Why the Racing Point is no longer just a ‘Pink Mercedes’

Racing Point enjoyed the most successful Formula 1 weekend under its current moniker in Turkey, as it grabbed pole position and took the runner-up spot in the race.

Why the Racing Point is no longer just a ‘Pink Mercedes’

And while much of its progress this year has been under the cloud of its copycat tactics in being inspired by last year’s Mercedes design, recent developments have shown it is actually doing more and more its own thing.

The RP20 might still have the advantage of sharing commonality with the W10 when it comes to some of the car’s core aspects but, its decision to use parts that it has designed, plus bring its own updates, has moved the car away from being a complete ‘Pink Mercedes’.

There is no better example of this than the front wing, an aspect of the car’s design you’d expect the team to mimic with extreme accuracy, given it’s the first component exposed to the airflow. On the RP20 it is different in its detail, and the main contrast is in an area that the team spent plenty of last year developing: the footplate.

Racing Point RP19, front wing comparison

Racing Point RP19, front wing comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The change in regulations for 2019 removed the majority of the aerodynamic furniture responsible for creating ‘outwash’, and this meant that teams had to rethink other aspects of the front wing’s design to compensate.

Racing Point focused its attention on the footplate, as altering its shape, and length in its case, has a bearing on the formation of the vortex that’s shed. This in-turn has an impact on the surrounding flow structures.

Racing Point RP20 front wing end plate comparison

Racing Point RP20 front wing end plate comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

For 2020, rather than simply copy the W10’s arrangement entirely, Racing Point sought to improve upon it.

The team added a long vane atop the footplate to help guide the airflow and adjust the pressure gradient, which also influences the formation, shape and direction of the vortex beneath.

It’s actually been an area of interest for all of the teams given the changes to the regulations. Let’s take a look at how it has faced up to this challenge:

Click on the arrows to scroll through the images below…

Mercedes AMG F1 W10 front wing detail

Mercedes AMG F1 W10 front wing detail
1/7

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Racing Point’s inspiration was drawn from the Mercedes W10, a design which was altered several times during the opening phase of the season. The team finally settled on this interpretation at the German GP, featuring a small out-turned vane on top of a slightly shorter footplate.

Ferrari SF90 front wing end plate comparison

Ferrari SF90 front wing end plate comparison
2/7

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari also looked to add a vane on the upper surface of the footplate to try to influence the direction of the airflow as it moves away from the outwardly angled end plate, albeit its was triangular in shape.

Ferrari SF1000 front wing comparison

Ferrari SF1000 front wing comparison
3/7

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

This season Ferrari continued to use a flatter, squared-off footplate design to start with, before switching back to what’s considered to be the more conventional arc shape design in recent races.

Alfa Romeo C38 endplate design, German Grand Prix

Alfa Romeo C38 endplate design, German Grand Prix
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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Alfa Romeo moved to a boxier footplate shape during 2019, with the rear section tapering down and allowing for a Gurney-style tab to be applied to the trailing edge. Meanwhile, its development led it to add a strake to the underside of the footplate to better define the airflow's path.

Red Bull Racing RB16 front wing end plate comparison

Red Bull Racing RB16 front wing end plate comparison
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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Red Bull has made numerous changes to its front wing during the season with its latest iteration favouring a shallow, boxy leading edge and the angled vane at the rear of the footplate, rather than one parallel with the trailing edge of the footplate.

McLaren MCL35 front wing detail

McLaren MCL35 front wing detail
6/7

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

McLaren’s changes to the footplate region largely arrived at the start of the season, with a flat footplate introduced. This was paired to a large L-shaped lip running around the perimeter of the footplate’s rear end.

Renault F1 Team R.S.20 front wing comparison Australian GP and Austrian GP

Renault F1 Team R.S.20 front wing comparison Australian GP and Austrian GP
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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Renault also made the switch to the boxier footplate and paired it with an angled fin atop the upper rear corner of the footplate, as noted when it arrived in Austria.

Ramping up development

The sidepod update package that Racing Point introduced at Mugello has been the biggest development for it so far this season.

This upgrade led to the team stepping out of the shadow of its Mercedes counterpart, as it discarded the more contoured design favoured by Mercedes and replaced it with a more abrupt arrangement. Featuring a more ramped slope (right-side image, with the old version on the left), the sidepod bodywork, which bears more of a resemblance to the designs used during the ‘Coanda’ exhaust era, now clings more closely to the radiator and air-to-air cooler installed beneath and exposes more of the floor than before.

Racing Point RP20 old sidepods detail
Racing Point RP20 new sidepods detail

Such a large-scale development takes time to develop, manufacture and understand. This were all factors that were hindered by the adjustments to this season and were made worse when the first set of parts were wrecked at Mugello when Lance Stroll crashed.

Due to the scale of manufacturing of these parts, the team opted to stagger their introduction, with the new parts installed on Stroll’s car for Mugello and another set due to arrive for Perez in Russia. However, when the original set became damaged beyond repair, it set the team back and meant that the first time it could run both cars in the same specification would be the Eifel GP.

With several races experience behind it now, the team has undoubtedly begun to understand the package and continue to unlock performance that can also be gained from adjustments to the power unit too.

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Series Formula 1
Teams Racing Point
Author Giorgio Piola
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