Alpine explains difficulties with A521, disadvantaged areas in 2021
Alpine's Marcin Budkowski discusses problems with his team's A521, as difficulties in development sparked troubles with their car.
Alpine's 2021 challenger has appeared less competitive than its predecessor, the R.S.20, for the opening races of the new season. The A521 has only helped the team to only a few points this season, after consecutive points finishes in Imola and Portugal.
But Budkowski says this is no surprise to Alpine, who faced issues in the development process over the winter and had their concerns reaffirmed in Bahrain. Elaborating, he says that their 2021 car was changed drastically from their 2020 machine - a fact which contributed to delays in its design.
"We knew we were on the back foot going into testing and then going into the first races," Alpine F1 head, Budkowski admitted. "We are working hard on trying to improve the car. We brought some developments to Imola, we have done some more testing [Friday morning], so we are making small steps in terms of improving the performance of the car.
"[However,] the gap to the guys we’d like to fight with, the McLarens and the Ferraris, is a bit too much at the moment, so we are still working to close it but it will be tricky to do that in the next few races," Budkowski added.
He went on to explain: "We have tried to improve everything or change all the things we could change to make improvements. There is no particular cause for concern with the things we changed if you want, it’s just that we lost some development time over the winter and when you lose time your competitors don’t wait for you."
Alpine also faced issues in their use of a wind tunnel, which set them back further - but only with regards to time amounting to "a few weeks" lost: "We had issues related to the actual changed regulations and the actual various flow features that it kind of induced on the car, and we had issues with hardware, if you want, the tunnel and the testing as well.
"So the consequence is not that we lost more performance than others or lost differently, it’s just that we lost time if you want, development time which is a valuable currency in Formula 1 because everybody has the same amount of testing they can do, it’s limited by regulation, so when you are trying to stabilize your aerodynamic flow features or you’re trying to get your tunnel to give you the right numbers the others, during this time, continue developing the car and put performance in it.
"So that’s effectively what happened. We lost a few weeks of development and weeks of development just transformed into tenths of seconds. The aerodynamic features; is this related to next year? Well, next year is a completely different ball game. It’s a completely different car, different set of regulations.
"In terms of improvement to our hardware and our infrastructure, it’s continuous improvement. We’ve solved our issues so we continue to invest and improve our wind tunnel and fingers crossed, we don’t get issues again next year but certainly it’s up to us to improve our understanding and our development capabilities," said Budkowski.
When pressed further to lessen the confusion regarding the Alpine car performing well last year but dropping performance this year, Budkowski added: "You refer to the tunnel issues I just talked about? Part of the issues I mentioned was related to the change of regulation, which I know other people struggled with as well for potentially different reasons or the same.
"I know what we experienced, I don’t know what other people experienced during the winter, and part of it was just hardware issues, if you want, and they are not related to time or… you make changes, you improve your tunnel, you try to improve the way you test and sometimes you hit problems while doing that so there’s no particular reason. It’s just that the two unfortunately happened at the same time."
[This story was written by me for FormulaRapida and edited by Darshan Chokhani]