images

Jacques Laffite, Ligier JS5 Matra
Jacques Laffite, Ligier JS5 Matra
2/5
Here it is from the side...

Photo by: Ercole Colombo

Emerson Fittipaldi, McLaren M23
Emerson Fittipaldi, McLaren M23
3/5
McLaren’s M23 with a high airbox solution which was latterly banned.

Photo by: Ercole Colombo

Lotus 72D 1972 airbox detail
Lotus 72D 1972 airbox detail
4/5
The Lotus 72 with the bullet shaped airbox.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Mercedes W01 airbox comparison, full blade design used at this race, rather than compromises inset
Mercedes W01 airbox comparison, full blade design used at this race, rather than compromises inset
5/5
The other end of the spectrum - Mercedes used a blade roll over structure and very small inlets beside it on its W01.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

shares
comments

Related video

LIVE: F1 Bahrain 2021 pre-season testing - Day 2
Previous article

LIVE: F1 Bahrain 2021 pre-season testing - Day 2

Next article

"Predictable" Red Bull a boost for Verstappen

"Predictable" Red Bull a boost for Verstappen
How departing F1 boss Brawn views F1’s new rules - and the future Plus

How departing F1 boss Brawn views F1’s new rules - and the future

Multiple-title-winning designer and team boss Ross Brawn is finally leaving Formula 1 after nearly 50 years in motorsport. But he still has plenty of insights on what’s working and what comes next, as he revealed to Autosport in a far-reaching exclusive interview in Abu Dhabi

The key F1 management call Ferrari must make to avoid more defeat Plus

The key F1 management call Ferrari must make to avoid more defeat

OPINION: Mattia Binotto’s departure from Ferrari will naturally bring a range of changes across the Formula 1 team. But how the changes shape up and the impact they could have is set to be dictated by a key direction Ferrari’s top dogs will need to pick

Formula 1
Nov 30, 2022
The difference between Mercedes’ stumble and the fall of F1 giants Plus

The difference between Mercedes’ stumble and the fall of F1 giants

OPINION: Mercedes endured its worst season of the hybrid Formula 1 era, but was mercifully spared its first winless campaign in over a decade late on. It has owned up to the mistakes it made which led to its troubled W13. And while its task to return to title-challenging contention is not small, its 2022 season seems more like a blip than the beginning of a downward spiral.

Formula 1
Nov 29, 2022
The physical focus bringing out the best of an F1 midfield star Plus

The physical focus bringing out the best of an F1 midfield star

Esteban Ocon likes to point out he’s the first driver since Lewis Hamilton to emerge from a spell as Fernando Alonso’s team-mate with a superior overall points record. While some may disagree, as LUKE SMITH discovered, the 2021 Hungarian GP winner reckons it’s not just luck which has made him France’s pre-eminent Formula 1 driver of the moment…

Formula 1
Nov 28, 2022
How Red Bull's dynamic leader shaped its F1 philosophy Plus

How Red Bull's dynamic leader shaped its F1 philosophy

The death of Dietrich Mateschitz last month has not only deprived Red Bull of its visionary founder, it has shorn Formula 1 of one of its most influential benefactors. Mateschitz himself was famously media-shy, preferring to let the brand do the talking on his behalf. And, while it’s now normal to speak of Red Bull F1 titles and champions made, Mateschitz never assumed it would be easy or even possible – as ANTHONY ROWLINSON discovered during this previously unpublished interview from 2006…

Formula 1
Nov 27, 2022
Can Mercedes break Formula 1's cycle of doom? Plus

Can Mercedes break Formula 1's cycle of doom?

OPINION: Teams that have dominated for long periods throughout Formula 1's history often take years to get back to the top of the tree once they've slipped down. But it remains to be seen whether the same will happen to Mercedes after a challenging 2022 season

Formula 1
Nov 24, 2022
What hurt Perez most in his ill-fated fight for second in Abu Dhabi Plus

What hurt Perez most in his ill-fated fight for second in Abu Dhabi

Arguably the favourite in the battle to finish second best in 2022's Formula 1 standings, Sergio Perez's two-stop strategy at Abu Dhabi couldn't take him ahead of Charles Leclerc when the music stopped - and several key factors ultimately precluded him from the much-coveted runner-up spot

Formula 1
Nov 23, 2022
The Abu Dhabi momentum that can propel Leclerc and Ferrari to F1 2023 success Plus

The Abu Dhabi momentum that can propel Leclerc and Ferrari to F1 2023 success

OPINION: Charles Leclerc achieved his target of sealing runner-up in the 2022 world championship with a masterful drive behind Max Verstappen in Abu Dhabi. And that race contained key elements that may help him, and Ferrari, go one better in Formula 1 2023

Formula 1
Nov 22, 2022