The 2020 Racing Point RP20 chassis bears a—how do I put this delicately?—more than passing resemblance to the 2019 Mercedes AMG F1 W10 EQ Power+ chassis. In the paddock and online the RP20 has been dubbed “The Pink Mercedes” because of this, and this whole thing is causing a lot of consternation over in the Renault garages. You see, Renault had to design its own 2020 chassis, and it seems that it hasn’t done such a great job of that, in fact. So the yellow team is bringing a series of protests against the pink team in order to attempt to trip them up at best, and get them excluded at worst.
This all started with Renault’s initial protest last week. So, you see, in 2019 teams could share brake duct designs if they wanted to do such a thing, or even purchase pre-made brake ducts from a secondary supplier. For the 2020 season brake ducts became a “listed part” meaning each team had to design its own brake duct. Renault alleges in its protest that the Racing Point chassis is using last year’s Mercedes brake ducts, and therefore is in breach of the rules.
The FIA stewards have impounded Racing Point’s ducts and asked Mercedes to provide examples of the ducts they used in 2019. Racing Point contends that Mercedes did not give them any CAD data on the 2019 car, but the RP20 design is based on photographs of the 2019 all-conquering Mercedes, which is perfectly legal to do.
Racing point shrugged off that initial protest, with team boss Otmar Szafnauer commenting, “It is impossible for them to be illegal. Brake ducts, just so you know, take a long time to design and make, they are very, very complicated, and we have 886 individual drawings for our brake ducts.”
Side note: If you want a little view into the world of F1 and why it’s so goddamned expensive, you might start with the fact that a mid-level team is paying a designer to draw up 886 individual drawings for fucking brake ducts.
The initial protest was lodged following the Styrian Grand Prix, with the FIA giving Racing Point three weeks to gather evidence that it is using legal brake ducts. The hearing is scheduled for the week after next, in the lead-up to the British Grand Prix. And even if Racing Point proves the legality of the ducts, Renault has the right to appeal the decision, which can drag the hearings out through the end of August.
Well, anyway, before hearing the judgement of the first protest, Renault has filed a second protest regarding the brake ducts as used at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Renault says that it will use every race weekend as an opportunity to protest the design of the Racing Point car. It doesn’t want F1 to become a “copying championship”. Probably because it hasn’t copied as well as RP did.
The Racing Point team has finished consistently in the points across the first three Grands Prix of the 2020 season, netting 40 points. Meanwhile, the factory-backed Renaults have finished no higher than eighth with a sad 12 points and two retirements. Racing Point sits in fourth in the constructors’ championship, behind Mercedes, Red Bull, and McLaren, while Renault is sitting in sixth, with fewer than half as many points as Ferrari (5th).
If you can’t beat them on the race track, perhaps you can beat them in the courtroom? Bold strategy, let’s see how it plays out.