Racing Point is, in the words of technical director Andy Green, “just looking for a straightforward weekend for once” in its battle with Renault and McLaren for third place in the constructors’ championship.
Although Sergio Perez scored the team a solid fourth place at the Eifel Grand Prix (which might have been third but for the late safety car curtailing his newer-tyred challenge on Daniel Ricciardo), the team’s weekend was interrupted on this occasion by the illness of Lance Stroll and the short-notice stand-in of Nico Hulkenberg, who nonetheless exceeded expectations in bringing his car home eighth – from last on the grid.
As Renault’s car continues to show improved form, Racing Point is relying on the effectiveness of its recent upgrades to regain the raw performance edge it had over its two rivals earlier in the season but the effect has been somewhat disguised by circumstance. The graph above shows pace deficits to the 100% mark represented by Mercedes, and at face value suggests Racing Point losing ground to Renault.
Stroll’s illness was just the latest in a series of hiccups preventing Racing Point’s full potential points haul being harvested – and it follows on from his puncture and crash at Mugello when running fourth, being taken out on the first lap at Sochi by Charles Leclerc and his compromise in qualifying thereby being unable to take part in the late showdown part of Q2 because of an overheating engine when he was waiting in the pitlane queue.
Without those mishaps, Racing Point’s position in the constructors’ championship – it currently holds third by the margin of just four points over Renault and six over McLaren – would be rather more secure.
The RP20’s upgrades since Mugello have been more visually extensive than Renault’s but both cars have responded well and seem to have outpaced McLaren’s development, which has hit a snag as its new nose concept has not yet brought the expected gains.
At Mugello, Stroll’s Racing Point received a thoroughly revised bodywork, with new Mercedes W11-like sidepods and front brake ducts. Perez only got these for the first time at the Nurburgring on account of Stroll’s Mugello crash destroying one set of new parts.
Green also revealed that the rear suspension changes introduced to the car at Sochi were not, in fact, the W11 rear end that The Race’s sources had indicated, but “a change to the suspension internals in the way that it works, to give us more set-up options”.
The suspension changes were, in fact, inspired by feedback from Hulkenberg when he raced the car as Perez’s stand-in at Silverstone.
“Nico gave us this feedback which was very interesting but I’m sure he never imagined he’d be driving the result of that feedback, but lo and behold, here he was,” said Green.
“He said they made the car quite different to drive and I’m sure that made the familiarisation in qualifying – when he had just four laps – even more difficult.”
Green confirmed that the W11 rear end will be on the car for next season.
“That’s what we are building next year’s car around,” he said.
The prospect of Racing Point getting the W11 rear end on its car early had caused concern among rivals when it appeared the team might hurry to do so in a window when it did not require the use of development tokens. Efforts to prevent that exemption were rejected, so the change will still be token-free when Racing Point proceeds with it.