The Racing Point Formula 1 team has been in the news since the winter testing. Racing Point’s 2020 car, the RP20 looks very similar to the 2019 Mercedes W10, and it raised a lot of questions. The rival teams have informally questioned the legality of the Racing Point car, but the team had made it clear that it worked closely with FIA to make sure that the RP20 does not breach any rules and regulations.
Now, Renault has lodged a formal protest against Racing Point after the Styrian Grand Prix. The French outfit has questioned the legality of the RP20, and it wants clear answers from FIA. Racing Point has admitted that the design of the RP20 is inspired by the Mercedes W10 and the team also used Mercedes’ wind tunnel for the development of the aero package since the team had the budget to do so.
It looks like the new design “inspired” by the W10 has worked well for Racing Point. Winter testing showed us that the new RP20 was indeed a quick car as it was fastest among the midfield teams and even challenged the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari. The sudden improvement in pace caused an upset among the rival midfield teams, and Renault was waiting for an ideal timing to protest.
Why did Renault protest?
Renault has protested against the legality of Racing Point cars, and it means that the French team has noticed something fishy in the design of RP20. Yes, Renault has questioned the design of the brake ducts on the RP20, and it says that the design looks similar to the brake ducts used in the 2019 Mercedes W10. Well, it sounds a bit complicated, isn’t it?
In Formula 1, regulations list the parts a team can and cannot borrow from its rivals. For example, an F1 team can borrow engine, gearbox and suspension from its rivals. But the chassis and aerodynamic parts have to be the original and intellectual property of a Formula 1 team, these parts are referred to as listed parts. The details of this rule can be found in Appendix 6 of the FIA Sporting Regulations.
Now, why Renault is focusing on the brake ducts? Because brake ducts are the key components that improve the performance of a Formula 1 car, and in 2020, it became a listed part. Renault believes that the front and rear brake ducts of the Racing Point RP20 is a Mercedes design. If it is the case, then it is a breach of regulations. Brake ducts can be called a critical aerodynamic component, and it plays a vital role in controlling tyre temperatures. We all know how tyre temperature can affect the performance on the track.
Renault states that Racing Point has done minor modifications to the brake ducts to adapt to the RP20. But the overall geometry of the brake ducts is the same as the Mercedes design. If this point is valid, the brake ducts are not the intellectual property of Racing Point. FIA stewards have accepted the protest at Red Bull Ring, and the hearing will be made in the future when the evidence is gathered.
The external geometry of the brake ducts might look similar to the Mercedes design, but the secret lies inside the internal details. Yes, the internal flow system is not visible to outsiders and FIA will check whether the internal design is an exact copy of Mercedes. It is impossible to copy the internal design unless there has been an exchange of technical details between Mercedes and Racing Point. If there was an exchange of information, it is against the rules.
Note that in 2019 brake duct was not a listed part and it was legal to exchange design of the brake ducts. Even if the car is developed in 2019 and the design of the brake duct is borrowed from a rival team, one cannot race with that car in 2020. So it all depends on the internal design of the brake duct that FIA will be looking to explore. FIA will compare the brake duct of the 2019 Mercedes W10 and Racing Point RP20 and see if there are any similarities in the internal design.
On the other hand Racing Point has stated that Renault’s protest is “misconceived and poorly informed”. Racing Point is confident that the RP20 does not breach any regulations. In reality, the RP20 has emerged as such a strong package, the midfield rivals such as Renault and McLaren are finding it hard to keep up with Racing Point. Racing Point has even matched the performance of top teams like Ferrari and Red Bull. So, the hearing of the protest will be crucial for Racing Point.