Alfa Romeo became the fourth Formula 1 team to hold a 2023 launch event on Tuesday, but the first to show a realistic 2023 car.
Haas, Red Bull and Williams had all either openly stated they were just showing off 2023 liveries on 2022 cars or – in Red Bull’s case – acted as if a 2023 car was being revealed but admitted the real thing would look very different.
But Alfa Romeo showed its new C43 in both digital renders and a real show car at its Zurich launch.
“The new car is a big step forward for those who look at it from the outside, it’s very different,” said technical director Jan Monchaux.
“We’ve taken a big step forward, especially from an aerodynamic point of view, which is a natural evolution of the 2022 car, but also from what we have seen from our opponents, as is normal.”
How closely did the car/s revealed resemble the Alfa Romeo we’re likely to see racing in the Bahrain Grand Prix, though? It was certainly closer than any ‘2023’ F1 car we’ve seen so far, but how ‘real’ was it?
We can ascertain that to a degree by looking at some of the obvious changes from the 2022 car to what was revealed on Tuesday, but also some of the differences between the show car and renders from the launch.
The new C43 presents a certain design continuity in the front area with the old C42, while it is the central and rear part where different aerodynamic shapes can be seen.
The nose and front suspension shown so far are quite similar to the C42, while the shape of the nose cone (of the actual car at the launch if not the renders) is more regular in shape. Little has been seen of the front wing of the actual car, but the front flaps look quite different.
The sidepods in this case have been largely revolutionised, and say goodbye to the large undercut to adopt shapes very similar to a mix between Ferrari and Red Bull concepts.
The part of the cooling inlets is not very dissimilar from the Ferrari F1-75, while all the rearmost part is clearly of the Red Bull philosophy. At the rear the sidepods descend with a down-wash effect to bring the airflow above the wall of the speaker, which was not the case with the 2022 design. Big and tall are instead the cooling outlets of the engine cover, just like Adrian Newey drew on his RB18 at the end of last season.
All of that suggests real 2023 developments were on show.
But it’s very unlikely we’ve seen the real Alfa Romeo floor. The renders show a very distinctive floor edge replete with a series of ‘knives’ that would potentially have an aerodynamic function to move some of the flow to the upper edge of the floor, which this year is to be 15mm higher.
This solution is only present in the render version of the C43, while on the car unveiled by Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu the edge of the floor was linear.
It is unlikely that the pattern shown in the renders would actually meet the regulations. It would certainly generate a lot of the vortices that the FIA and F1 are determined to eradicate with these aero rules.
Plus, Alfa Romeo has past form for trying to throw rivals off the scent by doing something different with the floor in its launch renders. Last year, it showed a serrated floor edge on the launch render version of its C42 that never appeared on the real car.
If any team has come up with a radical floor design idea, it’s a very easy one to hide from rivals. Any unusual floor edges on renders or launch cars – such as Alfa Romeo’s on Tuesday – are more likely to be decoys than genuine breakthroughs. Essentially, Alfa Romeo showed a launch car with a floor too basic to be real, and a render with a floor too complicated to be real!
An interesting area that is certainly faithful to reality is the highest part of the car, which shows many differences with the old one.
The rollhoop has a different design and the engine cover has been much more rounded. The air scope actually has a double entrance, and this probably derives from a different layout of the cooling of the new Ferrari 2023 power unit.
The rollhoop remains a knife shape, although crash tests have now become more severe in that area.
At the rear of the car, there’s a disparity between the renders and the launch car that also means guesswork is required.
The digital render (like the 2022 car) has pushrod rear suspension, while the launch event car is equipped with a pullrod pattern.
Monchaux stated that a lot of work had been done on the suspension, and it seems clear that the definitive C43 is equipped with a pullrod.
In 2022, Alfa Romeo decided to use Ferrari gearbox gears, but the external casing was made by Sauber precisely to adopt the pushrod layout.
However, this solution often created reliability problems in 2022, and it decided to go back to the more classic rear pullrod design.
That means in this element, what we saw on the launch event car looks like the definitive 2023 Alfa Romeo and the render is misleading.