Renault steering wheel, Spa, 2019

Renault’s finishing positions remain provisional after Racing Point protest

2019 Japanese Grand Prix

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The FIA is to begin an examination of hardware, software and data from Renault’s Formula 1 car following a protest from Racing Point over the legality of their braking system.

The stewards formally accepted Racing Point’s protest is admissible. The process of examining the contested parts of Renault’s car will now begin.

Racing Point alleges the team’s two cars include a “pre-set lap distance-dependent brake bias adjustment system”. This is forbidden by article 11.1.4 of the technical regulations which states “any change to, or modulation of, the brake system… may not be pre-set”.

The FIA technical department’s representative has been ordered to conduct an examination of the steering wheels and electronic control units from Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg’s cars. Those parts are to be sealed and impounded.

The representative has also been empowered to bring in any outside assistance which the investigation may require, including communication with representatives of Racing Point and Renault.

The stewards have requested a written report from the FIA’s representative including an assessment of whether their findings indicates the regulations have been broken, and to indicate when that will take place.

In the meantime, the stewards have issued a final race classification but noted Renault’s finishing positions of sixth (Ricciardo) and 10th (Hulkenberg) is “provisional subject to the outcome of any decision concerning the protest”.

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In a statement, Renault said it “acknowledges the protest lodged by Racing Point concerning its brake bias system following the Japanese Grand Prix. Team representatives have met with the stewards of the event at Suzuka, but due to the complexity of the 12-page dossier prepared by Racing Point, a further meeting will take place at a future date, to be defined.

“Renault intends to use this recess to prepare an equally detailed case to rigorously defend its position. The results of the Japanese Grand Prix still stand at the current time.”

Stewards statement on Racing Point protest against Renault

Having received a protest from SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team against the Renault F1 Team concerning an alleged pre-set lap distance-dependent brake bias adjustment system on cars 3 and 27, the Stewards summoned and heard from the team representatives of both teams and a representative of the FIA Technical Department. The Stewards determined that the protest met all requirements specified in Article 13 of the International Sporting Code and is, therefore, admissible. This point was agreed to by the team representatives of the Renault F1 Team.

The FIA Technical Department representative was directed to seal and impound the FIA standard electronic control units and steering wheels of cars 3 and 27 in preparation for conducting a detailed analysis of those pieces. The representative is further directed to conduct a detailed analysis of the hardware, software, and data associated with them and, when complete, provide a written report to the Stewards with their findings, to include an assessment that matches those findings against the potential technical infringements detailed in the protest.

The representative is authorised in the name of the Stewards to call upon such outside technical assistance, including representatives of the Renault F1 and SportPesa Racing Point F1 Teams, in the conduct of their assessment. When the likely submission date of the assessment can be determined, the FIA Technical Department representative will communicate that to the Chairman of the Stewards so that the next meeting time to assess the claims made in the protest can be scheduled.

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Keith Collantine
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37 comments on “Renault’s finishing positions remain provisional after Racing Point protest”

  1. Interesting.

    1. More interesting to me is the timing of the protests. how teams happen to coincidentally protest on a good weekend for their rivals.

  2. If both Renaults are disqualified the Leclerc’s Penalty is a moot point at best. This is very interesting as both those disqualifications might bring Norris into point finish.

    1. And how are Leclerc’s penalties a moot point?

      Nothing moot about them

      1. Right now he lost place and points to Ricciardo and with Ricciardo disqualified on technical grounds, Leclerc will be back in P6 with just finishing a little further back from Sainz.

    2. You must’ve forgotten about penalty points then.

      1. Never mind. I see he didn’t get any. Can’t agree with that.

  3. I’m seriously amazed at how Racing Point knew about Renaults braking system

    1. And printed off a 12 page dossier on it !
      Sounds like they may have been watching on boards for some time as pointed out earlier by

      @sonicslv Probably from watching onboard camera where adjusting brake bias is something that very easy to see (usually a knob in steering wheel). The lack of those action will definitely raise suspicions since it’s impossible to extract the maximum of the car with a single brake bias setting.

      1. @aaaa @f199player
        It indeed is fully plausible that this has been going on for s given some races already given how many pages the dossier includes. It’s rather doubtful that RP would’ve been able to get a dossier with as many pages as 12 ready only today, so it must have been a work in progress for some time before this race had even taken place.

        1. @aaaa @f199player Forget the ‘s given’ part. That wasn’t supposed to get there.

        2. Which begs the question – what about the rest of Renault’s season? Would they get disqualified from the whole championship?

          1. @hugh11 Most likely lose all the WCC-points achieved so far like RP/FI last season with nine races to go.

      2. It is somewhat weird that mclaren does not have this system if renault does. To me it sounds like this brake bias system is tied to the engine and mclaren has renault engine and all of the electronics that go with it. After all the harvesting occurs during braking at the rear axle and this harvesting does affect the brake bias.

  4. You have to think if it is what they’re suggesting then it would be an advantage (though obviously not huge). Schumacher seemed to pioneer the importance of brake bias in 90’s (apologies if someone was more pioneering earlier). Those couple of a percentage each way obviously make a difference, and the constant switching of the dial, especially round a place like Suzuka which has little ‘downtime’ with corner after corner (mostly) then the car adjusting itself, whilst the driver manages the multitude of other things going on in hybrid age, then yeah, I can see why they’d do it.

    But how they’ve done it, if driver was to select a ‘preset’ at the beginning of each sector, would that not be the ‘driver altering it manually’?

    As ever the wording of it will be the thing that decides it I imagine

    1. @bernasaurus As I understand it what RP argues is that it’s pre defined for the entire lap, not per sector. “pre-set lap distance-dependent”. Which means drivers don’t have to move the dial (bottom right of the steering wheel) through the lap, instead the car knows at what part of the track it is and changes the brake bias accordingly.

      I don’t think it’s as simple as that as any team would quickly notice via the onboards that the driver is not adjusting it manually. Let’s wait and see.

      1. should say “bottom left of the steering wheel”… 🤦🏻‍♂️

  5. Even assuming an unlikely guilty verdict, why have a rule that prohibits engineers from taking wear into account for basic brake settings, being as how F1 is supposed to be the Pinnacle of racing technology. Someone needs to go through the rulebook and redact all those rules left over from an era when the appearance of technology doing everything but steering the cars was considered “bad for the show” and accept that adjustments not made by the computers in the cars will be flagged by the computers on the pit-wall, the drivers skill in turning the knob from 1 to 10 is not likely to differentiate the drivers overall abilities.

    1. Unlikely guilty verdict?
      To me it seems more than just likely.
      Closer to unlikely innocent.

      1. I could be wrong, my reasoning is that after crashgate Renault would be very foolish to deliberately cheat again.

    2. I expect brake bias settings to change per driver and as the tyre degrades. Flat spots etc will affect that and they have to decide what is the most appropriate for each corner and situation of the track. Not something I’d like to give away to a computer.

      1. plus any small variations in bodywork (losing bits and pieces in accidents), weather (including wind), variations in fuel usage (safety cars etc)… Seems like it would have to be an awfully complex system. I’d like to read the dossier.

  6. Now the question is – if they are found to have this illegal system… will FIA look into when it appeared?
    And if so – could some part (tho whole?) Championship of Renault be in jeopardy?

    Of course no one will alter individual races’ results, but there’s nothing safeguarding Renault’s points (hello McLaren and its Spygate!)

    1. @dallein That’s a plausible point. I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not.

  7. @dallein Yeah, +1
    Sadly their only defense is that it has never given them a lasting advantage. :-)

  8. Conspiricy theory: Where did Renault get an idea for the system? From Ricciardo and Red Bull, when he joined the team. Are Red Bull using something similar? Are all teams using something similar to some extent?

    1. haha, I like your theory, I kind of thought about it myself

  9. I guess, as always, it’s down to the interpretation.

    One could argue that setting the bias before entering the corner is a pre set, which is the way things work at the moment.

    What if the system automatically adjusts the bias to what the driver did on the previous lap?
    Is that pre set, or was it set by the driver?

    What if the biases for each corner were set based on what the driver used in free practice?

    I think it sounds on balance that the regualtions are intended to stop anything beyond the next corner?
    All good fun! :-)

    1. Very interesting.

    2. Yes, interesting thought. “…may not be pre-set” does suggest even adjusting the bias just before corner is “pre-set”. I think Racing Point have opened a can of worms.

  10. I wish we could go back to the good old days when drivers used to alter their brake bias with a spanner in their left foot on the straights.

    1. @bernasaurus, onboard brake adjustment via a conventional hand operated level has been around in F1 since at least the early 1970s…

    2. @bernasaurus Most recently, in 2013, the on-track adjustment of BB was utilized via a lever on the left-hand side of the cockpit, but I prefer having buttons on the steering wheel for that purpose.

  11. I mean, really? I think its just smart from Renault. Would put my money on another team having the same thing

  12. The rules don’t say much about the brake bias controls but the article 11 makes couple of points. First the 11.1.3 says that:
    Any powered device, other than the system referred to in Article 11.9, which is capable of
    altering the configuration or affecting the performance of any part of the brake system is

    11.9 says that
    The pressure in the rear braking circuit may be provided by a powered control system provided
    that :
      a)  The driver brake pedal is connected to a hydraulic master cylinder that generates a
    pressure source that can be applied to the rear braking circuit if the powered system is
      b)  The powered system is controlled by the control electronics described in Article 8.2.

    8.2 says that the fia ecu must be used to control it.

    However the real point of contention is probably about the definitions in 11.1.4
    Any change to, or modulation of, the brake system, other than any movement of the minimal
    flexible parts described in Article 11.4 to 11.6, whilst the car is on the track must be made by
    the driver’s direct physical input or by the system referred to in Article 11.9, and may not be

    In the end this boils down to the fact that the rear brake system can be powered and can be controlled by the official ecu but only the driver can change it by physical input. The reason the rear brakes are powered is because of the hybrid engines. As the cars coast or brake the rear axle is used to harvest energy and this changes the effective brake bias. The more you harvest the more you need to move the brake bias forward because the harvesting increases the rear braking. This is why you need to fiddle more with the brake bias. The computer pretty much controls half of the rear braking and that is distance based and varies between corners. As the driver changes from from one harvesting mode to another (say from oilburn maximum attack to full on harvesting) the brake bias needs to be adjusted as well or you get too much or too little rear brake bias.

    There are couple of ways I can imagine renault can be interpreted to have a “pre-set lap distance-dependent brake bias adjustment system”. The most obvious one is that hey have used the ecu to adjust brake bias without driver control. This is very clearly illegal in the rules so it would not make any sense to break the rule in such obvious manner. I think it is more about the fine print and details and interpretation.

    Here is one way you could claim a system has preset. All the teams use rotary switches to control various bits of the engine. You turn the knob to increase or decrease a value. Maybe renault has a system where the knob has a position for each corner. Instead of +0.5% steps for changing the brake bias the knob has a setting for each corner or section of the track. So for turn 1 you put the knob into position 1, for turn 2 you put it into 2 and after you have completed the lap you go back to position 1.

    This is still human controlled but you could claim that the brake bias is also now preset because every corner has a value that comes from the computer memory despite being physically switched to by the driver. So you have a pre-set but technically the different positions on the knob just give you different values. If this is illegal pre-set then fia needs to clarify that one step on the brake bias know must be certain size. Because otherwise you could claim the values are pre-set. Turning the knob once does not always increase or decrease the value by the same amount. For example knob with 1,2,3,4,5 is not pre-set but 1,2,3,5,7 is because the steps change.

    Other more sinister variation of this is that the brake bias values are automatically altered by the computer for each engine mode. So that turn 1 knob position gives different brake bias depending what engine mode you are in. So when the driver switches the engine from harvesting to full-on oilburn attack the brake bias values are also altered. The driver still physically switches between them but the driver does not control to which value the brake bias goes to. This becomes somewhat confusing if the brake bias changes even when the driver changes engine modes using different knob. The rules don’t say the brake bias knob needs to be its own thing. Nor do rules outlaw one knob having multiple functions. So if the driver turns engine mode knob and the brake bias changes technically one could argue that it is still driver controlled by his direct physical input. But is it pre-set?

    1. Great explanation, @socksolid. Thanks!

    2. Yes, great explanation @socksolid. I was trying to mentally outline similar scenarios, but don’t know enough about how the hybrids and harvesting works, so endless thanks.

      The last option you outline sounds like the most likely one to be ruled as “cheating,” but I could also see that scenario resulting in an exhaust-blown diffuser or oil burn kind of ruling. That would result in the technology being effectively outlawed after a rules clarification, but no penalty is applied due to possible interpretation of the rules.

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