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What’s behind the AlphaTauri floor that has upset F1 rivals

AlphaTauri grabbed attention in the closing stages of the Formula 1 season as it made some rapid gains thanks to an aggressive upgrade package that first arrived in Singapore. 

Alpha Tauri AT04 floor

Alpha Tauri AT04 floor

Filip Cleeren

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.

But the extent of its progress got some of its rivals’ backs up, amid concerns that its ever-closer relationship with sister team Red Bull could be helping both teams gain an unfair advantage. 

While there are no suggestions the Red Bull squads are doing anything against the regulations, it is clear teams can benefit from closer collaboration when it comes to optimising development paths. 

That is why the new AlphaTauri floor that arrived in Abu Dhabi piqued the interest of rivals, with some suggesting that it offered a clue not only to the development direction of the Faenza-based squad in 2024 but maybe also Red Bull itself. 

AlphaTauri AT04 sidepods detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

AlphaTauri AT04 sidepods detail

The floor changes made were in some ways a rollback on a previous specification that AlphaTauri used during the course of the season, but it also applied some of what it learnt from the outgoing specification too. 

As is usually the case with floor developments, we are unable to see the full extent of the modifications that have been made as it’s the underside of the car that benefits the most. 

So, without an instance where the car has to be recovered, or there is a slip up by the mechanics that reveals it, we don’t get to see what’s going on beneath the car. 

Nonetheless we do know changes here will have an impact, as the team noted the following in the car presentation documentation: “The mid floor and 'canoe' surfaces local to the plank have also been extensively modified to enable greater local load generation from that part of the floor”. 

Even without seeing what’s transpired with the underfloor directly, we can still garner some insight into those changes by paying attention to the new architecture topside.  

For example, the way in which the lower SIPS are enclosed within the floor has been altered, resulting in a gentler blister on the floor’s surface that no longer joins to the outer floor fence’s ramped sidewall. 

Consequently, the main body of the floor is once again disconnected from the ramped section of the floor just aft of the outer floor fence. This is a structure which has also been reprofiled (yellow dotted line, below), as has the edge wing downstream.  

The forward, more upwardly scrolled section of the edge wing was returned to the overlapping tongue-style arrangement last used in Qatar (see inset), rather than featuring a more pronounced and squared-off profile, like the one introduced at the United States Grand Prix. 

AlphaTauri AT04 floor comparison (arrows & highlights)

Photo by: Uncredited

AlphaTauri AT04 floor comparison (arrows & highlights)

These changes, along with a reduction in the camber of the element, has resulted in the strakes being modified too.  

Meanwhile, the section to the rear of the strakes has been elongated, when compared with the Qatar spec item, taking a cue instead from the COTA spec design (lower inset), before the surface twists back inwards to create the tail section.

There’s also a reshuffling of the floor fences at the leading edge of the floor, with the team adding a splitter winglet (red arrow) to help accomplish that goal and allow one of the fences to be moved from a more inboard location, to one much closer to the outer fences.

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