Alpine is just under the budget cap. The engineers prefer to bring many small upgrades instead of one big one. The focus is on the underbody. There is more value for money there. That's why the A522 is also a patchwork of small parts.
A look at the account balance is always included. Under the budget cap, every upgrade has to pay off. "One thing that doesn't work is a double loss," confirms Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto. Because you can no longer react. Even the rich teams don't have any resources left. At some point, the budget limit will put an end to the arms race.
Alpine is one of the teams just about to hit the $141.2 million mark. Apparently only two million dollars are missing. With around 100 fewer employees than the three top teams, there is more money left over for the development of the car. And as fifth in the Constructors' Championship, more wind tunnel time than Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren. "Nevertheless, we have to pay attention to the costs in everything we do," emphasizes Technical Director Pat Fry.
Underbody cheaper than wings
Alpine was one of the most active teams in the development race in the first six races. There were small changes practically every race. So far, Fry's team has been pursuing the policy of taking small steps. The package in Barcelona is still one of the largest in Alpine's development program. The front wing endplates, rear wing and rear brake vents were new.
The underbody remained untouched this time. According to Fry, this is the biggest battlefield this year. Not only because most of the lap times are hidden there. Modifications to the floor are also relatively cheap compared to other areas of the car. "The front wing is the most expensive part. If you replace the whole wing, you're up to 100,000 euros. You think twice about whether a modification is worthwhile. If a new profile in one part of the floor brings you more benefit, you decide you for the floor."
So every planned development must first qualify for racing, including with the accountants. "The predicted improvement in the lap time is calculated against the costs. We get back a factor of ten more on the ground than on the wings. And if I have to choose between two kilograms of weight reduction or four points of downforce, I take the weight. That's what you get guarantees lap times," says Fry.
Stiff floor against bouncing
A complete floor would be just as expensive as a front wing, but hardly any team changes the entire floor plate these days. Since this year it has been a patchwork of many small pieces of the puzzle. Just like the side boxes and the engine cover. In this way, locally limited modifications can be made quickly and inexpensively.
Alpine is one of the lucky teams that was relatively spared from bouncing.Fry concedes that this trait is partly an act of fortune that has nothing to do with providence. "I'm too young for the first ground effect era. That's why I don't dare to claim that we fully understood it." Fry believes that in the Alpine case it has a lot to do with the stiffness of the soil. "We invested an extra 1.5 kilograms in the first version of our floor to be on the safe side."
Weight is also an issue for Alpine. Fry admits that hitting the 798kg limit is a titanic task. "I can't say when we'll be able to do that. In the course of further development, the car can sometimes become heavier." The next major change on the ground should bring at least two kilograms.
Another big construction site is tire management. The Alpine is usually a slower car on Sunday than on Friday and Saturday. "We're on to it," promises Fry. "It has to do with the set-up and tire management. We did a few experiments in Miami and got interesting answers. In Barcelona we want to take another step in this direction." With success. For the first time this season, the Alpine raced better on Sunday than on Saturday.