If you haven’t been keeping up with the recent drama surrounding the Racing Point Formula One team, you’ve been missing out. The team has recently been punished for utilizing a Mercedes-based design for its brake ducts, which the FIA says is illegal but which many others say is, actually, perfectly fine. And it’s just so, so good.
If you haven’t been following, here’s a brief rundown of the situation: For the 2019 season, teams could share designs for things like brake ducts or purchase pre-made brake ducts. For 2020, teams were mandated to design their own brake duct. Racing Point is now utilizing a brake duct design very similar to that of Mercedes in 2019.
Here’s the problem: There’s a discrepancy between when the 2020 rules come into play. Racing Point has argued that, because it designed its 2020 car in 2019 using inspiration from Mercedes that it received in 2019, it should not be punished because it can’t un-learn knowledge it has gained. The FIA has said that’s some hot garbage; Racing Point was not refining the Mercedes design which means the team should have known better than to utilize a 2019 design for 2020.
Part-owner (and father of driver Lance) Lawrence Stroll even came out with a little diatribe about the decision:
And then there’s the whole fact that Racing Point apparently received an actual set of Mercedes brake ducts in January 2020's testing session. That would have been six days after the team wouldn’t have been allowed to use a different team’s parts. Racing Point, however, has said that it did design its own ducts and have almost 900 drawings to prove it.
It’s a wild situation that has left no one happy. Renault, who filed protests against Racing Point after every race this season, isn’t happy that Racing Point only lost money and championship points. Racing Point isn’t happy that it’s being punished for exploiting a gray area in the rule book.
Five teams, though, have appealed the decision against Racing Point, largely because the ruling is so murky. Others are asking that the ruling be upheld. The fact that it took Renault multiple protests to be heard is part of the problem. The stewards who initially ruled Racing Point’s car as being in compliance with the rules are another. This issue being spotted well into the 2020 season, where Racing Point are unable to redesign the ducts and thus just get to race with potentially illegal parts—also part of the problem.
Historically, F1 has been a series about pushing technological boundaries and finding gray areas in the rule book to exploit. Racing Point has done so in a way that isn’t quite outright cheating but that’s so close to it that everyone is able to form a different opinion.
If deviations from the rules are a problem, teams are going to want that outlined so that they don’t fall foul later on. If Racing Point actually did something illegal, then that needs to be outlined in detail so that, again, teams don’t fall foul later on.
But I’ll be honest: I’m a real sucker for the very specific bougie brand of drama that accompanies F1. The on-track action may be a little predictable, but it’s the very subtle bitchery that goes on in the background that gives me life. I’ve watched Lawrence Stroll’s video defense at least four times. I’ve been eagerly awaiting every scrap of news like a ravenous vulture. I love it when teams get sassy with each other because it’s just kind of hilarious. It’s like watching team principals do the “complaining about each other back and forth in the media without ever talking” version of subtweeting. I thrive on the pettiness. And I tell ya: I cannot wait to watch this saga unfold on the next season of Drive to Survive.
The way things are going, I anticipate that we’ll be hearing a lot more about those Racing Point brake ducts as the season goes on.
In fact, the next round is already starting: