Almost since the start of the season Renault has been extremely mad about Racing Point apparently copying their brake ducts from Mercedes’ 2019 car, against the rules this year. Today, the FIA finally handed Racing Point a fine and a point deduction though no one seems happy about it.
The FIA said that Racing Point would be deducted 15 constructors’ championship points and fined 400,000 euros after Renault lodged three protests after the grands prix in Austria, Hungary, and Britain.
Via Formula One:
The crux of the matter focused on when the new rules around listed parts were applied, Racing Point arguing that the new sporting regulations only came into force a day before FP1 in Austria.
The stewards rejected that notion, and said that while the team’s current front brake duct design was acceptable given it was an evolution of the team’s 2019 design – conceived using CAD drawings of the brake ducts on Mercedes’ W10 car, when such a practice was allowed by the regulations – the team’s 2020 rear brake ducts must be considered Mercedes’ designs.
This is because although they were designed using the same materials, Racing Point were not refining a component that had already been incorporated into the DNA of the RP19. Instead, they were – in the stewards’ eyes - introducing a completely new component for the RP20, which it knew was now classified as a listed part.
A “listed part” is a part of the car that teams have to design themselves—for 2020 those parts include the brake ducts, the survival cell, the roll structure, and the rear wing structure, or DRS, among others. That means that teams can’t just borrow those components from other teams like they can with transmissions, brakes, suspension, fuel system, and other parts. (If you want to go deep on F1's technical rules you can find them all here.)
You are also allowed to design your listed parts based on photographs, but the FIA said Racing Point did a whole lot more than that.
“Copying has been taking place in Formula One for a long time. People take photos and sometimes reverse engineer them and make similar concepts. We do not think that this can stop in the future completely. But what we do think is that Racing Point took this to another level,” Nikolas Tombazis, the FIA’s single seaters’ chief, said, according to the Guardian. “They clearly decided to apply this philosophy for the whole car.”
Racing Point had previously acknowledged that their car was inspired by Mercedes’ after it was unveiled and almost instantly called the “pink Mercedes.” Still, on Friday the Racing Point Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer told Formula1.com that the punishment was “unfair.”
Again, copying is such a common theme in the narrow confines of F1 racing that the FIA even called out Racing Point for not checking with it to see if the kind of copying it was doing was against the rules, as F1 reporter Will Buxton points out:
The other teams weren’t any happier, in part because the FIA said that Racing Point could keep using the copied ducts for the rest of the season.
Via The Guardian:
Renault’s team principal, Cyril Abiteboul, said they may appeal against the punishment. “The question of sanction is up for debate,” he said. “The advantage that was obviously obtained will keep on going for all the season. And it’s a very material advantage.”
McLaren’s chief executive, Zak Brown, was scathing in his assessment. “They claimed they had copied the car via photography. It’s clear from reading the document that is BS. So you have to question everything else around the car. I am concerned that they still have what was deemed illegal in Austria on the race car now. I think that is confusing for the fans.”
Ferrari’s team principal, Mattia Binotto, has demanded further clarity from the FIA, suggesting the majority of teams are unlikely to let the matter lie. “We believe it is not possible to copy and simply understand the full concept behind the car,” he said.
“I don’t think that the verdict of today is sufficient because it is only relevant to the brake ducts and not the entire concept, so it is only the tip of the iceberg, there is much to further discuss.”
Before the deduction, Racing Point had 42 constructors’ championship points, good enough for fifth place and ten points ahead of sixth-placed Renault. Should the sanction be upheld Racing Point will drop to sixth, five points behind Renault with both Renault and Racing Point well-ahead of seventh-placed Alphatauri Honda, which has 13 points.
In that context, the FIA’s punishment was seemingly an attempt to satisfy everyone—Renault would surge ahead of the team it had complained about for weeks, while Racing Point could still race. It’s unsurprising then that it seemed to satisfy no one. You can bet that if it’s upheld and Racing Point still finish above Renault in the constructors’ championship at season’s end, Renault will have their excuses.
Teams have 24 hours to appeal the decision, and both Renault and Racing Point said they were considering it. Meanwhile, qualifying or the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone is tomorrow, race on Sunday. I wonder how Renault and Racing Point will do.