McLaren and Renault Could Protest Racing Point’s ‘Pink Mercedes’
Racing Point arrived at pre-season testing for the 2020 Formula One Championship with an altogether familiar car. Featuring an extremely similar nose, airbox, front wing and rear wing as last year’s title-winning challenger, the RP20 has already been dubbed the “pink Mercedes.”
Certainly, Racing Point is making no secret about it. Technical director Andy Green openly told Sky Sports last week that the team had thrown away its old concept and actively copied the front-end concept of the Mercedes W10 based on pictures.
According to Green, Racing Point had, for the last several years, been building upon an aerodynamic concept that had begun in 2014. Though they had made steady improvements, the concept had persistent issues they were unable to solve, and the updates came with increasingly small gains in lap time, especially in 2019.
Because the aero regulations are drastically changing in 2021, Racing Point understood that whatever it chose to do for 2020, it would be thrown out at the end of the year. Instead of continuing what it had been doing for five years, it decided to try something different — by copying the W10.
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From the perspective of Racing Point, there were good reasons to do so. Mercedes was the winning team in 2019 and had one of the strongest aerodynamic concepts along with Red Bull Racing. Racing Point also uses Mercedes engines and a Mercedes gearbox that limit the design of the car. It simply made more sense to copy its designs over another team’s.
Furthermore, Racing Point has one of the lowest budgets on the grid. It simply can’t afford to regularly develop new aerodynamic concepts from scratch like Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull Racing often do. Copying a proven concept is more financially sound, and Racing Point isn’t the first to do it.
Indeed, teams are constantly copying each other’s ideas and concepts. But this time, there’s the sentiment that Racing Point might have gone too far with the pink Mercedes. McLaren boss Zak Brown called it the “Copy Point” and according to German automobile magazine Auto Bild, Renault is preparing a protest in which it would argue that Racing Point took aerodynamic parts from other teams, which is not allowed by the regulations.
Red Bull advisor Dr. Helmut Marko also said that while the energy drinks team is staying out of the issue, “McLaren and Renault will broadcast their opinions on this.” It’s notable that McLaren and Renault are the teams who likely have the most to lose in the standings if Racing Point turns out to be very competitive, as they are all poised to fight for 4th place in the championship.
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Nonetheless, Green says that there has been no transfer of designs between Mercedes and Racing Point. “I can tell you absolutely, categorically, all those designs at Racing Point, from absolute scratch, there have been no transfer of information, at least on the part of Mercedes. They would never contemplate it. We would never ask for it. Absolutely outside the regulations. Never happened. We haven’t tried in any way, shape, or form to try to circumvent the regulations.”
“What you see is what people have drawn from looking at pictures of Mercedes,” he added. “The same that anyone else could have done.”
While there’s no real suspicion of transfer of information between Mercedes and Racing Point, the degree of fidelity to which the latter was able to copy from the former does raise some questions about the future of F1 designs. It’s easy to imagine computer software getting good enough to model a car’s aerodynamic concept from scratch given enough video and picture material. At some point, it may even raise questions about intellectual property theft. Should a line be drawn?
We’ll just have to see if Renault does deposit a contestation. If it does, the FIA will investigate the pink Mercedes and what it concludes could set an interesting precedent.
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Kurt Verlin was born in France and lives in the United States. Throughout his life he was always told French was the language of romance, but it was English he fell in love with. He likes cats, music, cars, 30 Rock, Formula 1, and pretending to be a race car driver in simulators; but most of all, he just likes to write about it all. See more articles by Kurt.