Fight against weight: the Alfa Romeo – F1 Team – Formula 1 stratagem

The 2022 single-seaters are significantly heavier than the previous generation, due to the intrinsic characteristics of the new cars. The transition to tires with 18-inch rims caused a considerable increase in the masses of the wheel groups, of which a contribution of 3 kg was recorded by the braking system alone, in detail by the widening of the brake discs. Added to this are the more stringent safety criteria, which have entailed a strengthening of the car body, outlining a technical regulation which, as a whole, provides a minimum weight in 2022 that is 46 kg higher than that in force at the end of 2021.

Nonetheless, the teams are having considerable difficulties in approaching the weight limit and, according to what has recently been leaked, almost all the cars on the grid would suffer from excess mass. The only exception at the moment is Alfa Romeo, which already at the beginning of the season had a car capable of equalizing the minimum weight of 795 kg. This value was subsequently raised by the Federation to 798 kg with the arrival of the first race, to allow the installation of tie rods at the rear with which to limit the deformation of the bottom at high speeds. Therefore, not only does the Swiss team have the lightest car on the grid, but it can also enjoy a decent margin to fill with ballast with which to refine the distribution of the masses. “We know that weight targets are very difficult with these new regulations and for this reason we have left nothing to chance”, Team Technical Director Jan Monchaux told Tech Talk, the technical in-depth program produced by F1TV. It is not a single component that lightens a 10 kg car, but it is the combination of all the details “.

Among the many detailed works carried out for weight containment, it stands out the geometry of the roll-hoop, the protective structure above the cockpit designed to protect the driver in the event of a rollover, not to be confused with the halo. While most of the teams, including Ferrari, opt for a triangular shape inside which the engine intake air intakes and, in some cases, part of the cooling system are placed, Alfa Romeo has developed a rollover bladealready seen on the 2019 Hinwil single-seater. It is a centrally located “blade” geometry, with the air intakes located on its sides instead. “It’s simply a ploy to keep weight under control”has explained Monchaux. “When we looked at the roll hoop, we saw that the blade gave us a certain advantage in terms of weight. It is the only reason, because in the wind tunnel it does not bring any advantage. It’s more of an aesthetic difference, but every year I see that it makes my eyebrows curl and raises questions about why we went for this solution: it’s just a question of weight ”.

Although marginal, the advantage given by the blade structure guarantees a double benefit, both in terms of weight and height of the center of gravity. The roll-hoop is in fact the component located higher than the entire single-seater, which is why its lightening contributes to lowering the center of mass, to the advantage of vehicle dynamics thanks to the marginal reduction of longitudinal and lateral load transfers. to the grip guaranteed by the tires. Sam Collins, technical expert and host of the Tech Talk program also spoke about the Alfa Romeo solution: “One of the constant criticisms of having a rollover blade is that the airflow to the radiators and the intake box is likely to be uneven between the intakes on either side when the car is cornering, but that doesn’t seem to worry Monchaux too much. “.

However, Alfa Romeo is not the only team to have presented an atypical solution as regards the tipping structure. Alpine in fact it has developed a component with relatively conventional geometries, but made with a different production technique. From the video released during the presentation of the A522, you can see how the roll hoop seems to have been produced with additive manufacturing, already widely used in Formula 1 in other areas, which make it possible to create more complex shapes so as to optimize the compromise between weight and stiffness.

Weight reduction is therefore once again a probable challenge for designers in 2022, to be fought from component to component. The solutions adopted for the roll hoops alone do not guarantee a considerable performance gain, but are proof of the attention to detail paid by the teams and of how the competitiveness of a single-seater derives from the accumulation of various marginal gains.

FP | Carlo Platella


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