Teams have long used ballast to optimise weight distribution from track to track, although in recent years with the hybrid cars it has proved harder for them to get below the minimum limit in order to take advantage of it.
Last year, most teams were significantly overweight and all have stressed that they have worked hard to lose weight from their cars over the winter.
However, Alpine is the first team to state in public that it is under the 798kg limit with its 2023 car and is thus in a position to use ballast to gain a competitive advantage.
“We’ve had a very aggressive weight reduction programme,” said technical director Matt Harman. “And it’s really pleasing to be able to say that the car will be underweight this year.
“We will have ballast in the car, and we will be moving it around to optimise that weight distribution, which is a fantastic performance tool for us and our trackside engineering teams.”
Harman said the focus on weight-saving with the A523 started early in the development phase.
“It was quite a strategy there,” he explained when by Autosport about how challenging it was to get the weight down.
“We actually stopped trying to take weight out of last year’s car to focus on this year’s car, because there does come a point in the season where it’s not cost-effective to do so. So we put a lot of engineering effort into that.
“And yeah, we’ve taken a large number of kilograms off the car, which now gives us a nice ballast number that we can use for weight distribution. So that’s very good.”
Photo by: Alpine
The rules originally called for a reduction in the limit to 796kg for 2023, before it was agreed to move back to 798kg.
However, an FIA error in processing that change meant that it didn’t happen automatically, and subsequently several teams attempted to block it, because they decided that they preferred the lower limit after all.
In the end, the FIA used a rule that accounts for changes in tyre construction to go back to 798kg, but Harman conceded that Alpine was one of the teams that opposed the change: “Yeah, we would have been happy with 796.”
Nonetheless, he explained that the team can still gain an advantage from ballast, where tactical positioning can be to the car’s benefit.
Harman revealed that the revised rear suspension was one of the key areas where weight had been saved, although it also has other benefits.
“Not really, because we just spend it back into performance,” he said. “We just managed that really, really closely. It’s not just about being under, it’s been about under at performance. I think we’re quite happy with where we are right now.”
“The rear suspension is a big change for us. We changed concepts, we’ve come from a pullrod rear suspension to a pushrod for quite a few different reasons.
“Firstly, we need to take some weight out of our car. And we did have a very interesting concept for last year. But this one is more interesting, it’s a little bit simpler with a pushrod, and it’s allowed us to take an awful lot of weight out of the rear of the car.
“Also, we put a little bit more complexity into the inboard system such that we could have more modularity for our trackside engineering team. So we need to give them tools to be able to set up the mechanical balance of the car, and that’s what they have.
“But most importantly, we’ve controlled the airflow through there. It’s much cleaner, there’s less blockage so that we can get more air out from the rear of the car.
“That’s really important and it’s going to be a good development for us as we move forward.”