All you need to know about Racing Point's 'Copying'
Updated: Apr 5, 2021
Finding loopholes in the rules and the Scandal that follows has been a feature of Formula 1 ever since the Championship turned wheels and heads seventy years ago. Notable incidents include; Benetton’s Traction Control, Brawn’s Double Diffuser and Ferrari’s 2019 Engine Unit. Each of these cars had brilliant pace as a result of potential rule-bending, some found guilty, some not, all were amidst controversy as other Teams in the Paddock pointed fingers. This year Formula 1’s latest loophole exploits come courtesy of Racing Point, aka Tracing Point with their car that has been dubiously dubbed ‘The Pink Mercedes.’
Way back in February (which seems like aeons ago to many) Formula 1 rolled into Barcelona for Pre-Season Testing. As the new 2020 Machinery made its way onto the track, Racing Point’s new challenger looked all too familiar. It seemed as if the Pink Machine heavily resembled the 2019 Mercedes W10 in appearance and speed. Testing times showed that this resemblance was not merely for show, Racing Point deliberately mimicked last years Champion to gain performance. The team admitted as such, and in doing so, sent out a warning to the rest of the competition and perhaps rubbed a few teams up the wrong way.
Onlookers can point out several reasons behind what Racing Point have achieved with the RP20. First off, Racing Point benefit from a technical partnership with Mercedes, meaning that they’re able to borrow parts from the manufacturer that the rules allow. This includes the Engine and Gearbox, other parts allowed under the 3rd Party rule include the Suspension. So year on year, Racing Point receive these parts from the Mercedes of the previous year. This year they’ve taken it one step further and scanned several images of last years Mercedes W10 and used these images to focus their design. So, the RP20 is more of a homage rather than a direct copy. The reason behind it according to the Team Principal is as a result of the budget. Otma Szafnauer spoke to f1.com on the reasoning behind the ‘Pink Mercedes…’
“We have been looking at that concept for a long time, mainly because we are constrained with the gearbox that we buy from Mercedes,”
“Mercedes have developed their gearbox casing to go along with that concept.
“We would buy that casing from them and use a totally different aero concept,
“So for a long time, we wanted to move to the Mercedes-type aerodynamic concept – not having a high rake, a lower rear end – but we just never had the financial resources to do it.”
Copying isn’t a simple as it looks then if one considers budget as a restriction, smaller teams simply don’t have the means to go toe to toe with the big boys, so a full-on homage is often out of reach. The other issue with copying is that, unlike Racing Point, it isn’t confirmed that you’ll get the performance desired.
With the first three rounds of the season in the bag, what Racing Point has achieved has ruffled a lot of feathers. The RP20 is dangerously fast, a worthy challenger to Red Bull, and if you believe Toto Wolff, a potential challenger to Mercedes down the line. Couple that with two drivers with a lot to prove with the incoming Sebastian Vettel rumours and you have a high-performance package. This has pained the likes of Renault, McLaren and Ferrari since this year's cars will be running for two seasons. As a result, there has been a series of accusations and investigations.
When the paddock got its first glimpse of the RP20, it wasn’t long until the FIA paid a visit to the Racing Point Factory, they had a look at what the team had designed, and concluded there was no harm done.
Come the Styrian Grand Prix, Renault lodged an official complaint regarding the Brake Ducts on the RP20, the French team followed that up with a Second Complaint regarding the same issue after Hungary. This harks back to the 3rd Party sourced parts regulation that permits teams to borrow a limited amount of components. Brake Ducts must be designed individually by each team, and at a casual glance, the RP20 and W10 share a very similar design of Brake Ducts. As such, the Stewards have launched an official investigation. This means a long process of analysing sketches and data will be drawn out over a long period to see whether Racing Point has breached the rules. Some have called this investigation, not just a technical one, but a philosophical one. Is it good sport to design a car in this manner? Talk to anyone at Renault and they will definitely say no (considering their deficit in pace this doesn’t come as a surprise).
A further uproar has been caused regarding the development of Cars moving into 2021. It is well documented and has been reiterated in this article that this year's cars will be running next season. However, the FIA has granted each team two upgrade tokens to develop the cars across the winter break. McLaren will have to use both tokens on switching from a Renault to a Mercedes powertrain, Ferrari will have to spend theirs on literally anything in a desperate attempt to improve their performance. Racing Point meanwhile, can save tokens on the engine, gearbox and suspension by simply inheriting those from the W111, as per the 3rd Party parts ruling. As a result, the tokens can be spent somewhere else. This has particularly caused an uproar at McLaren. They have long made it clear to the FIA that they’re switching powertrain for 2021 (pre-covid even) yet they will be spending their upgrade tokens doing so. Racing Point seemingly gets a double helping of upgrades when the boys and girls in orange are purposefully restricted to one.
There’s plenty for teams to be upset about with Racing Point’s exploiting of the rulebook, but the minds behind the ‘Pink Mercedes’ remain adamant that investigations will prove them innocent of any wrongdoing. Formula 1 has proven time and again, if it isn’t one team causing a commotion by finding a loophole in the rule book, it will be one of the other nine in the paddock putting the cat amongst the pigeons.
Written 28th July 2020
This article was written for the now defunct website Total-F1;
"Dan consistently delivered high quality articles for Total F1, showing great writing ability and creativity. The articles were always delivered ahead of schedule and surpassed expectations". Connor Sutton, Chief Editor @ Total-F1