Racing Point CEO Otmar Szafnauer has brushed off the prospect of the team’s RP20 coming in for closer scrutiny following Friday’s F1 free practice for the Austrian Grand Prix, as its latest machine proved eye-catchingly quick.
The new RP20 raised eyebrows when it was revealed back in February given the similarities to the title-winning Mercedes W10 of 2019, prompting suspicions from rivals it errs too closely to being a customer car.
Colloquially dubbed the ‘pink Mercedes’, the RP20 showed impressive form during pre-season testing and during Friday practice in Austria it emerged as the best of the rest behind the German marque, with Sergio Perez firing in the third quickest time.
More tellingly, Perez and team-mate Lance Stroll were also in the mix during their long runs, averaging the third and fifth best stint respectively, ahead of Red Bull and Ferrari.
With some teams – most notably Renault – querying whether the Racing Point is too closely-associated with engine and gearbox-supplier Mercedes, it raises the prospect of a more formal protest being launched.
However, Szafnauer says the only reason Racing Point has been able to follow this route for 2020 is because its stronger financial situation meant it could develop a chassis that makes better use of its components’ strengths, adding it has all been completed within the regulations.
“No, not at all," he said when asked whether he feared other teams may launch action against Racing Point.
"It shouldn't be a surprise that the car is quick, we're using the Mercedes wind-tunnel 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’s Andreas Seidl admitted he ‘doesn’t like’ Racing Point’ approach against the RP20, he nonetheless believes it is a legal car and that it is an issue with the regulations themselves to have allowed it to happen.
‘I simply think it’s important for F1 to put out further clarifications towards the future to make sure there are certain limitations of what we can do.”
The strong form represents good news for Racing Point, which comes into 2020 with a more stable financial foundation following the takeover by Lawrence Stroll and the impending rebrand in 2021 to become Aston Martin Racing.