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Racing Point unconcerned at prospect of protest

NEWS STORY
05/07/2020

The grumbling began in Barcelona at pre-season testing, and while the cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix put the issue on the back-burner, the pace of the RP20 over the course of the Austrian Grand Prix weekend has had rivals bristling.

McLaren and Renault were among the teams that expressed unease over the similarity the RP20 bears to Mercedes 2019 contender, and following the performances of Sergio Perez (6th) and Lance Stroll (9th) in qualifying, others are sure to voice concern.

Throughout, Racing Point has insisted that it has done nothing wrong, and despite the (t)Racing Point jibes, technical director Andrew Green says that though influenced by the Mercedes, when he designed the RP20 he sat down with a blank sheet of paper.

"We designed the car from scratch," he said ahead of pre-season testing, "starting from almost a blank sheet of paper - which is very exciting, because the team hasn't been in a position to do this in a very long time.

"We've applied everything that we've learnt over the past seasons, combined this with what we've seen adopted by some of our competitors, and we've given it our best shot at optimising the final season of these present regulations."

As the pace of the car became all too clear during testing, he dismissed claims that his car was a clone of the Mercedes and that his team had received assistance from the German team.

"Absolutely, categorically, all those designs are Racing Point's, from absolute scratch," he told Sky Sports. "There has been no transfer of information on this car from Mercedes. They would never contemplate it, we would never ask for it. It's absolutely outside the regulations, it would never happen. We haven't tried in any way, shape or form to try and circumvent the regulations.

"What you see is what people have drawn from looking at pictures of Mercedes," he admitted, "the same as anyone else could have done, and I think they've done a cracking job to be honest.

"We've utilised what we can see," he continued, "we know how sensitive teams are to other teams taking pictures... there's a pitlane full of photographers there all employed by the teams to take pictures of other people's things, all we did was to utilise that information. Information that we had, information that everyone else had, so no difference."

Asked about the philosophy behind the RP20 however, he admitted that, in this particular department, Mercedes was in the mix.

"We wanted to fix something that had been haunting us for many years," he said. "We started development on this concept back in 2014, something like that. From that point on, although we were adding performance to the car and the car was getting better it had this underlying Achilles heel that we were really struggling to get rid of.

"We tried so many updates last year to try and sort the car out, and yes we made some improvements, the car was getting better, by the time we got to Abu Dhabi the car was reasonable, we were fighting for fourth in the team rankings, which is where we wanted to be. But the gains we were making were getting slower and slower and slower and the fundamental characteristic of the car wasn't changing.

"So, around the middle of last year we questioned what we were doing, questioned where we were going, we questioned the fact that there is only one more year left with these regulations. So, whatever we do this year, we're throwing it away, 2021 is completely different.

"So, we've got an opportunity here, what shall we do, shall we do something different or shall we carry on doing what we've been doing for the last five years?

"Everyone agreed, let's do something different, let's try something different, let's throw away what we've done before, let's start with a clean sheet of paper, let's do something new.

"So where do we start? Well, we start with the fact that we've got a Mercedes power unit, we've got a Mercedes gearbox... and one thing about the Mercedes gearbox... we're running a Mercedes 2019 gearbox because we've always run a year behind Mercedes... it does limit what you can do with the ride height of the car, the suspension geometry is basically designed for Mercedes to run that philosophy of a low rake car and they weren't going to change that for us or for anyone so we decided 'why don't we try and join them, let's go that route, let's see where it leads us'.

"And at that point we did, we tore up everything we knew about high rake car and the philosophy we'd been running for the last few years and started again, started afresh. It was a big risk, it is a big risk, it's a massive risk to not just take someone's concept but to understand it and develop it. It's a huge risk, and I've got a lot of faith in the team back in Brackley to deliver what we've got now, I think it's a credit to them, a massive credit."

Of course, once the RP20 hit that track in Austria, its rivals worst fears were realised, prompting fears that Red Bull's protest of Mercedes DAS system won't be the last protest to be lodged this weekend, though in the case of the RP20 this would have to happen after the race.

Asked if he is concerned at the possibility of the car being protested, team boss Otmar Szafnauer said: "No, not at all. It shouldn't be a surprise that the car is quick," he continued, "we're using the Mercedes windtunnel which is probably the best tool in the business, they've got great correlation, which means the efficiency of the tunnel is quite high.

"We took the opportunity this year because of our stronger financial situation to depart from a high-rake concept that we got inspiration from Red Bull on. We were always compromised when we're buying the powertrain from Mercedes, including the gearbox. They design their powertrain and gearbox to run a different aerodynamic concept than what we were running, and therefore that high-rake concept that was so well developed by Red Bull would only work so much for us.

"We took the opportunity this year to get rid of that compromise. It would only make sense to have a look at what Mercedes were doing if that's the kind of concept we're going to, and it worked out."

While McLaren has said that it does not now intend protesting the car, Renault, which has voiced the opinion that the RP20 breaches the rules on customer cars, is still considering its next move.

Of course, all this was before the RP20 revealed its true pace in qualifying.

Check out our Race Day gallery from Spielberg, here.

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