The covers have been lifted off the new Alfa Romeo–Sauber C41, with the Swiss team continuing its partnership with the Italian car brand this season.
The car presented in Warsaw (due to its title partner ORLEN) will be known as the C41, missing out the C40 moniker as this name was originally intended for the ground-effect 2022 car, which had originally been set to debut this year before it was pushed back by a year.
As we know the 2021 cars have a certain “technical familiarity” with the cars of last season due to the various development freezes, which forced the teams to homologate and retain certain 2020 components on the 2021 cars.
The C41 seen in the presentation, in addition to presenting a new livery in inverted colours compared to the C39, remains very familiar with last year’s car, even if the front area of the car appears heavily modified.
The technical director of the Swiss team, Jan Monchaux, worked hard to improve the performance of a very disappointing C39, which finished ahead of only Haas and Williams in the Constructors’ Championship, and far from the central group formed by Ferrari, Renault, Racing Point and McLaren.
The poor results in 2020 are due (mainly) to the lack of power of last year’s Ferrari Power Unit (PU), which in 2019 was able to compensate somewhat for the car’s performance flaws. Alfa Romeo Sauber, for financial reasons, cannot invest significant economic resources into the development of the car over the course of the season, and it is therefore important for the team to get the project right from the start.
The work on the C41, in the hope of a renewed competitiveness of the Ferrari PU, has mainly concentrated in the front area of the car: Frédéric Vasseur’s team has decided to spend the two tokens granted by the FIA to homologate a new structure of front impact protection, in order to implement a narrower nose.
We can see in the image below how this section of the nose shrinks with respect to the attachment of the frame, even if the support pillars of the front wing remain quite spaced apart.
The narrow nose has become the new “technical trend” for the management of the air flow that affects the front area of the car: a narrower section reduces bulk and drag, and allows for a greater amount of air in the area of the sides, bargeboards and radiators duct.
The narrow nose of this year’s Alfa Romeo remains, however, with the wide front wing support pillars, compared to versions adopted by teams like Mercedes, Renault, McLaren and Red Bull. A solution that is very reminiscent of the old version of the nose used by McLaren between 2018 and 2019, when the support pillars still remained sufficiently spaced to have a more homogeneous and slower air flow in the area under the frame.
In this illustration we can see that version which McLaren brought to the Spanish GP in 2018, a clear inspiration for this year’s Alfa Romeo. A less extreme solution than that of its competitors.
We will see if, during the season, Alfa Romeo will also use a version with narrower pillars (which do not require a modification of the impact structure) and which will reduce the section of air passage under the body, increasing the speed (and therefore the energy) of the flow.
The S-Duct system also remains on the C41, which cleans the air flow in the underbody, bringing laminar air over the frame.
The changes to the front of the C41 have also affected the front wing, with Alfa Romeo sticking with its out-wash philosophy: The technicians of the Swiss team at an aerodynamic level have taken a lot from the work done in the front wing area of the Ferrari SF1000. The flaps have different blowholes compared to the 2020 specification, and the conformation of the main plane is very interesting, which has a curl shape just before the neutral zone at 250mm from the centre-line of the car (1).
Analysing the area of the front suspension, we observe how high the triangles are and practically parallel to the ground, due to the pivot that moves the anchor point of the upper triangle higher (2).
The brake duct for disc cooling also has a different shape compared to the C39 of 2020 and follows the solutions seen on Mercedes and Racing Point, with that “inverted L” shape (3). The push rod suspension strut bracket also remains on the 2021 car, which practically doubles the anchoring point to the wheel (4).
Moving on to analyse the central area, we note how the C41 is almost identical to the C39, due to the inheritance of various homologated components such as the frame, the arrangement of the radiators, and the entire cooling system. The air scope remains substantially identical to 2020, with the characteristic second auxiliary intake for the oil intercooler, further behind the classic triangular-shaped one used to bring air to the compressor.
The small changes mainly concern the aerodynamics, but they too are a direct development of the old C39 of 2020. Small changes have been made to the bargeboards (1 & 2) compared to the last specification of last year, together with some upgrades (albeit small) that we could already see at the first tests in Bahrain. Compared to the McLaren, which already showed some updates in this area during the filming day, we will hardly see the same on the Alfa Romeo C41, which can be considered almost definitive.
At the rear, like the AlphaTauri, Alfa Romeo is not afraid to show off the diffuser, unlike McLaren, which concealed every detail of this area on the MCL35M. However, the extractor is almost identical to that of the C39, except for the internal fins, shorter than 50mm by regulation.
The flat floor remains simple enough in the presentation version, with the portion cut diagonally, with the classic raised winglet before the rear wheels to reduce turbulence. The work carried out at the rear for now has no major changes, not even of an aerodynamic nature, with the Swiss team having decided to spend its resources mainly with a focus on the front. Rear wing and T-wing are directly derived from the C39, as well as the engine cover.
The layout of the wastegate exhausts remains the same as last year, and continues to resume the choice of Ferrari, which uses a single wastegate exhaust above the central one of the endothermic engine (the Honda, Mercedes and Renault engines have a double wastegate exhaust).
The rear suspension, together with the gearbox, also remain. Unlike Aston Martin, which will implement the 2020 Mercedes suspension on its car (which by regulation does not require the use of tokens), Alfa Romeo will not be able to the same because last year it already had solutions mounted on the Ferrari SF1000.