We’ve finally reached the season of new Formula 1 car reveals. McLaren kicked things off earlier this week, unveiling its MCL35, and today we’re getting our first glimpse of Scuderia AlphaTauri’s 2021 contender, the team’s second-ever car after taking over from Toro Rosso last year.
The appropriately named AT02 cars will be driven by Pierre Gasly and rookie Yuki Tsunoda. The 2020 AlphaTauri chassis carried a refreshingly simple livery, and the new one makes minor changes to it. The navy blue part now extends all the way down the nose, and we get a nice pinstripe under it, for what those are worth. We don’t especially need more blue-and-white cars on the grid, but I still expect this will be the most attractive of the bunch.
Functionally, the AT02 mostly carries over last year’s chassis. That’s unsurprising, given the slight changes in this year’s regulations and the limited allotment of “tokens” by the FIA to update certain elements of the car. The floor, brake duct winglets and diffuser fences have all been adjusted to comply with the new rules for 2021, though you’d have to have a keen eye to spot those changes. In terms of aero features, the AT02 is almost indistinguishable from its predecessor if you don’t know where to look.
So what did AlphaTauri, Red Bull’s junior squad, take upon itself to change? The team’s technical director, Jody Egginton, says it spent its tokens on a new nose and outboard front suspension. Meanwhile, the team is sticking with the same gearbox and rear suspension from last year, which were supplied by Red Bull proper.
Honda is once again responsible for the car’s power unit, though the Japanese automaker will bow out of the sport at the conclusion of this season when a temporary freeze on engine development is set to kick in. Red Bull will pick up Honda’s engine operation and maintain it at least until the end of the 2024 campaign. In 2025, all-new power unit regulations take effect, and both Red Bull teams will either employ units of their own design or source them from another company.
The AT01 earned AlphaTauri and Gasly their first wins at last year’s Italian Grand Prix. If you include the team’s Toro Rosso tenure, it was its second victory since Sebastian Vettel took the checkered flag in 2008, also at Monza. AlphaTauri still has work to do if it wants to claim “best of the rest” status from the likes of Racing Point (now Aston Martin) and McLaren, but 2020 was a step in the right direction. Let’s see if Gasly and Tsunoda can steer the AT02 to even better results.