The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix marked the final race on the Formula 1 calendar and on a sporting level, much of the important order had been decided bar Mercedes’ and Ferrari’s fight for the runner-up spot and AlphaTauri’s push for seventh.
From a technical point of view, importance is usually focused on the future rather than on the present, and the race weekend served as a springboard to the next season, which to all intents and purposes began on Tuesday with the post-season test.
It was therefore surprising to see the latest evolutionary packages from some teams in Abu Dhabi with the most striking one being a new floor for the Alpha Tauri AT04.
Since the beginning of the season, the Faenza-based team's single-seater has long been characterized by poor competitiveness, the result of a fundamentally flawed aerodynamic concept, which the team was only able to partially correct in the final part of the year.
This explained the introduction of the development, designed to improve balance but above all to increase the downforce generated by the floor and the stability of the centre of pressure under the car.
Deploying a change of this magnitude at this time indicates that the engineers at AlphaTauri considered an objective evaluation of the development essential in order to proceed along this path, with greater certainty in the phase of defining the details of the aerodynamic concept of next year's car.
It’s a crucial factor in order to not find themselves again with a car limited in terms of aerodynamic staff and tools, both of which gradually became available throughout the season, but which had effectively prevented the development of the AT04 throughout the season and its ability to fight in the midfield.
More than the floor
But aside from the floor, both the outermost barge boards are new - more advanced and with a larger section than the original version. Both are introduced with regard to the flow conveyors under the floor, which delimit the Venturi channels.
In practice, in terms of shape, they resemble those introduced at Suzuka by Ferrari. The new ones are strongly inspired by those of the Red Bull RB19, characterized by their extension towards the front and a rounded leading edge.
It is also worth underlining the extremely pronounced presence of a large airflow expansion section in the front part of the Venturi channels, a feature already present on the RB18 last year, and strongly refined on the RB19 during 2023.
It seems apt to reiterate that this element was key to Red Bull's championship success as its precise and difficult-to-replicate aero balance made it immune to severe porpoising effects.
The analysis of the data from Abu Dhabi allows teams to obtain three-dimensional maps of the quality of the airflow localized in various areas of the single-seater, to evaluate its exploitation at the level of downforce points and their distribution.