An exciting year in prospect for Racing Point

As the RP20 makes its on-track debut in Barcelona this week

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By Olivier Ferret

18 February 2020 - 13:42
An exciting year in prospect for (...)

As the sun rises over the Spanish hills tomorrow morning, BWT Racing Point F1 Team will roll out its latest challenger – the RP20 – for the very first time, with Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll sharing driving duties for the opening day of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

On Monday, the Silverstone-based squad unveiled a fresh new look for the coming campaign in Mondsee, Austria – home to leading water technology specialist Best Water Technology [BWT], who will build upon three successful seasons as Principal Sponsor to become Title Partner of the team for 2020.

And with less than a month to go before the opening round of the season in Melbourne, Australia, the mood in the Racing Point camp is one of optimism heading into the final year of the current Formula 1 regulations – a campaign that has all the hallmarks of a classic.

Q&A with Otmar Szafnauer – CEO & Team Principal

Otmar, what sort of winter has it been for BWT Racing Point?

“The winter break is never really a break. In fact, it’s the busiest time in the factory! Our Silverstone base is buzzing with excitement right now and we always enjoy it when we see a new car come to life. Even though we have more stable regulations for this season, much of the RP20 is new and has a distinct visual difference to its 2019 predecessor. We’ve always been an ambitious team and, with continual investment in infrastructure, we now have a better in-house capacity. As such, our expectations are much higher – especially since 2019 was compromised by the hangovers of the previous season and transition of ownership. Following the changes of the last 12 months, we’re no longer held back by some of our old constraints, allowing us to improve performance with efficiency – something that has always been a strength of ours.”

What are your expectations for the 2020 season?

“It’s always difficult to make predictions this early in the year – but firstly, we need to start this season at a much higher level than we did in 2019 and that means right from the first test in Barcelona this week. I’m confident we can do this and our ultimate target is to be at the front of the midfield – but we also intend to end the year closer to third place than fifth. We know that the car we will race in Melbourne is a significant step forward in every area, but where this puts us is dependent upon what our competitors have done over the winter. Stable regulations typically reduce the probability of shocks – but it’s important that we don’t underestimate anybody at this stage of the season.”

You have the same driver lineup as last season and there seems to be good chemistry between them?

“Checo and Lance have a great relationship as team-mates and we’re very excited for this to continue in 2020. While Lance is still in the early stages of his career, Checo enters his tenth season in F1 this year and by blending youth and experience they work well together – they certainly have good chemistry. Lance has been with us for one year now and it has been nice to see him settle in and grow in confidence. For Checo, this will be his seventh season at Silverstone – he’s well and truly part of the family. Both Lance and Checo have a very open way of working and share information, all of which helps the team push forward to meet our targets and objectives. They have been working hard over the winter period, spending countless hours in the simulator, and they are both extremely motivated to get the racing underway.”

Q&A with Andrew Green – Technical Director

Andrew, how is the RP20 different from the RP19?

“The RP20 is entirely new, meaning that there’s very little carryover from our 2019 car. For 2020, we designed the car from scratch, 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.”

Where do you believe are the key areas of improvement on the RP20?

“In recent seasons, we have had two main weaknesses: our car has had an Achilles heel as far as balance is concerned and we have also struggled on high-downforce circuits. For 2020, I believe we have addressed these two factors. As such, the drivers should notice a significant difference in terms of on-track performance. Both Checo and Lance have already noticed a change in the simulator, so we’re hopeful that this performance will carry over to the track – especially with a strong combination in our driver line-up.”

How much are you looking forward to the new season?

“I’m very much looking forward to the new season. We’ve got high aspirations for this coming campaign – but to us these feel realistic. Our difficult season last year was a good learning experience. And now, in 2020, we get to do what we’ve wanted to do for a very long time – to show what we’re really capable of doing. Naturally, there are always butterflies – but for us, this season can’t come soon enough.”

Q&A with Sergio Perez

Do you still get butterflies at the start of a new season – even as the fourth most experienced driver on the grid?

“It’s quite funny to see how the sport has grown. When I joined Formula 1, I was one of the youngest drivers – but now I am one of the most experienced drivers out there. Experience counts a lot in Formula 1 and, if you’re comfortable with the environment, you can control more situations. Every year in the run-up to a new season, I get excited – especially when testing is just about to start. I have been with this team for a while now and to see how much it has grown to this present moment makes me very proud.”

How much has Team Silverstone changed since you joined in 2014?

“The team has changed a lot. We have grown significantly since the beginning and I think we can be very proud of what we have managed to achieve. I think we’re one of the few teams that is going through a big change and making real progress. That’s very important for us – to show that we are on the right track. Everyone has been working flat out and to have stability leads to an outstanding atmosphere within the team. I think the best is yet to come.”

What are your goals for F1’s 70th anniversary season?

“It will be a long season but I’m looking forward to it. The support I have from my family is inspiring and I hope to have a wonderful year for them. I’m really looking forward to racing in Vietnam for the first time – which should be a great venue – and returning to Zandvoort after racing there in my junior career. Last season we saw a very close fight in the midfield and we were in the middle of it. I will be happy if we can finish fourth in the Constructors’ Championship this season and get a few podiums – that would be a good season.”

Q&A with Lance Stroll

Do you feel more settled in at Racing Point ahead of your second season?

“My first year is out of the way and it’s nice to come back for round two! I’ve worked with everyone for an entire season now and been in this environment for a whole year. I can’t wait to do it all over again. I’ve seen a lot of change from when I first arrived and this is definitely a time where we’re growing as a team. I spend a lot of time at the factory and I’m seeing this growth daily. We were on the back foot going from 2018 into 2019 but I think the team is much more settled now and 2020 gives us a chance to show what we can do. So much effort has gone into this season’s package so it’s all really exciting!”

How does your relationship with Checo aid the team?

“We’re both working hard to help develop the car and improve the team so we can progress further up the grid. To do that, our relationship is extremely important. We’re competitors first and foremost. I want to beat him and he wants to beat me. That’s what competition is about. But it’s about having respect for one another – both on-track and off-track – and we saw that last season. I got the better of him in the first half and he got the better of me in the second. A healthy relationship between the drivers can really help the team advance.”

What are your goals for the coming season?

“For this year, the philosophy of our car has completely changed and there’s a lot of excitement that comes from that. This excitement is what Formula 1 is all about and if I no longer had that excitement, if I no longer had the butterflies, I wouldn’t be competing. There are races like Spa and Monza that we all love driving – but it’s also fun when they throw some new tracks into the mix. Vietnam will offer a new challenge and so will Zandvoort with the new modifications. 2020 will be a long season. It’s important to kick off with some good results – but it’s a marathon. You’ve got to be consistent and score as many points as you can. That’s going to be our goal and we’ll see what that brings us after Abu Dhabi.”

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