Racing Point captured headlines during 2020’s pre-season testing by unveiling a car that’s virtually a clone of last season’s championship-winning Mercedes.
And, this sort of approach is what Formula 1 needs.
With the fresh design of this year’s car – the RP20 – the team are breaking the mould and pushing the boundaries – which is what Formula 1 is about (or should be about). Racing Point are just doing it in a radically different way.
Unlike recent pioneering ideas – like Brawn’s title-winning double diffuser or even the Mercedes DAS system – Force India’s radical approach isn’t expressed as technical innovation, but a changed ideology.
“The RP20 is entirely new, meaning that there’s very little carryover from our 2019 car,” the team’s technical director, Andrew Green, said in a recent Q&A.
Green admitted Racing Point has applied “what we’ve seen adopted by some of our competitors” to their 2020 challenger.
And can you blame them for changing their ideology? After a fraught few years, highlighted by near-bankruptcy and a subsequent change in ownership, the Silverstone-based privateer team has lost touch with the top of the midfield.
Heck, in 2014 and 2015, the small team on a shoestring budget were scoring podiums and regularly picking up the pieces when the top six cars hit trouble.
Although their fall from grace hasn’t been as dire as Williams, they were not where they wanted to be in 2019, finishing 7th in the Constructors Championship.
The dynamics of the midfield have evolved since the start of the turbo-hybrid era, with the renaissance of Renault and McLaren as genuine contenders.
Innovation is surely guaranteed to keep your team one step ahead of the competition. When McLaren joined with Honda, their reasoning was always to do something different from the competition.
And so, Racing Point borrowing the philosophy of a car that sometimes was simply unbeatable seems like no brainer.
In saying that, an argument could be made that by copying the previous year’s Mercedes, Racing Point will always be a step behind the Silver Arrows – it’s a valid point.
But, a step behind Formula 1’s seemingly unshakeable front runner may still be a step in the right direction for a team that’s never won a Grand Prix.
For Racing Point, their aim this year would be to compete in the midfield, not with the sport’s goliaths, namely Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull. So even if they’re a tad slower than Mercedes, that won’t be a bad thing.
And the team clearly has high hopes after February’s round of winter testing.
“Overall, it’s been a positive winter for us,” performance engineering director Tom McCullough said after the final day of testing. “We’ve learned a lot about the RP20 over the past two weeks,” he added.
Technical director Green said 2020 will be about the team doing what they’ve wanted to do for a very long time.
“To show what we’re really capable of doing.”