Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, Suzuka, 2019

Renault thrown out of Japanese Grand Prix result as FIA upholds Racing Point protest

2019 Japanese Grand Prix

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Both Renault cars have been disqualified from the Japanese Grand Prix following an FIA investigation into its braking system.

The team had been protested by rival Racing Point for running a “pre-set lap distance-dependent brake bias adjustment system” on its RS19s.

The matter was considering in a telephone hearing today involving Renault’s Alan Permane, Nick Chester and John McColgan, Racing Point’s Andy Stevenson, Oliver Rumsey and Charlie Blackwell, and the FIA’s Gilles Simon, Nikolas Tombazis and Olivier Hulot.

Racing Point, who indicated footage from the car had led them to suspect Renault may be breaking the rules, made a second submission to the FIA on October 16th.

Renault provided the FIA with its written defence on October 21st. In their response, they claimed Racing Point’s protest was based on “allegations from a former Renault employee who was not aware of all the pertinent details of Renault’s brake control system”.

The FIA technical department examined Renault’s software and checked the cars’ brake controllers, steering wheel and dashboards. It submitted a report on its findings to the stewards yesterday.

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After considering the information the stewards judged that while Renault’s braking system was “not pre-set, lap distance-dependent as alleged” by Racing Point, they ruled it nonetheless “constitutes a driving aid and is, therefore, not in compliance with Article 27.1 [of the] FIA Formula 1 Sporting Regulations”.

“The brake balance adjustment system in questions acts as a driver aid, by saving the driver from having to make a number of adjustments during a lap,” they added. “The stewards note that there is a clear distinction between this system and one which provides actual feedback control, which would be a substitute for driver skills or reflexes. Nevertheless, it is still an aid and, therefore, contravenes [the regulations].”

The stewards therefore decided to disqualify both drivers. Daniel Ricciardo originally finished sixth and Nico Hulkenberg came 10th.

Renault may appeal the decision and have been given extra time to do so if they choose. “Because of the unique circumstances and timing of the protest hearing, the stewards, under the power given to them by the FIA Judicial and Disciplinary Regulations Article 10.1.1, hereby extend the normal appeal period for this decision to expire at 10:00am Central Daylight Time, the local time in Mexico City, on Oct 24, 2019 where the majority of those impacted by the circumstances will be located.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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53 comments on “Renault thrown out of Japanese Grand Prix result as FIA upholds Racing Point protest”

  1. but how did force india figure that out in the First place?

    1. Maybe they watched the onboard camera?

    2. who knows who figured the trick out. We just know it was FI who lodged the appeal @mrboerns.

      What I am more curious about, is what they were actually doing when it apparently was not pre-set, lap distance-dependent

      1. Indeed @bascb, it clearly does have/make some pre-determined and/or semi-automatic setting changes, but it is interesting the FIA makes clear that there are limitations. I suppose Renault felt it wasn’t helpful enough to count as a driver aid, while the FIA thought it was, but sees the effort Renault went to to make it not too powerful, or something.

        1. Same question here, @bascb, @bosyber.
          Maybe a system where the driver only has to ‘push a button’ and based on the position on track the car decides the brake balance seeing to move to.
          This would still be driver managed but a lot simpler, faster, and less error prone.
          Just guessing though

          1. I’m not an expert on the rules, but if that is allowed then couldn’t you in theory design a fully automated car that just ‘asks’ the driver for confirmation continuously (and see races with a bunch of drivers furiously spam-mashing a button on the steering wheel from start to finish… would be amusing (once)) ?

    3. Ex-Renault staff member according to motorsport.com .

      1. Remember 2007? If so then Racing Point should be completely disqualified from entire season for espionage.

        1. @regs Well back then also a McLaren mechanic went to Renault and happened to have the idea for McLaren’s J-damper “in his head”. Renault then suddenly came up with their own new version of a tuned mass damper after their own version had gotten banned a year earlier.

          McLaren argued that the “computer disk” was bought along by the mechanic brought along had something to do with the transfer of the plans. But I guess they didn’t have evidence.

          Either way, it was stated that employees cannot be stopped from sharing knowledge they have in their head. So that would be fine, but copying a complete blueprint of another teams car design is not ok.

    4. @mrboerns on the FIA report they say that it was visible on the dashboard the BB values changing without driver interference

      it also mentions (albeit it comes from Renault) that a former employee might have given some clues to RP on

    5. Just tras: RP protest was based on “allegations from a former Renault employee who was not aware of all the pertinent details of Renault’s brake control system”.

    6. It’s in the article. Renault states that a former worker shared info. There had to be a snitch just as I anticipated. Looking at onboards is a weak excuse since you can’t see any buttons begind tge steering wheel. To launch the protest RP had to have some degree of certainty.
      Anyway I’m sure this dsq is bs. Renault must force some input to the driver, like pressing a confirm button.

      1. @peartree the article isn’t complete

        They did look at onboard footage, and video was presented as evidence

        You can look it up on the official F1 statement

        (Never understood why pages like this don’t share those documents)

  2. It may have been a advantage for Renault, but that never showed in its performance
    Lots of mutterings about Ferrari allowing oil to be burned in their engines, giving extra power (allegedly)…should these come to fruition and be proven, will similar penalties be used to punish them???

    1. There won’t be any penalties unless at least one of these cowardly snipers grows a pair and lodges an official protest.

    2. How can they punish Ferrari? 90% of non-regular followers of F1 are Ferrari fans. It’ll completely spoil the name of F1. So, even if they find something illegal by Ferrari, they will try their best to hide it from the other teams.

    3. @jop452 Because there’s a difference between throwing out accusation without proof and one where you confident you’ve sufficient proof. If any other team figured out how Ferrari do it, you can bet they’ll immediately report it. In this case, RP got enough knowledge on how Renault system works from ex-Renault employee and they do submit 12 page dossier accompanying the allegation.

    4. They’ve been scrutinised a couple of times since 2018, and have been found not guilty. But I’m sure you have some non-conspiracy theory, reliable evidence to present to the FIA that they somehow aren’t aware of.

      1. @ho3n3r there is at least one Ferrari engine theory doing the rounds in the paddock. Dieter Rencken in his paddock diary: Russia day 4 post wrote this:
        “A contact suggests the secret to Ferrari’s sudden performance turnaround – particularly on the engine side – is down to a cunning trick. He believes Ferrari is running a pressurised oil-to-air intercooler, enabling oil mist to ‘leak’ into the combustion chamber during forced induction.“
        This would also possibly explain the messages from the pit wall to the drivers reminding them to “press oil button”. I can’t think of a reason why any car oil system would need a driver to have manual control of it (but I’d love to know).

  3. Gavin Campbell
    23rd October 2019, 20:50

    Question – does this promote everyone else? IE does the 11th place finisher now finish 9th? (As two Renaults were excluded) Or do they just loose the points and the result is as it stands.

    I assume they used on board/GPS simulations. If everyone else moves brake balance between corner 1 and 2 but Renault don’t they must of guessed they were up to something. If it’s not lap distance dependant could it be that after a braking event it reverts back to say a neutral or pre defined balance??

    1. Everybody moves up points wise – they are redistributed. Also McLaren-Renault have a greater buffer over Renault now as the team have lost points too.

  4. Why is this only thrown out of one session? Has it been proven it was new? Are there limits on protest times?

    1. I would say, it’s the simplest/minimal thing to do @anonymouscoward (and with quite a lot of precedence in previous rulings), and presumes Renault not uses it from now on.

    2. If they used it in others, my guess is they will investigate those cases individually.

      Because only Japanese GP is a confirmed case so far, they will only hand the penalty for that. They can add it for others as needed.

      1. @Yaru

        It’s too late to lodge a complaint for any prior session, so those results will stand.

    3. They’ve only been proven to use it for this specific race. It will be impossible to prove they’ve used it before (as likely as it is that they’ve been using it all year, maybe even longer), thus only the single race disqualification.

  5. Doubt it was as much of an advantage as they say considering Hulk only finished 10th

    1. But…. They said it wasn’t much of an advantage, but it’s still considered a driving aid… Did you even read the article?

    2. That’s like a thief complaining about the poor resale value of your personal belongings.

    3. @carlosmedrano I take that back. Sorry for the mix-up.

  6. What’s Vettel’s handbrake if not a driver aid in the same context? I understand that this sort of system is more aligned with a traction control sort of aid, but still they’re in a pretty grey section of the regulations. Good to see Renault are still trying to push the limits. I bet the ex-Renault staff member will have a hard time finding work after Racing Point…

    1. The driver can adjust brake bias all he wants, manually, but you are not allowed to have it done automatically. Presumably that is what Renault’s system did.

      Vettel’s handbrake is operated manually so no cheating, in that context at least.

  7. Nice cover for your C-suite to pull the plug on the team again.

    What a bunch of losers. Embarrassing to the core.

  8. Fair enough. You can’t adjust the brake balance automatically, that should be up to the driver. Sad for Ric and Hulk, but absolutely nothing to argue with here.

  9. Interesting that they were found to be not guilty of the things that Racing Point had protested about, but were found in contravention of the rules anyway.

    Not sure we’ve heard the end of this.

    Renault’s year just keeps getting worse.

  10. So is this a new system for Renault or have they been at it all year? If so, could they be thrown out of earlier races?

  11. If this gets you disqualified from one race I wonder what the penalty is if a team is found to have added oil to the pre-mix to boost power.

    1. Who cares! no-one is doing this.

  12. Jose Lopes da Silva
    23rd October 2019, 22:48

    And Stroll gets more 2 points. Unbelievable.

    1. Magnus Rubensson (@)
      24th October 2019, 13:17

      Yes, very convenient.
      Also, since innovation is stifled in F1, why not just turn it into a spec series and be done with it?

  13. I did speculate earlier what renault could have done:
    https://www.racefans.net/2019/10/13/renaults-finishing-positions-remain-provisional-after-racing-point-protest/#comment-4315670

    Here is a link to the fia documents which have slightly more info:
    https://www.fia.com/news/decisions-protest-cars-3-and-27-japanese-grand-prix

    If renault uses a button to change the brake bias then I’d imagine pressing the button sets the brake bias to preset value every time you press it. Say during a lap you press it first after corner 4, then other time after corner 10 and then hold it on main straight to reset it and set it back to default. This is not illegal and I think merc has been using a system that has preset brake bias values like this for years and years. What racing point actually claims is that the brake bias is changing on the steering wheel display without driver not actually doing anything at that time to physically change it. Which could be pre-set and distance based.

    However I’d imagine that is perfectly possible if for example renault has set the system so that driver presses the button and the system then changes the brake bias later either based on time delay or reactively based on telemetry. I don’t know if gps tracking of the car position on track counts as “distance based” setting but the most obvious thing is to use that to trigger the bb change. You can also use driver inputs to set the brake bias to change later based on sensory data. For example if you want to change brake bias between the entry and exit corners in the spa chicane. So you press a button to initiate the change to occur little later so the driver initiates it but the computer changes it later when it detects that certain triggers have been fulfilled based on telemetry (as in change of direction of the car in the middle of the corner for example). As nothing happens instantly and there are small delays even with electronics you could simply argue that the length of the delay doesn’t matter because there is always a delay and the rules don’t say anything about how quickly the brake bias need to change after driver physically presses a button for example. Is 50 milliseconds enough? One second, 5 seconds?

    However this timing delay system does not alone fit perfectly with what the fia stewards say in the report. The system I imagined does not reduce the times the driver has to physically change the brake bias by pressing a button. Fia says on the report that:
    “saving the driver from having to make a number of adjustments during a lap”
    So somehow the system can execute multiple brake bias adjustments with one press of a button without being a pre-set system. One way I can adjust this is by carefully adjusting the delays. Say you press a button to move from 55 to 53. But what if the system has controlled delays that means it takes 7 seconds to move from 55 to 54 and then it moves from 54 to 53 in 2 seconds? You could setup that so that it is effectively one very long change with no pauses in the middle. And on top of that you could trigger the changes based on driver inputs. The system essentially times the brake bias adjustments but because it moves only in one direction it is not against the rules where the rules require driver input. If the system went from 55 to 53 and then to 56 then the driver is not in control. But a slow change from 55 to 54 to 52 is fine. This kind of system would make it fit with the fia description which says the system reduces the amount of times driver needs to press the button without being pre-set as you can chain brake bias adjustments with this for string of corners.

    The system is not illegal from technical point of view but can be interpreted to be a driving aid if the delay is controlled by the computer. Just like you could claim traction control just adjusts the delay between the throttle position and ecu torque demand. Technically not illegal either but clearly a driving aid as it actively changes driver inputs. In the end though it is still pure speculation on my part as no detailed info about the system has been released.

    As for why did fia not penalize renault for any other races where they have used this device. I think fia just wants to keep renault on board 2021 onwards and by giving them minimal penalty like this. This allows renault to save face while also gives the impression that fia did something.

  14. Oops!)

    As much as I want this story to end here, it will definitely drag for much longer – Renault will surely protest.

  15. This is how it worked:

    The system had a set of pre defined Brake Bias settings for each track. But the driver still had to press a button to switch to the next setting. That is why Renault will appeal the decision, they believe the driver is activating the changes although the settings are pre set.

    For example, let’s say 5 sets for Suzuka.

    Main straight into turn 1 (setting 1)
    – driver presses a single button before Turn2 and the car automatically switches to Setting 2
    – driver presses the same button and “tells” the car he is coming up to the next corner(T3) which triggers the next setting (Setting3)
    – after the Esses, driver presses the button again before the hill and triggers the next setting, now back to Setting 1. And so on.

    The brake bis system doesn’t know where the car is. But it knows a patern of settings it should follow when the “trigger” is pulled

    1. Now, where is that switch?
      Is it linked to the brake pedal? is it behind the steering wheel?

    2. Exactly why the appeal will be thrown out.

      Example: Let’s say the brake bias adjustment is 0.2% per adjustment. Racing Point use 54.0% for Degner 2, and 55.0% for the hairpin. That means they need to make 5 adjustments.

      Meanwhile, Ricky Bobby in the Renault can push the button once, and he has the same amount of adjustment as the Racing Point does in 5 changes.

      It seems quite arbitrary from a viewer’s perspective, but as a driver, the extra time you have to use to do it fully manually (not really, but it’s all relative), could be used to think about/do other things, i.e. engine mode adjustment. Yes, it’s a small amount per corner, but over a race distance it is quite a lot of time. And F1 is not exactly known for its generous margins – every bit counts.

      1. Used to play F1 2013 on a wheel. Full distance races. Adjusting only fuel mixture and bb every corner was pain enough… Sometimes an H pattern shifter and old cars actually felt easier to go round all those laps

      2. @ho3n3r, great example. I was trying to figure out what was meant when the FIA document says “saving the driver from having to make a number of adjustments.”

  16. So the MGU-K which “learns” the circuit and adjust how much braking it does with the generator as opposed to the actual brakes at each corner, is OK? If that isn’t driver aid, don’t know what is.
    Renault should turn theirs off at Mexico and protest the rest of the field.

  17. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    24th October 2019, 9:32

    Leclerc at first gets no further investigation for the incident on the first lap. Verstappen’s angry message finds “new evidence”. That makes it worth investigating over an hour later. Leclerc gets given a penalty that drops him from 6th to 7th. Over a week later, Leclerc gets given a reward of getting his 6th position and points back ;)

    What a mess!!

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