Does our brand-new team name mean a brand-new car for 2020?
JE: “AT01, our first AlphaTauri car, can best be described as a strong evolution of what we put in place for STR14, the 2019 car. That’s because the changes to the technical regulations for 2020 are fairly minimal. So there’s nothing fundamental which has required a massive re-think. The focus has gone on pushing forward all the main priorities in terms of packaging the PU, packaging suspension, the systems and integrating all of that together to take the car to the next level and to give us maximum aero freedom.”
You mention packaging the Power Unit as an important area. How important is continuity in terms of your work with Honda?
JE: “When it comes to PU packaging, the key is continuity as this will be our third year together with Honda. The second year already bore more fruit, which was clearly going to happen, after a pretty successful first year together. This third year gives us the opportunity to take that a step further. We have the opportunity, due to our relationship with them, to really maximise the integration of the PU into the chassis package. We are not just given a PU that we have to mount as best as we can. We’re working together with Honda and Red Bull Technology to make sure that everything is as integrated as possible.”
How would you describe the philosophy behind AT01?
JE: “The areas we have really focused on are further integration of PU and other mechanical items into the chassis. The reason behind that is to give the aero guys more freedom to develop, without us having to make costly, in-season, non-performance-enhancing updates. So, the main focus has been on getting everything packaged as tight as it can be. That’s been a big push. We’ve attempted in a couple of ways to make the car a little bit more serviceable but overall, we’ve had to come up with some smart solutions to make the car serviceable, because everything is very tight.”
Is Red Bull Technology still involved in the process of producing our new car?
JE: “Yes, we’ve had to adapt the 2019 Red Bull rear end into our chassis package but that’s part of the game each year, whether it’s a new part or something you’re inheriting from another team. It’s a small detail but the gearbox has actually had to be re-homologated because of changes made on PU packaging, but to all intents and purposes it’s the same. The inboard front suspension and uprights are also from last year’s Red Bull, while the suspension members and associated brackets are AlphaTauri Designed & Manufactured. The hydraulics and other parts related to that also come from Red Bull. One small change to the regulations for 2020 concerns brake ducts: the brake ducts front and rear are now classified as listed parts, so these are AlphaTauri-designed and manufactured parts for 2020.”
What were the goals the team set itself in terms of the design of AT01?
JE: “Twelve months ago, one of the aims we had set ourselves was to maintain our level of competitiveness in the second half of the year. We actually increased our competitiveness in the second half of 2019 and that was down to a combination of aero and PU updates. It was an important step. We proved to ourselves we could improve the car consistently through the year. We’ll take the same approach with this car as well. However, this year we also need to have one eye on the 2021 regulations, so it’s unlikely we will develop AT01 in exactly the same way as STR14 but that’s the challenge. The main thing to keep focussed on is aero development. The tyres are a constant, so aero is the battleground for 2020.”
Apart from the aero you just mentioned, tyre management often seems to be the deciding factor in races. What’s happening on that front this year
JE: “The plan had been for Pirelli to introduce a development for this year and the rationale for wanting to do so was sound, in as much as it would have provided an opportunity to maybe address some of the comments regarding overheating and tyre degradation. But at the same time, 2020 is the last year run to this current set of regulations, so a change of tyre would have led to a lot more work, which would then have to be done again under the new tyre regulations, so you could argue why do it now? Also, looking at the competitiveness of the midfield, six teams were fantastically close together, which is good for the sport and a tyre change might have had an impact on that. The result of the two tests last year in Austin and Abu Dhabi did not tick the boxes to go with a new tyre for 2020, so it’s the right decision, because I think it could have just been a change for change’s sake. The new wheel/tyre size is already set for 2021 and Formula 2 is running that new size this year and we will learn from it, so keeping the existing tyres is the right thing to do.”
Would you care to guess how well we will do this year?
JE: “It’s too early to make predictions for the coming season, but in terms of our drivers, we’re in good shape with our most experienced ever line-up across the two cars, in terms of numbers of Grands prix done. That’s quite positive, because knowing both guys well means there are fewer variables there. We’ve got pretty much the same engineering team. There’s some small changes but nothing that has not been planned for.”