Sergio Perez, Racing Point, Red Bull Ring, 2020

FIA vows to ban Racing Point-style copying in 2021

2020 70th Anniversary Grand Prix

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The FIA says it will prevent teams from producing whole copies of rivals’ cars in the manner Racing Point has this year.

Racing Point has been given a 15-point deduction and £360,000 fine after the FIA supported a protest by Renault which claimed the team had broken the sporting regulations by duplicating Mercedes’ brake ducts.

While the claim concerning that specific area of the car was largely upheld by the stewards, the FIA wishes to go further in encouraging teams to produce designs which are substantially their own, instead of copying those of rivals.

“Renault amongst others have expressed quite a lot of concern about what technique Racing Point have used to copy Mercedes to a large extent,” said the FIA’s head of single-seater matters Nikolas Tombazis.

“We, the FIA and Formula 1 have been spending quite a lot of time discussing this topic and we think it is important to explain a few concepts and what we’re planning to do about it.

“First of all, copying has been taking place in Formula 1 for a long time. People take photos and and sometimes reverse-engineer them and make similar concepts. In some areas, even identical concepts or closely identical at other teams. We do not think that this can stop in the future completely.

“But what we do think is that Racing Point took this to another level. They clearly decided to apply this philosophy for the whole car by doing what I would call a paradigm shift. They actually used a disruption in the process that has been the norm of designing a Formula 1 car in the last 40 years. So one should not penalise them for that because they were original in deciding to follow this approach.

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“However, we do not think this is what Formula 1 should become. We do not want next year to have eight or 10 copies of Mercedes on the grid, where the main skill becomes how you do this process. We don’t want this to become the norm of Formula 1.”

Esteban Ocon, Renault, Silverstone, 2020
Analysis: How Renault’s Racing Point protest led the FIA to revise its rules on ‘clone cars’
New regulations are being drafted for the 2021 F1 season which will prevent this practice, said Tombazis.

“We do plan within the very short notice to introduce some amendments to the 2021 sporting regulations that will prevent this becoming the norm. It will prevent teams from using extensive parts of photos to copy whole portions of other cars in the way that Racing Point has done.

“We will still accept individual components to be copied in local areas. But we don’t want the whole car to be to be fundamentally a copy of another car.”

The FIA intends to “provide guidance about that as well as their ruling, the wording itself, over the next weeks”, Tombazis added. “We want to give a very strong message to teams that they should not be starting doing that now for next year’s car, because that will simply not be allowed.”

However he conceded teams cannot ‘unlearn’ knowledge they already have about rivals’ cars. “It will be, of course, accepted that teams, whatever they have now in the 2020 cars, they are not supposed to delete it or start afresh because that’s never how it works.”

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29 comments on “FIA vows to ban Racing Point-style copying in 2021”

  1. What a mess!

    How exactly do they enforce this?

    1. Just the way the enforce anything: by simply saying this is illegal. The practice has been pretty standard, and successful, for 70 years. It’s the FIA, they can basically do as they please.

    2. Almost impossible to enforce, but I guess their plan is to enforce a few penalties over the next few seasons and hope that this creates some kind of ‘normality and acceptance’ that is understood. I see a lot of confusion and protests in the meantime.

      1. @bernasaurus
        It’s extremely to enforce: The FIA can do as they please.
        They have been doing it for 116 years without any trouble, and they will be doing it for as long as they exist.
        Perhaps Keith or Dieter are better informed, but I can’t remember any decision by the FIA in F1 ever being overturned.

        1. Perhaps Keith or Dieter are better informed, but I can’t remember any decision by the FIA in F1 ever being overturned.

          Flavio Briatore life ban from the sport was overturned by a civil court.

          1. He is still banned from F1

          2. He definitely is not banned, he’s been allowed to work in F1 since 2013 and in other Fia series since 2011


          3. @tifosi1989
            True, forgot about that one, but if that’s the only one it basically proves my point because he might have won, he’s still persona non grata because no team wants him in the garage anymore and if he comes back he’ll face the full wrath of the FIA.

    3. With frequent smaller punishments like this if needed. The rules should be less specific where they are already hard to police (and where they can ensure car’s don’t look the same), and more specific there where it’s about clarifying their spirit and itemized consequences of disobeying them.

      For example if there is a point in rules that allows active suspension that’s quite broad, but at least very open to innovation, and easy to police. Or allowing modifying toe setting or some other suspension or wheel related element on the fly would be open to innovation and easier to police. But if a point of rule states these can be only done manually via a switch on the steering wheel (just like the one for brake balance), then they could specify the punishment of altering the setting via some automated device, like:
      disqualification from the weekend where it had been used, and 500k$ of fine per weekend.
      And of course punishments for repeated or long term disobedience should be itemized too.

      And as it is about work related success of teams with a high amount of money involved it would be hard to enforce without making court cases out of the most severe incidents. And the involvement of millions around F1 there can be aggravating or qualifying circumstances. It’s not about dimes, it’s about success of teams and sponsors with yearly operationaly costs aound 150M$ even after the enforcing of the planned cost cap. So imo the promise of some nice prison years instead of being a manager or engineer could fix this segment of the world a bit faster and more effectively.
      Although it’s very debatable in which country would these lawsuits be held because of the diverse nationality of teams and their employees. Ok, many teams are based in Britain, but that not means these would be trialed exclusively there.

      Heritage and tradition is a nice thing, but if some competitor offers a better or more honest package, then that competitor often takes businesses over. So the decision and responsibility towards themselves and their property is owned by F1 as they own a huge wealth and therefore a lot of potential to move towards the right way. For example I could enjoy watching these guys driving Formula Juniors, electric cars on tracks suited to those, and I can imagine many different options too, despite of I like current F1 too.

  2. *understood over time. But for now, I think every team is going to be just reactionary, do what you can, and protest as many as you can.

  3. Come on,

    this is nothing new, look at the Lotus 79 which first raced in 1978 , and then look at he Tyrell 009 that team Tyrell raced in 1979.

    people copy succesfull designs, sometimes they copy succesfull concepts , I see no issue with that

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      7th August 2020, 12:40

      There’s a difference between looking at a successful design element like a front wing and copying it and being given technical drawings for an internal part and copying them exactly. It’s like someone seeing the success of Coca-Cola and deciding to make their own cola drink that tastes similar vs someone obtaining the exact recipe and literally selling Coke with a different label on it.

      1. @petebaldwin Interesting analogy with Coke that ties in with my general thinking on this. In 2006 a Coke higher up insider woman employee decided to sell trade secrets to Pepsi, with the help of a couple of folks with a history of fraud. Upon sending a letter to a higher up at Pepsi that she had Coke secrets and would sell them, Pepsi immediately contacted Coke to tell them they had a ‘leaker’ in their company, and hence a sting was set up involving the FBI, and the Coke woman and her accomplices were subsequently busted. Pepsi did not want to ‘win’ that way and said competition can be fierce, but it should be fair and legal as well.

        In F1 I think by far for the most part teams want to do their own thing, in spite of the copying of specific ideas that have been going on for decades through visual means and not actual insider documentation.

        1. Nice analogy about Coke. I didn’t know that one. Thanks.

        2. Nice Analogy, and indeed a very strong element of how policing will probably end up being done here @robbie.

          I think the whole affair might have consequences for Wolf – we all know Mercedes was very much less than impressed by the whole Spygate affair and what it meant for their brand (apart from costing them a significant chunk of that 100 million fine), I doubt they will like being implicated as a “co conspiritor” to breaking the sporting rules.

          In the end, the fear of being caught red handed is probably the best deterrent for large companies who are in the sport to boost their image. On the other hand, the clear reward in points and more PR from having a better car have always been a huge factor, otherwise things like Singapore 2008 would not have happened.

      2. Great analogy.

      3. But it sounds like they were given the blueprints last year when it wasn’t a listed part, so fully legal practice then.
        However only now that it is a listed part, they actually went and chose to use the bought in IP.
        Have they been proven to copy anything other than the rear break ducts? Front are same as hey used last year, so grey area.

  4. *facepalm*

    You will do everything to make F1 another stock racing series.

  5. So one should not penalise them for that because they were original in deciding to follow this approach.

    Yet you penalize Racing Point.
    …. and let them.

  6. I don’t think other teams were actually going to follow suit and copy extensively just because RP has. So I get that they (FIA) have to put some things in writing now to cover off extensive copying, but I doubt teams are going to test these regs much beyond the normal type of copying of specific ideas that has been going on for decades.

    1. The simple fact that the FIA has stated this is not intended and that they are formulating a bit of “this is the line” here, already means it is less likely to happen as blatantly and to the sheer extent RP did this IMO @robbie.

  7. There’s probably only Racing Point, Haas and Alphatauri that would probably take advantage of wholesale copy of their parent car, as in the Mercedes, Ferrari & Red Bull – the others probably wouldn’t. But even just those three would be too many. I’m not certain how it’d be effectively enforced but I agree that a team can’t be a ‘constructor’ if the majority of its car is built from someone else’s – the grid should not be a copypaste to that level.

    I mean there’s a difference between using photos to replicate an innovation and having access to the CAD blueprints to duplicate a car nearly identically. They just took the copying to the maximum it could, but that ‘loophole’ that lets you do that should be closed.

  8. Reminds me of TAS vs Uefa vs City. Seidl gave me all the vindication I needed. He said that RP’s story of copying through photos was put to bed and highlighted what I have been saying all along, you can’t copy just from photos and end up with “(…)a race winning…, podium running car”. Seidl also suggested what I’ve been saying all the paddock knows but they won’t tell, and that is they know RP is running Mercedes parts. Caught on a technicality and now the FIA tries to save face.

    1. Still Rp didn’t finish in the top 3 yet bacuase it’s not a mercedes copy under the paint. RP is just a kitcar of Mercedes it looks like it but it doesn’t goes the same.

  9. The upshot of this is I doubt Vettel will now sign for them.

    1. Why? The knowledge can’t unlearned, and it’s the only port in a storm for him.

  10. Off topic, does anyone know what those bulbous pieces are for either side of the airbox that appear (mostly) in testing?

  11. A mind experiment for everyone to consider.
    IMO, there is always an optimum solution to a problem, (in this case, building an F1 car).
    So, for stake of argument lets say Mercedes have come up with that optimum solution.
    The FIA are bascially saying that they (Mercedes) will have an unassailable lead. as no other team will be permitted to copy their optimum solution and be able to beat them. Talk about unintended consequences!

  12. I’m confused by quite tame language used in all of this.
    So now we know that RP copied the uncopyable component, i.e. they got their hands on actual Merc’s design files. But yet we keep talking about “copying by photo” of the rest of the car.
    This is laughable.

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