The FIA stewards hope to rule on Renault’s protest against the Racing Point cars before this weekend’s race at Silverstone.
The team makes no secret that the Mercedes W10 inspired its 2020 design. But the team’s CEO Otmar Szafnauer remains adamant their approach and execution is entirely within the regulations.
Speaking at last weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, he said the recent investment in the team from Lawrence Stroll’s consortium had allowed Racing Point to build on its pedigree as “fast followers”, adopting rivals’ innovations more quickly than other teams can.
“The thing that’s special about us is we’ve always had a talented bunch of individuals there that were really held back by lack of funding,” said Szafnauer. “We’ve been wanting to do this kind of thing for a long time, but really never had the money to follow the best team in Formula 1.
“If you remember we were the first to to put a double diffuser on our car in  when the three teams came out with a double diffuser. I think we were the first, even ahead of Red Bull. So we’ve always had talented individuals that want to understand racing, do understand how to develop the car.
“We’re fast followers and looking to see what’s out there and adapt it ourselves. If you remember the F-duct that McLaren came out with, we were the first to implement an F-duct after McLaren did it. So if you look back at our history, we’ve been able to do it with the talented individuals that we have.
“But later on in our history we just didn’t have the money. There were times, I don’t know if you remember, but we came up with a B-car at Silverstone and took a huge step forward. And that was only because over the winter we had those developments, but we didn’t have the money to actually put them on the car. We had a hybrid of the last year’s car and this year’s car.
“Those days are gone because we’re funded well which allows us to actually show the talent that we have and do what we’ve done.”
While the obvious outward similarities between the RP20 and last year’s championship-winning Mercedes W10 have attracted much comment, Szafnauer said this is a consequence of the team switching its focus from Red Bull’s influential ‘high rake’ concept to the Mercedes approach.
“Taking pictures of other people’s cars, it happens everywhere from the biggest teams to the smallest teams. And some of them just do a better job at copying or integrating what they learned through those pictures.
“If it’s an iteration or an evolution, then you don’t notice it as much because then you start iterating and changing some things. But when you go from a high-rake aerodynamic philosophy to a low centre of gravity aerodynamic philosophy, then with the pictures and the leanings that you do, you end up with a very similar solution, especially if that solution is refined and is very, very good.
“We shouldn’t forget that Adrian Newey came up with the blown floor and the high rake design that Red Bull has and now most of the grid have that, including us. And we took pictures back then of the floor that Red Bull had when we were trying to blow the floor and we couldn’t quite get it to work. From that we learned how big the gaps had to be. And I can tell you other teams have done the same.
“So everybody does it, it’s allowed. I gave you two examples, and that’s F-ducts and double diffusers. But there’s loads of other examples: cake tins, blown axles.
“Not everybody had blown axles a few years ago, it was only a few teams that had blown axles. It was very curious that Haas, who had been in the sport just for one year, figured out how to have blown axles. Well, they didn’t figure it out, they were supplied by Ferrari. That’s just what happens in our sport.”
Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and
Szafnauer described the difficulties the team encountered when it first attempted to copy Mercedes’ aerodynamic philosophy.
“It doesn’t come without risk,” he said. “We didn’t know that what we were doing was going to work to the level that it has.
“There was a big risk that we were going to take a step backwards. And as a matter of fact when we started developing this in the tunnel with ideas that we saw through pictures we took a huge step backwards. I mean, huge. Seconds a lap slower at the beginning.
“It was our own learning that we did through the developed a process of CFD and tunnel work and then more designs and redesigns that got us to the place we did. So the closer or the better high-rake solution that you have, the bigger the risk of changing to something else.
“With us, we’ve been wanting to do it forever. And we buy our gearbox from Mercedes where that gearbox is designed with a lower CofG [centre of gravity] car in mind. So we always had compromises at the rear of the car where the downforce is critical to have a stable rear end. And we’ve always wanted to get away from the high-rake solution because of the compromise at the rear of the car because we’re buying our gearbox from Mercedes. This was the first year we were able to change it.”
Racing Point has stunned the paddock with the progress it has made. In Hungary they were the second-fastest team on the grid, with Red Bull and Ferrari behind them, and only Mercedes ahead.
Szafnauer admitted the immediate success the team has enjoyed came as a surprise to him as well. “I thought we were going to take a half-step backwards before we took a step forward,” he said. “It just didn’t happen. It didn’t transpire that way.”
Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and
2020 F1 season
- Bottas vs Rosberg: Hamilton’s Mercedes team mates compared after 78 races each
- F1 revenues fell by $877 million in Covid-struck 2020 season
- Hamilton and Mercedes finally announce new deal for 2021 season
- F1 audience figures “strong” in 2020 despite dip in television viewers
- 2020 F1 driver rankings #1: Lewis Hamilton