Alpine A524: Why the French outfit’s 2024 changes are significant

Jaden Diaz
8 Feb, 2024

The Alpine A524 presented yesterday was described by its technical director as a revolution compared to 2023. A statement that, at first glance, left many perplexed – since the A524’s shapes do not differ much from the A523. This is due to the aerodynamics, which have remained very similar compared to last year.

Broadly speaking, the 2023 concepts have only been refined. At the same time, however, profound work was carried out to rework the entire platform. Significant changes were made to the chassis, transmission and mechanics aimed at resolving the limitations that existed on the A523.

Perhaps the biggest area of focus was improving the car’s operating window. Alpine want to establish a baseline that offers room for development over the next two seasons.

It was very important for the teams, including Alpine, to take advantage of the penultimate winter of this regulation cycle. The aim will be to do as much crossover as possible, focusing – from January next year – most of the resources on the 2026 car.

Extreme choices on the frame to favour development

At the end of December, we anticipated Alpine’s direction. During these winter months, all the teams were redoing their chassis, unlike last season, where there had also been some crossover in this very important macro component.

At Alpine, it was essential to improve aerodynamic efficiency and extract further load from the floor of the car. In Enstone, they opted for an aggressive approach and have aimed at the future.

“We designed the chassis of the A524 leaving the maximum volumes allowed, especially in the lower part, to give our aerodynamicists space to best express themselves in the development program,” said Enstone’s technical director, Matt Harman.

The French team decided to be very daring with their bodywork to open up new avenues of development. This is especially significant in the floor section. However, these courageous choices also gave rise to difficulties, as outlined previously – which resulted in initial crash test failures.

Alpine

Another very important change on the Alpine A524, thanks to collaboration between Enstone and Viry-Chatillon, is the different arrangement of the cooling system. This is located under the engine hood.

This will be very useful for improving the management of the airflow that passes between them and for making cooling more efficient.

“Last year, we needed to open the air vents more than we would have liked. This made us lose km/h,” said the Australian engineer. 

This has been addressed on the A524 and should improve the aerodynamic efficiency. This is a very important area for Enstone, owing to their horsepower deficit to other teams.

Precisely in this regard, Harman wanted to underline how the new front wing has a design that “offers a little more local load and aerodynamic balance but also good speed, which is always important for us.”

Once again, these changes are necessitated by the French engine’s deficit, which was approximately 15-20 HP last year.

Important work on optimizing suspensions and Power Units.

Important work has been carried out on both suspensions, which have been confirmed in their suspension schemes. The kinematics have been completely revisited.

“Last year, on the front, we didn’t have the progress we expected,” Harman said. 

This is why this year, the French team’s technical office sought a greater anti-dive effect. Alpine’s new design comes from an important reanalysis work started in November 2022. However, what changed the most was the rear suspension. Together with the transmission, it underwent significant slimming work – another fundamental issue that affects performance.

Alpine

Also, in this case, Matt Harman spoke specifically about development. He explained how the choices made on the rear suspension “may not initially give us maximum performance, but we are sure that with the development of the car, we will be able to obtain much better results than previously.”

A small step back might be necessary to make more significant long-term progress. This was the approach at Ferrari and Mercedes, for example, after they put downwash bellies in their cars.

The transmission and rear suspension were also important in optimising the Power Unit. The exhaust of the A524 has, in fact, undergone important changes. It is now better integrated with these two macro elements, giving it greater rigidity and allowing less energy dissipation.

In theory, this should optimise the horsepower produced by the Renault engine. With the solutions undertaken this winter, it should reduce the gap to other manufacturers.

Alpine

In fact, with a different management of the airflow under the bonnet, also used for cooling some components, and a more closed bodywork, the French power unit will be able to ensure better efficiency resulting from a “less cold” exhaust. 

In the past season, Alpine often had to cool the exhaust terminals with a greater airflow to avoid overheating and breakages. 

Ocon and Gasly are the only drivers, together with Hulkenberg, to have used all eight exhausts available under the regulations.

“It may not seem so intuitive to the less experienced, but cooling the exhaust too much takes away energy. And this translates into less power to the engine’s drive shaft,” explained Enstone’s technical director. 

Lastly, the weight distribution chapter where the French team opted to move the battery pack backwards.

Therefore, over the winter, Alpine has carried out a lot of work on the less visible parts of the car.

After having worked mainly on aerodynamics last year, the idea for 2024 is to create a new platform for development. In theory, the arrival of mid-season updates can then improve the team’s performance, and a similar process can repeat in 2025.

To do this, it was necessary to intervene in all those components ‘frozen’ in development during the season, such as the chassis, transmission and, above all, the mechanics. 

As for the aerodynamic steps forward, they will arrive immediately and during the season. 

This is why the team has low expectations for the start of the season. However, they are hopeful they can unlock performance with a new platform that has more potential. In the long-term this could see the A524 make significant improvements.

Authors: Piergiuseppe Donadoni & Paolo D’Alessandro

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang

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