Otmar Szafnauer, Racing Point, Sochi Autodrom, 2019

Racing Point “didn’t want to protest Renault”

2019 Mexican Grand Prix

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Racing Point say they discovered Renault was running an illegal brake bias management system after they asked the FIA if they could run a similar device.

Both Renaults were disqualified from the last race in Japan after Racing Point successfully protested the team’s cars.

Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer told Sky his team discovered Renault’s system while researching how they could improve their own brake bias controller. “It really came about at Silverstone where we had a problem with our own brake bias system,” he said.

“The system failed. We had a mechanical failure on the switch. It was after a Safety Car: Sergio went completely forward on brake bias to keep his front tyres warm, then couldn’t go back because the switch failed. Then he ended up running into [Nico] Hulkenberg.

“So we started looking at what we can do to make that more robust. And then we noticed that Renault especially had an automatic system which we wanted to do, really.

“We didn’t want to protest Renault, we just wanted to do the same. So we wrote to the FIA and they categorically said that we can’t do that. So we were hoping that through the protest the FIA would say ‘yes, you too can do it’. But it didn’t work out that way.”

Renault has confirmed it will not appeal the stewards’ decision from Japan. However it continues to insist the system itself was legal.

In response to footage showing the automatic brake bias system in operation, the team said: “this video shows a legal system, known by and now confirmed by the FIA to be compliant with the technical regulations. As we had nothing to hide regarding this innovative system, we hid nothing.”

However the stewards ruled the device functioned as an illegal driver aid.

“There’s a line of what is driver aid and what isn’t,” said Szafnauer. “With having to change brake bias manually… sometimes it’s easy to do but sometimes if you’ve got three or four things to do before a corner you may not get to that bit. And then having it happen automatically definitely helps the driver.”

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Keith Collantine
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8 comments on “Racing Point “didn’t want to protest Renault””

  1. So Renault had this system for quite a long time… no wonder they don’t want to appeal and risk being kicked out of other races as well.

    I don’t say they are “cheaters”, they have successfully “exploited” the existing regulation – kudos to them, but they definitely don’t wish to push luck any further.

  2. The onboard visor-cam footage from Renault’s shakedown ahead of pre-season testing indeed illustrates the BB-adjustment system based on automaticity in full action. Back in February, I never thought this particular video could come back to haunt the team, LOL. I like the outlook of the Renault steering wheel-display. It’s one of my top favorites along with Leclerc’s, which is the one I like the most. The only thing I dislike about the Renault-display is how the Brake Balance-figure is displayed there. I prefer the BB-figure form used more universally, i.e., the one that Mercedes, for example, applies to indicate the selected BB-figure, which is in the way of 54.0, 54.5, 57.0, etc. Mclaren has an extra zero added. The form +0.0, +0.5, +1.0, -2.0, etc., is a bit less straightforward to read into, but I guess it’s a bit like the degrees Celcius/Fahrenheit, or Imperial vs., Metric system, etc., cases. I’ve managed to convert one of the figures appearing in the video to a (for me at least) more understandable form, though, and I’m happy about that. I wish iRacing, Assetto Corsa, and the officially licensed CM F1-games would give the option for an automatic BB-adjustment, though, as then I’d have to worry less about that part while on track.

  3. So we wrote to the FIA and they categorically said that we can’t do that.

    In a way that’s a bit sad because this technology might be useful. I guess it’s the reason why F1 cars still require the driver to tell the gearbox when to change gear instead of having it deciding when to do it itself.

    …but sometimes if you’ve got three or four things to do before a corner you may not get to that bit.

    Unfortunately the FIA have effectively quashed any innovation in this area. Even if a team comes up with a way of reducing those 4 essential control adjustments before a corner down to one … why would you bother?

    1. yes, that is exactly what this is about. The same goes for things like traction control, ride height control etc. All of them would make it easier to go fast. But then, that would take away form the amazing skillset needed to drive these cars.

      1. I think the reduced required skill is less of a concern than costs. Extra drive-aids cost money. And only wealthy teams would be able to afford them, thus further spreading the gap between the top three/four teams and the rest.

        I know cost caps are unpopular around here, but I’d love it if they just set a budget and said “anything goes, as long as it meets these safety requirements.” TC, active suspension, moveable wings, auto-adjusting brake balance, auto-gearboxes, etc. If you can do it in the budget, it’s legal. Realistically the teams would probably have to pick just a combination of those above, so we could see cars with TC and automatic gearboxes against teams with paddles, moveable wings, and active-suspension and you have to stick with a package all year. So some cars would invariably be better on some circuits than others. It would be awesome to see what each team picked each year, and picking a favorite for each circuit would be difficult since the individual packages could be tuned for that circuit. This would be much better than knowing by May who is going to fight for the WCC/WDC.

        1. Magnus Rubensson (@)
          25th October 2019, 21:18

          +1 vote for your “set budget” system.

        2. I have dreamed of rules that allow teams operating under a budget cap to have more freedom than those that don’t. Optimally it would be some form of sliding scale so that if you can run a team on a really low budget then basically anything goes as per something like your description. If you keep Mercedes/Ferrari sized budgets you would be very limited, almost down to a spec-series car. That would be interesting; super-hightech limited machines vs unlimited scrap-yard inventions.

          1. Too bad the rule makers don’t have the imagination to come up with something like this which would bring more variety to the cars being raced. If this could even extend to car shapes and aero, it would be splendid though that might affect the quality of racing. But you could see different-looking cars racing against each other.

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