Racing Point’s Otmar Szafnauer opens up about the move to Aston Martin and Top 3 aim, while discusses on ‘pink Mercedes’ along with current F1 shutdown.
In the past weeks, F1.com has interviewed a number of prominent guests, and the latest in this list – which has included the likes of Andreas Seidl, Charles Leclerc, Guenther Steiner and Sebastian Vettel – is Racing Point team principal, Szafnauer.
At a time when the Silverstone-based team is about to undergo massive changes, there was plenty to discuss, and one of three topics that was chosen was related to Racing Point’s coming re-branding to Aston Martin, and their high expectations.
Szafnauer revealed the crew’s intention to be fighting for wins within three years’ time. The funds from new co-owner Lawrence Stroll should be enough for competition at the front, but – as he explained – acquiring the right people and therefore putting that money to use takes a few years. Understanding this, the three-year time frame is not unrealistic.
“It’s probably a three-year plan for us,” said Szafnauer. “The factory will take a couple of years, and hiring the right people takes a couple of years, and during that transition phase, you won’t be at a 100% at where you want to be until you get there, and then you have got to work together.
“So it’s a three-year plan, but every year we should be getting better, we should never take a step backwards. Our goal is to break into the top three in that time and be competitive at that level and have a chance at winning races and be regular podium finishers.
“Even if we’re not top three, say the top three become top four and we’re part of that, or even top five and someone else joins us, but we’re all competing at that level where the top three currently are, that would be a success for us,” summed up Szafnauer.
The cash injection from Stroll went quite a long way in 2019. Granted, their car at the beginning of the year was without major development from their 2018 machine, but the money was used on development throughout the year, which was quite rapid.
On their 2020 F1 challenger, though, the funds shone through much more on the car, from the moment the covers came off just prior to pre-season testing. The car – called the RP20 – was an overhaul from its predecessor, and bore a much closer resemblance to the Mercedes W10 than any Racing Point or Force Indias of yesteryear.
It drew significant criticism from fans, who suggested that the idea was stolen. But defending it, Szafnauer stated that this design was chosen because it works well with the Mercedes powertrain, which powers the Racing Point car.
Szafnauer also pointed out that they’ve been attempting to replicate the concept for quite some time, but only just acquired the funds. They only had it in mind for 2020 before regulation changes in 2021 but the pandemic means, they will have it for longer.
“We have been looking at that concept for a long time, mainly because we are constrained with the gearbox that we buy from Mercedes,” said Szafnauer. “Mercedes have developed their gearbox casing to go along with that concept. We would buy that casing from them and use a totally different aero concept, which meant we are always compromised.
“So for a long time, we wanted to move to the Mercedes-type aerodynamic concept – not having a high rake, a lower rear end – but we just never had the financial resources to do it. We always had to carry things over. We knew when we made the decision that it would only be for one year, but now it looks like we will have a year-and-a-half.
“Hopefully we can extend that even further. The 2021 car concept was mainly to have closer racing. If we show that we have very good racing with the cars we have now, it would be prudent to look at either delaying it the new aero rules by another year or looking at the whole concept again and saying what we have now isn’t that bad, it’s actually pretty good and if you don’t change the regulations, you end up saving money.
“In this day and age, we should be doing everything we can to try and spend less,” summed up Szafnauer. Unfortunately for the team, the RP20 has yet to see any racing action due to the COVID-19 crisis and the shutdown which it has caused.
Thus far, nine races have been postponed or cancelled, and all racing-related work has been halted, with longer shutdown to come. However, there is a sunny side to this otherwise grim ‘egg’ for the team, and that is that very little money is being spent.
Granted, there is little to no income, and Szafnauer didn’t deny that this was negative. In fact, he suggested that there should be preventative measures in place to limit damage in situations like this. “We need to learn that these types of things [the pandemic] can happen. We should put practices in place, maybe a more prudent cost cap so that if it does happen again, we’re on a better financial footing.
“The pandemic has had a massive impact. We have put the business on hold. We are currently on shutdown, so there is no development that has happened. Not much money has been spent, almost zero, which is also good. We have extended the shutdown, so there’s another two weeks, and I anticipate that will be extended again. It’s basically mothballing everything,” summed up Szafnauer.
Here’s an exclusive note on possible whole of 2020 cancellation
Here’s what Helmut Marko said regarding Austria hosting F1 races
Here’s the discussion in last meeting for F1 budget cap and 2020 races
Here’s Sergio Perez on F1 Live on Instagram
Here’s news about Racing Point furlough
Here’s Racing Point on Aston Martin change
The story was edited by Darshan Chokhani