Cyril Abiteboul, Renault, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2019

Renault used brake bias system for “many years” before it was ruled illegal

2019 Mexican Grand Prix

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The automatic brake bias adjustment system which led to Renault’s disqualification from the Japanese Grand Prix was first used on its cars “many years” earlier.

“It’s not from this season. It’s from before,” the team’s managing director Cyril Abiteboul confirmed. RaceFans understands it may have first been used as early as 2015, when the team ran under its previous identity, Lotus.

The device has been part of its car for so long the team never expected its legality to be disputed, said Abiteboul. However following a protest by Racing Point at Suzuka, the Japanese Grand Prix stewards ruled it constituted an illegal driver aid.

“I agree that it’s a driver aid just like we said before,” said Abiteboul in response to a question from RaceFans in Mexico today. “A number of things are driver aids, so you need also to accept that there is an element of subjectivity.

“[But] it’s been used since so many years that we never thought that it could be put into question until what happened recently.”

Abiteboul said Racing Point did not follow the usual procedure when they discovered how Renault had created a system which adjusted the brake bias setting for the driver over the course of a lap. Racing Point had asked the FIA if they could use a device like Renault’s on their car and were advised it would breach the rules.

“The team that has made a request and received a negative response can ask the FIA to turn that into a [technical directive],” said Abiteboul. “Which they have not done.

“Or they can also go as far asking the FIA to look specifically into our team if there is speculation that we are doing the same system. Which is not what they’ve done.

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“Instead what they’ve done is to [use] the context of a race, a fan event, for us to be disqualified by the stewards. Which is a completely different process because we know the stewards do not obey directly to the FIA for obvious reasons of independence.”

While the stewards did not rule that the brake bias system contravened the technical regulations, they found the team had breached article 27.1 of the sporting regulations which states “the driver must drive the car alone and unaided”. Abiteboul is concerned that the two sets of regulations may create grey areas and contradictions.

“It was important for us to get across the message that a car is legal in accordance to the technical regulation,” he said. “But we also recognise that you need to comply not just with one set of regulation, but with all sets of regulation: Technical, sporting, tomorrow there will be the financial regulations.

“So as Formula 1 is evolving, regulations are getting more and more complex. Sometimes they can also even contradict themselves. That’s maybe one of these cases that we are sort of facing.

“But a sporting regulation is something that is much more subjective, in particular in the context of that article 27.1 on driver aids. We do not deny that it’s a form of a driver aid, not to make the car faster, but to reduce the workload of the drivers. So that was always going to be a bit of a subjective assessment as to how far it’s really aiding the driver and whether it’s acceptable or not.

“The stewards have judged that it’s not acceptable. So be it. Put that behind. For me it’s harsh on the team. It’s also even harsher on drivers because I think it’s a very poor recognition of what they are doing. It’s shading a negative light on what they are doing, the way that they are performing in the car.”

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Dieter Rencken
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35 comments on “Renault used brake bias system for “many years” before it was ruled illegal”

  1. Back to manual gearchange, unpowered steering and brakes and switches/rotary knobs to control both kinetic and thermal energy harvesting and usage thereof. Hmm, manual (lever and cable) DRS also, anything else ? Consistency is important.

    1. Yep. Those “beep”s that the drivers get when it’s time to change gears? They’re drivers aids.
      I can see Renault disabling their beeps for Mexico and protesting the field.

      1. A sound or light is not a driver aid. If you really want to go to that direction you’d need to remove tachometers altogether because they are driving aids. Real drivers should use their hearing to detect when they are the right rpms and then change gears!

        A driving aid is something that changes how the driver inputs are handled by the car. Antilock brakes adjust the brake pressure to prevent a tire lockup. No matter how hard the driver presses on the brake pedal the brakes don’t lock up. But a warning light on the dash which lights up when a tire locking up is detected is not a driving aid. Traction control changes how the engine outputs torque. If the system detects too much wheelspin it reduces the torque. Both of these systems change drivers inputs. Beeps in the ear don’t change anything about the driver inputs. Even the power steering doesn’t change driver inputs because it just makes the steering lighter. Of course the power steering could be used to make do things but f1 doesn’t allow electrical power steering. Only hydraulic is allowed for this reason (specifically no electric valves allowed iirc).

        It also makes no sense to put cable driven gear changes on a car to make the gear changes happen. It is a bit like suggesting using cables to connect your keyboard to your computer. All you would be doing is converting electrical signal (switch) at the gear stick to motion (cable) and then back to electric (potentiometer or another switch) at the gearbox side. Even if you could make it fully mechanical it would add weight and you’d need to make the cockpit a lot bigger to make room for the gear stick.

        1. How are engine mappings not driver aids then? They change how much driver throttle input relate to engine power delivered.

          1. This is exactly what I was going to say.. If Im not mistaken, aren’t these power units programmed to each track? The engine is set up with expected throttle position through each corner. Remember how a few years ago Alonso had his Honda engine cut out because he went through Les Combes flat?

            Also, isn’t the torque vectoring the PU employs a sort of aid?

            Im happy to be corrected on both fronts.

          2. @aliced and @jaymenon10 IIRC engine mapping is static and only define the power curve so the throttle distance is not linear to power delivered (i.e 50% throttle could mean 80% power). It is not driver aid in the way @socksolid describes since the relation of each throttle position to engine power is still and always be one to one unique value and it stay static during the whole race duration.

          3. Engine map is like the steering ratio or spring stiffness. Just because you can change something does not make it a driving aid. Generally in f1 a driving aid means something where a system actively alters driver’s inputs. Engine maps only change how the ecu handles the throttle and it is a static system like @sonicslv describes above. And all the acu code can be inspected by fia if they think you are doing something active there


            Also, isn’t the torque vectoring the PU employs a sort of aid?

            Power unit doesn’t do any kind of torque vectoring. The rear differential could but I don’t think torque vectoring is allowed in f1. From the rules:
            9.9.1  Any system or device the design of which is capable of transferring or diverting torque from a
            slower to a faster rotating wheel is not permitted.

            And that is the only bit in the rules about the differential.

            The diffs in f1 are limited slip diffs but hydraulically adjustable so you can adjust them using the knobs on the steering wheel. It is a passive system and the driver basically just adjusts its characteristics. I’d imagine the typical settings are corner turn-in, corner exit and maybe mid corner transitions and speed sensitivity (the higher the speed the less diff locking you want). I don’t know if they change diff settings for each corner and while the rules don’t allow any kind of reactive systems as per 9.9.1 I do think the rules allow distance based on pre-set diff settings for each corner.

        2. Well, that’s your definition of “aid” @socksolid. How about

          aid definition: The definition of aid means to provide help or to provide some item or advice that will make something easier or that will solve a problem.

          A “beep” is an aid. Pedantic, yes, but an aid none the less and so protestable. And now there’s a precedent there might be no choice but to throw out the entire field.

          1. It is a dangerous precedent that was set.
            Aid is such a subjective topic, as already proved in this thread.
            I tend to agree with Oh Danny Boy. One could make the argument that the engineer talking to the driver during the race constitutes aid. (Heck, they tried to regulate this a handful of seasons ago for exactly this reason – so the driver was driving the car un-aided).
            The fact that the car was technically legal is a huge part of it. If this spawns protest after protest of teams finding ways that other teams drivers are being aided – it’s going to turn into a stupid spiral really quickly…

          2. F1 uses their own rules to define what is a driving aid. Not the definition.

    2. driver aid. using his hand to change gears.

    3. @hohum The gearchange is manual already, though. Yes, it’s electronically-assisted, but still. Electronically-assisted or not, a transmission is technically manual as long as a driver has to do something himself to up and down-shift rather than just let an automatic system do it for him.

  2. Almost sounds like ´We´ve been cheating for ages, might just DQ us for several seasons back while we´re at it….´.

    1. Im more wondering what other legal/illegal “solutions” various teams have in their cars that have been deemed legal despite not being at all for a long time now.

      Im sure Ferrari and Mercs had a buttload of those in there, many so cleverly hidden even FIA can’t govern them..

    2. I interpreted that as more “we’ve had this for ages and the FIA has (and still does) ruler it doesn’t contravene technical regulations before. The FIA certainly would have been aware of it as they have a technical team that is privy to all things on all cars.

      What I interpreted is as “there hasn’t been an issue with this for years, why is it one now?”

      So much more to come in this story I think.

  3. Well, at least it is now crystal clear why they didn’t want to appeal.

    I wonder if we’ll have a rush of similar cases, with each team trying to play with some smart rule interpretation of other teams…

  4. The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. Neither stewards nor the FIA picking this up until a protest, despite every teams brake bias management being visible to literally everybody.

    Disgraceful. If they can’t pick up this level of regulation breaking, what confidence could there be about detecting what literally everybody can’t see?

    That lack of confidence in a fair competition within regulations doesn’t sit well heading in to an era of cost-capping.

  5. Isn’t this a confession? Is fia ignoring it? Shouldn’t fia react to this when a team openly admits that they have been using an illegal system for years and years?

  6. Can somebody please explain, or share a link, what exactly the driver aid was on the Renault.

    1. They have pre-set (computer controlled) brake bias adjustment for each corner of the lap, don’t need to make the adjustment manually on the wheel like everyone else. Can see it manually adjusting here in testing.

      1. I thought they said that the system was deemed NOT to be pre-set or lap-distant dependent. I too would be interested in knowing what it was then…

      2. @skipgamer A team-shakedown ahead of pre-season testing to be precise.

    2. @coldfly All the details are locked away in confidential documents the FIA won’t release. I haven’t yet seen a concrete explanation for what they were doing. The only thing the FIA confirmed was that Racing Points accusation that it was time/distance based was not true.

      1. Thanks @mark-visser99.
        I am wiser now knowing that it isn’t just me wondering, and speculating (see above).
        I’ll see if @dieterrencken can help us.

  7. This whole thing is so interesting to me.

    1) I’m not sure if past results can be protested once made official. I would think Cyril would know this before making his comments, but here to be educated.

    2) where is the outcry from the purists saying F1 is the most advanced series in the world? This tech, while not necessarily difficult to program, seems pretty ingenious to me.

    3) Drivers had to know about it, so why didn’t Magnussen bring it to Haas after leaving Renault? I understand why Sainz wouldn’t, because he’s powered by Renault, but is intriguing in itself. McLaren wouldn’t have to protest but could have developed it themselves.

    All very interesting!

    1. @johnnyrye

      1) The race result itself can’t be changed after the protest / appeal window is gone, but Renault can still be excluded from the championship. This is probably their biggest concern. The difference is if they excluded from the race (like in Japan), everyone position below them get adjusted and get the extra points. The exclusion from championship doesn’t change each race result and no extra point awarded, like in 2007 Spygate case.

      2) Not even ranked high up there in term of ingeniousity. Brabham fan car, McLaren 3rd pedal, F-Duct or Renault mass damper is much more ingenious solution and they all get banned. This is nothing new. Many of these breakthrough also designed to be used until the secret is out and get banned anyway. You can see how prepared the teams running a more conventional solution after getting banned that it seemed they always prepared for it.

      3) Like you said, some or rather all teams will want to incorporate it themselves. An advantage that only few rivals also have is better than no advantage for everyone. Racing Point also try to make the system work but probably because they’re more fund limited, seeking clarification first is preferable rather than developing working system first.

      1. @johnnyrye @sonicslv
        1. You can’t change past races by virtue of a innovative device considered illegal. Think, how winners’ board would change from beginning old ’50 and always will be subject to changes anytime.
        2.3. When someone bring updates that makes them dominate, in first instance other reacts and try do the same. If they fails, than protest and here come the ban. That’s it works.

    2. According to RP, they initially didn’t want to protest Renault, but rather they had issues with their own system and saw Renault using them. They went to the FIA and ask whether they could use it, they said no. And that was that.

  8. I wonder why RP didn’t protest in Italy, where Renaults points hauk was even bigger than in Japan….

    1. @khm Especially given it was after the British GP when they had got the no-answer for their request to use a similar system based on automaticity.

  9. If F1 is to be the summit of motorsport, what do you mean exactly? Technological development? Need to have the most skilled drivers? Because these two intentions are the opposite of each other. The machines of 20/30 years ago were much more strenuous and only real heroes could excel. I remember Senna getting out of the car with a bloody hand for the thousands of changes, Nigel fainting after the victory. Now at most Lewis and the others go down a little sweaty. Aside, what is the boundary between innovation and cheating? What the scope of technology development? To get easier cars to go faster and faster. The only difficult of drivers is they’ve to manoeuvre faster and faster too. In the end it is subjective and always will be. In general it is clever if the innovation concerning our favorite driver/team, is cheating if it concerns the opponent, to us fans. This is in the end.

  10. Can we please get a less click baity article headline?

    The brake bias system is not illegal! it’s the use of displaying the brake bias a ‘driver aid’ that they are getting ping’d for.

    It has been used for many years and will be used for many years to come. Absolutely misleading.

  11. I would argue that a rev-limiter and fuel flow limiters are driver aids as they are controlled by software rather than the driver and as far as I’m aware are mandated by the rules.
    Perhaps F1 has just shot itself in the foot by allowing teams to protests mandated items.

    1. Well Renault initial intention was to copy the system, not get a competitor banned. They went to the FIA and ask whether they can copy it, FIA said the system was illegal.

      After that, they kinda had to protest it because Renault was using a system deemed unfair/illegal by the FIA. Renault certainly didnt check and got a go ahead from FIA and see whether it was legal.

      I blame the FIA for not noticing this earlier. Seriously you should be looking at all public info and catch this type of thing earlier. I know they can’t catch all forms of these types of solutions but it shouldn’t take another team to point this out.

  12. I think some may be missing the fact that we have went from Charlie to Masi this year. Maybe Charlie thought it was legal and Masi didn’t.

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