F1 French Grand Prix technical gallery

A BLANK PAGE FOR THE BLUES

Sixth fastest race car in pure speed last year (+1.44%), the Alpine is now the fourth fastest car on the grid (+1.36%). Its progress is due to both the chassis and the engine, of which we unveil the first exclusive image above.

Equipped with a battery and energy recovery systems that require considerable cooling, the “power units” must be designed together with the chassis, even if this means compromises. It is in this spirit that the RE22 block was designed, the first “made in Viry” V6 hybrid designed around a separate architecture.

As in the Mercedes V6 (which invented this arrangement in 2014) and the Honda engine, the French block compressor is installed at the front of the block and the turbine at the back, while the two parts joined together. others until last year. This separate arrangement, which requires a very long axle, is a solution that meets both the needs of the engine and the requirements of the chassis.

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“This architecture offers a better package above all, explained some time ago Bruno Famin, Alpine’s head of engine since this year. It exemplifies the close collaboration between Enstone and Viry, delivering better aero, a lower center of gravity and ultimately a better car, and it’s the car that scores the points.”

“It is in this sense that the absolute power figures are of little interest to me. What matters is the performance of the car as a whole. We have made certain choices in our engine in order to have the best possible car. Perhaps we could have achieved a better number on the dyno, but with a slower car in the end… Instead, we designed the A522 based on the RE22, and vice versa.”

Simply put, this architecture has three advantages. The first is better cooling management, as the compressor and aluminum ducts are mounted at the front of the V6, away from the 1000°C turbine and hot exhaust pipes. Located in a less hot area than in a classic configuration, the compressor can, in theory, be satisfied with a smaller intercooler (compressed air has less need for cooling).

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Second advantage: the ducts that connect the compressor to the intercooler are much shorter than in a conventional architecture, which makes it possible to reduce the “response time” of the turbo. However, reducing this offset reduces the proportion of energy recovered by the ERS that the MGU-H must devote to restarting the turbine when the accelerator pedal is not pressed.

Third advantage: this arrangement has made it possible to develop an air-water intercooler installed on the front face of the engine (slightly higher than Mercedes and Aston Martin). Having a small radiator installed in this location makes it possible to reduce the size of the radiators housed in the sidepods and therefore slim the body for the benefit of aerodynamics.

However, this architecture is not a panacea. The 2022 Ferrari V6, which has kept a classic layout (the supercharger connected to the turbo, the assembly installed at the back of the block), has a reputation as the best power unit today… The Italian block, however, offers other innovations. , still secret at the moment, proves that an architecture alone does not determine the competitiveness of an engine.

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On the chassis side, Enstone aerodynamicists have once again modified the edges of the A522’s flat bottom. Which is not surprising. Since the downforce is generated mainly by the underbody of the F1 2022 and less by the fins, the most profitable gains come from the evolutions made to the flat bottom, which are proportionally cheaper than other developments:

“Until last year, front fins contained a good dose of performance, notes Pat Fry, Alpine’s Chief Technology Officer. That’s less the case now.”

“Also, they are relatively expensive parts to manufacture: a new fin costs the same as a new body. However, we currently find ten times more performance with a new flat bottom. Comparatively, a new fin does not provide the same benefit. Given the limited budgets, the choice is therefore clear.”

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