Romain Grosjean, Haas, Circuit de Catalunya

Are F1 teams overstepping the rules on parts design?

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In the first instalment of a new series we’re putting questions from our RaceFans Supporters to special correspondent @DieterRencken. Here’s our first:

In a recent article Dieter seemed to be suggesting Haas were actually going beyond what the rules on customer parts allowed and were buying manufactured parts and services that weren’t allowed. How is it none of the other teams have complained to the stewards about this?

Is this why Haas waited for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix before they complained to the stewards about Racing Point/Force India getting paid such and such (in the hope that Lawrence Stroll will have forgotten about this by the time we get to Melbourne)? Do all the teams make use of parts and services that the rules don’t allow, so complaining to the stewards could bite them as well?
Stephen Crowsen

I don’t recall suggesting Haas had gone “beyond the rules” in its use of non-listed parts; in fact, I’ve openly admired team principal Guenther Steiner’s interpretation of the regulations, and the way in which he applies them. I’ve followed the progress of Haas with interest since being the first journalist Steiner shared his model with – in 2013, three years before they entered F1 – and visited him in Charlotte.

I’ve often wondered why Red Bull did not pursue the same model with Toro Rosso, particularly when they used the same engines. I was advised it was down to Red Bull’s modus operandi: they ‘freeze’ their car design as late as possible, which would leave little time for Toro Rosso to design ‘listed parts’, which are those teams must own the intellectual property rights to (whether they design those parts themselves or contract out the work).

Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018
Haas sources power units and more from Ferrari
The Ferrari/Haas/Dallara relationship is different as Haas chief designer Rob Taylor explained in the exclusive interview I did with him last year.

At the end of 2015, prior to Haas entering the championship, Mercedes requested clarification about the new entrant’s wind tunnel usage. Haas used – and still uses – Ferrari’s wind tunnel on a contractual basis. The team’s operation was found by the stewards to be within the regulations and they were cleared. However the regulations on manning and wind tunnel use for new entrants were subsequently changed.

As for none of the teams “complaining [about Haas] to the stewards”, believe me, if there was the slightest suspicion that any team broke (or even bent) any listed parts regulations, the suspect party would be at the receiving end of protests – much as Haas was excluded from the Italian Grand Prix following a protest by Renault on account of using a floor design that did not comply with a technical directive.

Although this offence was not related to listed parts usage, it shows how the teams effectively police each other. The 2007 ‘Spygate’ saga, which ultimately cost McLaren the (ridiculous, in my opinion) sum of $100m in fines and forfeit revenues, illustrates how seriously the FIA takes wilful cheating. F1 is a massive sport but a small world, and word soon gets out about possible breaches as folk move from team to team.

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The timing of Haas’s Abu Dhabi protest against Force India/Racing Point was due to various factors. As I wrote at the time the action was not directly linked to the use of listed parts (although FI/RP uses Mercedes powertrains, electronics and hydraulics, and designs and builds (or sub-contracts) the balance) but to F1’s money distribution.

Esteban Ocon, Force India, Hockenheimring, 2018
Force India and Haas are at odds over prize money
A month and a half earlier, during the Japanese Grand Prix weekend, Steiner requested definitive answers from Liberty Media as to whether FI/RP would be paid monies it was not strictly entitled to in terms of team agreements. The team disputed Force India’s claim to some of the money following its readmission to the sport as a new entrant after it went into administration last July.

Haas’s last chance of protesting FI/RP in 2018 was in Abu Dhabi. The chairman of the stewards that weekend was Garry Connolly, who also officiated in Spa when FI/RP was accepted as a new team, which was an additional factor.

So the protest wasn’t a case of “hoping [FI/RP owner] Lawrence Stroll would forget about it” – if anything, precisely the opposite, as this ongoing saga could serve to unsettle FI/RP during the off-season. The protest was aimed primarily at proving to Liberty that FI/RP was a new team – which was upheld by the stewards – and therefore not eligible for full revenues for two years. The issue won’t go away as there is up to $60m riding on it…

I’m told the “listed parts” schedule is likely to be expanded for 2021 in order to reduce the dependence of ‘B teams’ on major teams by forcing them to build more performance differentiating parts in-house. This is likely to impact Haas more than on any other team, but I’m sure they can gear up to that in time.

Equally, I believe no progress has yet been made on the question of FI/RP’s revenue entitlement.


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    18 comments on “Are F1 teams overstepping the rules on parts design?”

    1. Do you have any broad %s of how much the ‘B’ teams are using of the maximum allowable part from other teams?

      1. Percentages of parts are irrelevant since specific parts may either be used or may not be used. There seem to be only three teams that make both their power unit and their chassis. I reject the the entire ‘B’ team concept as a pejorative term applied to teams that are in full compliance with the regulations governing all teams.

        If anyone wants to insist on percentages, I’d say that Racing Point and Williams must be about 50% Mercedes, for what that’s worth.

    2. Very nice feature, Dieter and Keith.

    3. Nice! QOTD got its own article. Great addition.
      Thank you for your insight and comprehensive answers, Dieter…

    4. Is there any talks about having a decreeing amount of parts over time? Like Haas could get 80% the first year, then decreasing by 10-20% per year until it reaches 20% or whatever limit is deemed reasonable.
      This could both help new teams to join F1, avoid that the big teams use such scheme for long term advantage without actually contributing to more teams joining F1.

      1. Absolutely. Let’s make the sport even more expensive, and more difficult for new teams to join.

        Pretty much every external surface, and the survival cell, is built to Haas’s specifications by Dallara. The ECU, and a number of other parts are already FIA mandated, parts like brakes, suspension components, and miscellaneous electrical components are already made by third parties for most of the teams– What more do you want?

        Anyone who claims the Haas chassis is last year’s Ferrari is just blind.

        1. And anyone who talks in terms of percentage of listed parts doesn’t understand the regulation.

    5. Thanks Dieter; I love this section.

      Here comes a follow-up question (maybe for a next edition):

      The protest was aimed primarily at proving to Liberty that FI/RP was a new team – which was upheld by the stewards – and therefore not eligible for full revenues for two years. The issue won’t go away as there is up to $60m riding on it…

      The ‘revenue’ must be a Liberty/teams agreement.
      Therefore, the steward’s decision/view that FI/RP is a ‘new entrant’ will have no direct effect that. The revenue must be depending fully on how the agreements between FOM(Liberty) and the various teams are written up.
      And the way Ecclestone used to work, I am sure he left enough FOM wiggle room in the contract with Haas that he could treat another new entrant different from the way he treated Haas (seems logical).
      It’s not like an ‘open source’ competition where anybody can enter with the same commercial deal for all.

      As I said this would be a question: can you shed some more light on this @dieterrencken

      1. @coldfly – from what I understand, Liberty’s contracts with the teams are based on the term “team” or “constructor”. Now, the definition of the appropriate word, and what constitutes a new entity are defined by the FIA, not FOM/Liberty. That’s the reason why Haas took the issue first to the stewards (as representatives of the FIA) to get them to lock down their interpretation of the word “team/constructor”, so they can then pursue Liberty for how the contracts on revenue distribution have been written and are being interpreted.

        1. Thanks @phylyp,
          But that part has been settled once and for all as the stewards confirmed that FI/RP IS indeed a team/constructor.
          Therefore, they could keep their points/place on the final WCC ranking.

          The commercial consequences of that ranking is up to the contract with the commercial rights holder, i.e. Liberty.

          1. Racing Point is, indeed, a team/constructor, but not the same team/constructor that started the season. That was confirmed by their loss of constructor points. There are two kinds of revenue in play here. When the split is done, there is Column 1 which is based on participation and Column 2 which is based upon points scored. This split is governed by the Concorde Agreement, not some individual deal a team has with Liberty Media via FOM. Things like past champion bonuses and whatever Ferrari gets paid for are outside of the Concorde Agreement. What Haas was questioning was Column 1 & 2 monies, and the regulations state not only that you get paid any prize money a year behind but that a team must compete during the complete season to be eligible to receive its money in the following season. By a strict reading of the regulations, the Force India license was revoked and Force India ceased too be a competitor at that moment. When a new license was granted to Racing Point mid-season (highly irregular and I believe something that has never happened before), RP had not competed during the full 2018 season and was therefore by regulation not entitled to the Column 2 money and quite possibly even the Column 1 money. At that point, the FIA was making up new rules mid-season that applied to a single team in a unique situation, whereas Haas had had to wait years for it’s first cut of the pie and had even been forced to put up $20 million as an assurance they would even be a going concern when payment was due. HaasF1 was put through the wringer like no other team has ever been, and Racing Point is having the rules broken to give them a financial and therefore competitive advantage no other team has been given under the FIA rules in the past. It appears that the way this FI/RP deal is going down will set a new precedent and further complicate things in the future. Stroll with all of his billions should have simply complied with existing regulations and met the same obligations that all of the other teams have accepted and complied with.

            1. While you are essentially correct in your points, please note that there is NO prevailing Concorde Agreement – as detailed in the final link in the article above.

              I have had sight of numerous (previous) Concordes and current bilateral agreements between teams individually and FOM (as they were signed prior to the Liberty takeover – and can attest that the bonuses are enshrined in the bilateral save where they were entered into later, such as Mercedes/Renault.

              The various links above point to all you need to know, hence their inclusion.

            2. @dieterrencken I don’t think I want to be arguing the fine points of F1 with you, Dieter, (I’m not worthy…) but I thought there was an existing Concorde Agreement running through the 2020 season and that it is the Concorde Agreement that defines such things as how FOM’s profits get distributed (among other things). Are we discussing terminology here, or is there actually no Concorde Agreement currently in effect? I understand that the bonuses are included in the individual bilateral agreement that exist between each team and the FOM, but I thought such things as Column 1 and Column 2 monies were based upon an overall agreement that is referred to as the Concorde Agreement. By the way, my understanding is that what I have been calling the “Concorde Agreement” is not a publicly available document and that we fans basically only know what has been leaked and what was included some older Concorde Agreements (possibly only one) that has seen the light of day. I’m ready and willing to be educated here, Dieter. What am I missing?

    6. We really are lucky to have you @dieterrencken!

    7. @dieterrencken, @keithcollantine, My thanks for answering my question. My apologies for having misread your article, but it has provided given us a better understanding of the use of customer parts.

    8. “…the listed parts schedule is likely to be expanded for 2021 . . . . forcing them to build more performance differentiating parts in-house.”
      I’m sure there’s something here I’m not getting because this statement seem to be contradictory…

      1. I think the point is that most listed parts aren’t supposed to be performance differentiating.

    9. @gwbridge what you’re missing is not reading the links in the article, as I suggested. They explain the lack of a prevailing Concorde Agreement and the implications thereof.

      You’re correct in saying that only one Concorde was publicly leaked – In fact, it was leaked by my friend Forrest Bond, whom I reference in today’s column.

      However, I don’t rely on publicly leaked documents; I rely on confidential stuff that’s been shared by trusted (and trusting) sources,

      Thus I have either had sight or been given a copy every Concorde from 1981 to end-2012, save one. And I’m hunting…

      Re the bilaterals: at end-2012 Ecclestone decided to enter into individual agreements with each team, but without involving the FIA. Then a separate Concorde Implementation Agreement was signed between FOM and FIA, excluding the teams. Thus currently there is NO single umbrella agreement (Concorde or not) that binds all three parties: FOM, FIA and the teams collectively, as had previously been the case.

      As I’ve said before, if you access the last link in the article and then systematically read back to early last year you’ll have all the info. Or use the index using ‘bilaterals’ and ‘Concorde’ as keywords.

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