F1 2021 Car Reveals: Alpine A521 – How does it stack up against the Renault R.S.20?
Taking place as the second launch of the day was the newly christened Alpine Formula 1 team with their renamed car, the R.S.20.
Featuring Esteban Ocon and the new executive team following the transition to Alpine and Cyril Abiteboul’s departure, the digital launch featured the history of the Alpine brand, showing off the achievements in rallying of the legendary A110 and endurance racing of the 1970s.
The unveiling of the car was a flashy affair, placing the car in the Alps for which it is named.
The unveiling and teasers have done the new car justice. The well-known designer of concept liveries for the world of motorsport, Sean Bull, was part of the design team and his influence is obvious.
Not much more can be said about the Alpine A521 apart from that at first glance it is stunning. Resplendent in a deep, rich, blue like to Alpine’s World Endurance Championship efforts, then the flashes of white and blue cutting across the rear of the car to complete the Tricolour.
Wherever the A521 finishes this season, it’ll be a looker doing it.
Starting at the front of the car, the main plane of the front wing appears to have been simplified, being completely flat compared to the mild curve of the previous entry. The endplate also seems to have forgone the stepped trailing edge used to reduce tip vortices.
This could just be the render being deliberately neutered in detail by the team however. The suspension and brake ducts look identical to the 2020 car, and any differences to the nose in the comparison pictures are believed to be as a result of the slightly differing perspectives of the two.
This angle also reveals obvious changes to the bargeboard turning vanes and the engine cover. The turning vanes on the edge of the sidepods have been simplified, removing the inboard set. The wing protruding from the top of the sidepod also doesn’t connect to the top of the outboard turning vane.
The side impact structure fairing seems to have been sculpted significantly differently, potentially to shape the airflow over the sidepod or the floor after the reduced area forced by the regulations.
Taking a look at the engine cover, it seems to be significantly more bulbous than before. The Renault that preceded this Alpine always had a much wider engine cover than the rest of the grid, but this seems to have been increased over the break, perhaps suggesting a larger push for horsepower at the expense of aerodynamic efficiency.
The sidepods do however look slimmer from this angle, indicating a move of the radiators or intercooler to the top of the power unit.
Apart from the aforementioned changes to the turning vanes, the bargeboards seem to be very similar, maintaining the boomerang wing atop the turning vanes. There does look to be an added set of vertical fins on the leading edge of the tea tray, potentially prepping the airflow for the bargeboards to deal with the reshaped sidepods.
The rear of the car in the studio renders, through some clever perspective, give nothing away regarding the new diffuser strakes and brake ducts which will need to be changed. The strakes on the rear wing endplates have been cleaned up and are therefore much more consistent in their spacing, running parallel to each other.
A small detail on the floor of the Renault is the secondary piece of carbon in the bargeboard assembly that extends down the edge of the floor. Similar to the Red Bull last week, these seem to be designed to create the floor-sealing vortices required to provide clean airflow to the diffuser, particularly after the floor area was reduced over the winter. As James Allison from Mercedes alluded to in their car launch, this may be a key area of development over this season.
Overall, Enstone has been busy, providing a car which is significantly evolved over the predecessor. Can they use this new start to break into the top 4 and beat McLaren and Aston Martin? Nobody knows yet, but the first round in Bahrain should provide the first words of an answer.