Racing Point have lost a hearing into the legality of their Formula 1 cars’ brake ducts as the FIA stewards upheld a series of protests brought by rivals Renault.
Renault brought three identical protests against Racing Point in consecutive rounds: the Styrian, Hungarian and British grands prix. Racing Point scored 34 points over the course of these races. The team’s score therefore falls from 42 points to 27, and it drops from fifth place in the teams’ championship to sixth, promoting Renault.
The points deduction is being applied to the team’s constructors championship points totals only and does not affect its drivers’ scores in their championship. The International Sporting Code states points may only be deducted from teams or drivers’ totals separately “in exceptional circumstances”, and the stewards determined this case met that standard.
The points sanction, plus fines of €200,000 per car, have been applied in response to Renault’s original protest at the Austrian Grand Prix. Racing Point has also been reprimanded for continuing to use its disputed cars at the races in Hungary and Britain.
In their verdict the stewards pointed out that while the matter is technical in nature, Racing Point had been found in breach of the sporting regulations and not the technical regulations, which is why a disqualification had not been applied.
Since the original Renault protest, the stewards have taken 26 days to rule on a complicated case which is seen as having major ramifications for Formula 1. Racing Point’s ‘pink Mercedes’ has been the target of complaints from rival teams who claim its close similarity to last year’s Mercedes goes beyond what they regulations should allow.
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Renault’s protest alleged Racing Point infringed the sporting regulations by using brake ducts which had been designed by Mercedes. Last year brake ducts were ‘listed parts’, which teams could legally acquire from rivals. But this changed for 2020: Brake ducts were redefined as ‘non-listed parts’, meaning teams must design their own.
While Racing Point legitimately obtained Mercedes’ 2019 brake ducts last year, the case hinged on whether they could continue to use them in 2020. The matter was further complicated by the fact Racing Point used Mercedes’ front brake ducts on its car in 2019, but while it also acquired the rear brake duct designs at the time, these were never used on its RP19.
As a result of this, the stewards found Racing Point’s front brake ducts were compliant with the regulations, but not the rears.
They ruled the front brake ducts the team is using this year are derived from the designs used last year, when they were obtained from Mercedes. But as the team did not race Mercedes’ rear brake ducts last year, the same argument cannot be made for its rear brake ducts. The stewards ruled Racing Point’s rear brake ducts were principally designed by Mercedes, and therefore breach the regulation requiring teams to design their own.
However, as the rear brake duct designs are compliant with the technical regulations, the stewards noted it is not realistic to expect Racing Point to re-design them. They stated the sanction is intended to penalise the potential advantage Racing Point may have gained in its design process.
Racing Point can continue to use the rear brake ducts in future races, but will continue to receive reprimands if they do. “The use of the BDs in further competitions, however, remains an infringement of the SRs,” noted the stewards, “but a penalty of reprimand seems sufficient, because the actual infringement, namely the improper development of the BDs, is sufficiently covered with the penalty assessed at the Styrian Grand Prix.”
The stewards also noted Racing Point had been co-operative with the investigation and stated the team appeared not to have set out to deliberately breach the regulations.
The hearing of the stewards was chaired by Dr Hans-Gerd Ennser, the president of Germany’s motor sport association who has over 10 years’ experience as a Formula 1 steward. The four-person panel also included FIA steward Dennis Dean, Austrian national steward Walter Jobst and British nation steward Richard Norbury.
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