RACING POINT: Everything you need to know before the season starts
Next up in our team-by-team series on Formula1.com we're focusing on one of the outfits that seemingly made huge strides over the winter: Racing Point. Why did they make such a splash at testing in February? And why has their new RP20 car picked up a slightly unflattering nickname? Here's where the Silverstone team stand ahead of the start of the delayed 2020 season in Austria.
How did they look at winter testing?
In a word: rapid. Racing Point really caught the eye in pre-season, and were clever in the way they went about it. The 2020 livery was unveiled at the home of sponsor BWT in Austria, but the car itself wasn’t involved. That’s because the team knew their challenger would cause a stir, as a design very similar to the 2019 Mercedes hit the track in Barcelona.
And when you’re following the concept of the team that have won the past six drivers’ and constructors’ championship doubles, you’re probably expecting big things.
The RP20 looked quick as soon as it started running at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, and certainly has the performance to at least fight with McLaren and Renault for best of the rest.
Some team members even claimed Racing Point looked so good, Ferrari might have to check over their shoulder at certain tracks…
What’s happened since then?
Complaints about the team’s car – dubbed the ‘Pink Mercedes’ by some in the paddock – have obviously quietened down as a result of the enforced break, so it remains to be seen if rivals will be unhappy once racing resumes. But there have also been off-track developments to focus on.
Racing Point will become the Aston Martin F1 Team in 2021, and that identity change led to the revision of plans for a new factory for the team at their Silverstone base.
Then the Covid-19 pandemic meant groundwork on the new factory could not commence as scheduled, and the team have had to push back the planned move-in date for the new facility by 12 months.
What the delay has meant is the team are able to ensure their plans are somewhat future-proof, given the uncertainty about what working conditions will be like beyond the end of the current pandemic.
Technical director Andy Green says he doesn’t mind, because he feels the team have adapted extremely well to working remotely during lockdown, with around 50% of the personnel still working from home as we approach the first race.
The delay also won’t impact on the Aston Martin rebranding, which will still take place next season.
What have the drivers been up to in the break?
Sergio Perez has been helping to raise funds amid the Covid-19 crisis, donating auction items that include his own time on a video call with a fan.
While his time driving a real car has been limited, Perez did manage to secure a simulator set-up at home that allowed him to take part in the Virtual Grand Prix series in Azerbaijan, scene of two podiums in his F1 career.
Lance Stroll is one of the only drivers to have tasted 2020 machinery since pre-season testing ended, with the Canadian behind the wheel for a filming day at Silverstone last week that allowed Racing Point the chance to understand how different things will be when working trackside once the season gets underway.
Stroll was limited to 100km on non-race Pirelli tyres, but it was still an important exercise both for driver and team in preparation for Austria.
How are they looking for Austria?
Racing Point will certainly be one of the teams to watch at the Red Bull Ring, as we finally get to see exactly what their new car can do.
There were accusations that the team were hiding some performance during pre-season testing, but either way they have a much changed concept to get to grips with compared to their previous cars, while their rivals will be working with more familiar evolutions.
Despite consecutive seventh-place finishes over the past two seasons, this is a much more robust team financially thanks to its new ownership headed by Lawrence Stroll, and with a test using the 2020 car under their belts to prepare for the new normal in Austria, they should be able to hit the ground running.
What will their target be for the season?
The objective is a clear one for Racing Point, and that’s to get back to the fourth place in the constructors’ standings that they enjoyed as Force India back in 2016 and 2017.
Despite the disruption over recent months, this is still the first season that the team have been able to prepare for fully since Lawrence Stroll took over, with last season heavily compromised by the financial turmoil they faced just six months earlier.
All of the signs point to the car being a clear step forward on 2019, and Racing Point will definitely be the team that their midfield rivals are most worried about.
With less competitive machinery, the team were able to secure podiums on multiple occasions in the past, and in the form of Perez they’ve got a driver with a proven track record of taking advantage when a top-three result is on offer.
Silverware every now and then might not be totally out of the question…