RP20 - An analysis on Racing Point's 2020 Challenger
Racing Point's RP20 - The legality, the benefits and the negatives.
Racing Point's RP20 - legal or illegal?
Ever since the RP20 hit the track in Catalunya at pre-season testing in February, it's been the talk of the paddock. Dubbed the 'pink Mercedes', it has electrifying pace, especially for that of a team usually battling within the midfield pack, but just how legal is it?
Well, prior to the Austrian Grand Prix, McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl was quoted saying that although he didn't like the RP20, he would not protest as they had "no grounds for that". However, one week later, after the conclusion of the Styrian Grand Prix, it was confirmed that Renault had requested clarification on the legality of both of Racing Point's cars. Now, what could have changed within the space of just over a week?
In reality, not a lot. Racing Point did not bring any upgrades to the Styrian Grand Prix, and therefore the only differences between the weekends were most likely setup, alongside conditions. Renault's protest was lodged in accordance with the breaching of articles 2.1 and 3.2, and appendix 6 paragraphs 1, 2(a) and 2(c) of the FIA Formula 1 Sporting Regulations. These state that "a competitor shall, in respect of the listed parts to be used in its cars in Formula 1, only use listed parts which are designed by it.".
After the latest statement, in which we were told that the FIA had "impounded the relevant parts in preparation for conducting detailed analysis" and "also ordered Mercedes to submit its 2019 front and rear brake ducts", we were left with many questions. To what extent had Racing Point had influence from the Mercedes W10? Is there actually a possibility that this car is illegal? And most importantly, how would they get such a close look at another team's brake ducts? Well to help alongside this analysis, they are able to call on assistance from Renault, Racing Point and Mercedes, which should help us reach a conclusion as soon as possible.
What similarities are we able to see between the two challengers?
Well, first of all, the most distinctive feature is the nose. The RP19 featured a very wide nose, with a much larger cross-section. However, the RP20 was on the other end of the scale, featuring a very thin nose, designed to accelerate airflow. This would have been harder for the team to design though however, as a thinner nose means a smaller cross-section. Traditionally, this would mean it was weaker, and would need more work in order to pass the same impact tests. To continue, the intake had changed, going from a larger and more square shape, to one that was smaller and more rounded. This would have several effects, mainly cooling, which could increase the amount of performance they are able to extract from the engine over a prolonged period. The other main similarity was the front wing. The RP19 boasted a very classic front wing, with no apparent cutouts running along the edges. However, this philosophy had changed for the RP20, with a very W10 style wing, complete with cutouts to help with airflow. And most recently, as shown through the lodged protest, the brake ducts are thought to be similar too. There is no real graphical evidence to show this, as these parts are not usually shown freely, however you can be assured that the conclusion of this analysis will give a valid sense of entitlement.
What are the benefits of the RP20?
Well, if it is true, Racing Point are guaranteed a very quick car. The W10 was dominant throughout the whole of the season, and rightfully so walked away with a driver's championship for Lewis Hamilton and a constructor's championship for Mercedes. Furthermore, this gives them a foundation to build from, or even more time to focus on a different model for the future, whether it's focused around the 2022 regulations or not, as a race winning car needs little work to carry on the success it previously had. This may also allow them to maximise results early on in the season, when other teams are learning their car or even perhaps struggling to achieve results. Carrying on, this creates press around the team, as a buzz is made. Hype can only be good for their brand, especially ahead of their Aston Martin re-brand prior to the 2021 Formula 1 season. As a team owner, this is great for Lawrence Stroll, and even for his consortium as this creates interest, which could even lead to a rise in sales for Aston Martin.
What are the negatives of the RP20?
However, this does come with negatives, as nothing is ever perfect. First of all, the legal implications could bring negative press for Stroll, his team and his consortium, which could be a large consequence for his efforts leading up-to and during this season. To continue, his engineers and designers may not fully understand these parts fitted to their car. This could mean that they are unable to fix any issues that may occur throughout the length of this season, or even worse, they may not have the knowledge needed in order to further their development of the car. This could mean that the RS20 of Renault, and the MCL35 of McLaren could mean that when upgrades are brought, they are left behind and unable to contend, meaning they are embedded within the midfield pack. This could be a downfall to the season, and could mean any chances they had of a successful championship could be affected early on. The worst of all however, could be that they are found to be using purchased parts. As a result, they could be given implications to hinder performance, and could even be as harsh as meaning they are unable to earn constructors points throughout the whole of the season, as well as having to redesign their parts.
My verdict on the RP20:
I feel that until this investigation is concluded, there is no way we will be able to tell the full similarities of the car. We have lap times to go from, for example the 2019 and 2020 Austrian Grand Prix qualifying times, but in reality, a number of factors, such as driver, track conditions and tyre compounds mean we are not given a true representation. We can see at face value that the car has similarities, but we have no concrete evidence to support claims that they are breaking the aforementioned articles.