The Differences Between the RP20 and the W10
And yes, they're not actually carbon copies
Copying has been standard throughout the history of F1. Think about it, without copying we wouldn't have rear wings, bargeboards, airboxes... you name it, it's been copied.
The only difference between Racing Point and everybody else is that they copied an entire car. Well, almost.
Haas sort of started the trend when they entered the sport; they bought a couple of Ferrari parts, and to be fair to them, they did pretty well (until Rich Energy and Bad Santa came along). A career best finish of 5th in the Constructors Standings came in 2018.
But contrary to what many people think, Lawrence Stroll and his gang didn't actually straight up copy and paste a Mercedes.
Mechanically, the cars are quite different at the front. The Mercedes used the more modern hydraulic actuation for it's heave springs (part of the suspension complex that absorbs/counters loads to keep the car stable) while Racing Point sport the more conventional mechanical linkages between the springs.
You can see the difference between the two above (right at the top of each nose cone are where the springs are located)
The hydraulic spring allows a wider variation of modes and greater fidelity but is banned as of next year when all springs must be mechanical.
Also at the front of the car, the RP20 uses the S-Duct in the nose whereas Mercedes never had it. What the S-Duct does is draw air from directly underneath the nose using vents to reduce the lift (opposite of downforce), because usually air right under the nose pushes it up (creating this lift).
But its advantages are slim and it's probable that Mercedes' denser packaging inboard (inside) of the nose cone of the hydraulic components made it impossible to implement such a vent.
Although the front brake ducts are identical (we all know the huge controversy around those...), the drums surrounding the discs that control the aerodynamic flow are quite different. These discs dictate where flow is fed during the outwash (air being pushed out to the side), which is extremely important in deciding where the air is for the crucial rear end of the car in which most of the downforce is produced. The same goes for the endplates on the front wing.
The Mercedes drum is more closed whereas that of the Racing Point is exposed in places (as can be seen by the visibility of the ‘Brembo’ lettering on the brake calliper). The rear drums, however, look identical.
This front drum differences and the S-duct detail suggest that the aerodynamics around each car are working in a slightly different way., which is the same for every team since the air manipulation and flow is pretty much uncopiable. This is backed up by the fact Racing Point run their cars with a slightly higher rake than Mercedes did with their W10. But that's just Mercedes' philosophy.
There’s little doubt that the two cars seem extremely similar and Racing Point aren't saying otherwise. But they are not identical.
Here are the two cars side by side... look for yourself! Can you tell the difference? Or are they near identical?