Otmar Szafnauer, Racing Point, Silverstone, 2020

Szafnauer ‘surprised how little Brown knows about F1’

2020 70th Anniversary Grand Prix

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Racing Point CEO Otmar Szafnauer has dismissed criticism of his team by McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown after it was penalised by the FIA stewards for breaking the sporting regulations.

Brown said the verdict against Racing Point showed the team’s claim it had only used photographs to copy elements of Mercedes design was “BS”.

“To Zak Brown it is BS because he’s not an engineer,” said Szafnauer. “He’s got no idea what he’s talking about. Zero.

“I’m surprised at how little he knows about the rules of Formula 1. It seem to me he knows more about historic racing than he does about Formula 1.”

Racing Point was deemed to have broken the rules by using a rear brake duct it obtained from Mercedes in 2019 as the basis of its 2020 brake duct design. Teams were allowed to obtain brake ducts from rivals last year, but must design their own this year.

Szafnauer said he was frustrated that the team had fallen foul of this interpretation of the rules.

“The brake duct moved from a ‘non-listed part’ to a ‘listed part’,” he said. “We didn’t have a relationship with another team, as Haas [with Ferrari] and Toro Rosso [now AlphaTauri, with Red Bull] do. They were running others’ brake duct designs forever.

“Haas, I don’t think has ever run a brake duct design that wasn’t Ferrari’s. They never designed their own. We’ve always designed our own.

“We started the process of getting some data legally from Mercedes on brake ducts in 2018 before they were even contemplating moving them from non-listed to listed. And now we’re in breach of a sporting regulation process that says because we started with some data that we legally obtained from Mercedes, we’re in breach? It’s just ridiculous. That is the frustration.

“You look at people like Haas and Toro Rosso who forever have been getting not just data but brake ducts and designs and everything, and they’re all OK, but we’re not? That’s a frustration.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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43 comments on “Szafnauer ‘surprised how little Brown knows about F1’”

  1. The two Americans square off!

  2. He’s right though: if you look at Brown’s comments, he understands the regulations less than Racefans readers

    1. @paeschli He can’t be that ignorant, surely? Most of the people on here “think” they know the rules but they really don’t.

    2. yes, it seemed that Zak didn’t really understand the ruling in which FIA never said that RP breached the technical regulation, only the sporting one. Which is like morally wrong, but not technically illegal or grounds for a disqualification.

      Also, Zak says they couldn’t have made those parts from photos only, but the case on point here is the break ducts (don’t know about the rest of the car, but it’s not the current issue) which were actually provided by Mercedes themselves. So the one actually talking BS specifically to this investigation is Zak.

      1. The point Zak made was a reaction to the endless litany of RP representatives, including Szafnauer claiming that the team “had copied parts by using extensive photo sets”. That was clearly shown up as BS, since they actually also used CAD data (and access to the physical parts) for several components that you could not copy just using photos @paeschli, @gechichan.

        Off course Szafnauer does have a solid point about HAAS and Alfa Romeo using Ferrari designs forever (and Alpha Tauri using RB stuff), and probably using much the same design, or “based on what they know, including parts and CAD data” almost the same way RP used these Mercedes designs.
        This migh also be the reason why the stewards decided for a relatively lenient punishment, including not really penalizing the use of these parts for the whole season. Otherwise it might lead to the conclusion that actually all those other teams using BDs clearly based on Ferrari/RBR designs would probably also be an issue. Which would be a huge mess.

      2. (Breaking the sporting regulations) is like morally wrong, but not technically illegal or grounds for a disqualification.

        I disagree, breaking the sporting regulation is much more than morally wrong. A false start is more than ‘morally wrong’, using more than 110kg of fuel is more than ‘morally wrong’, shortcutting the track is more than ‘morally wrong’.

    3. @paeschli maybe but Seidl said exactly the same thing, live on air, during the actual fp, on sky sports. Brown is not an engineer but his team told him that.

      1. Because Otmar is just deflecting.

        RPs original story was that it was (the whole car) all designed from photos. It was raised that the rear brake ducts in particular looked especially identical to just be from photos, FIA agreed, investigated and decided they were too close to the originals to have been designed from photos. At which point the story changes to oh yeah but we got those cad files before it was illegal to have them, which is fine. But they designed the ducts using that data after it was illegal to do so. I understand Otmars frustration because he is right Haas & AT did not design their ducts either but they also did break the regulations knowingly and lied about it to try to cover it up.

        I actually think the penalty is appropriate, more than just a slap on the wrist but not destroying the whole year in acknowledgement that other teams did the same thing before it was illegal.

  3. This is getting interesting.

  4. Zak is a marketing guy. While F1 might be the most technical racing platform, it’s the marketing mojo that makes those wheel thingies go round and round.

  5. He may say that of Brown, and of course it is rhetoric, but at the same time Szafnauer was the one who said they had no worries as they had 100% complied with the regs re not just the brake ducts but everything wrt their copy car. I’m not saying Brown knows it all, but Szafnauer sure doesn’t either.

    1. He is actually right. The FIA has messed up with this judgment. And in hindsight it is the most stupid of decisions. If RP went to court, they will win the case.
      The FIA shouldn’t try to appease Renault.
      If you buy 2 items at the same time from the same source, one can’t suddenly become illegal at a later date when they are essentially the same item.

      1. I’m going to trust that the stewards know what they are talking about as they were the ones investigating. Turns out something can suddenly become illegal based on a rule change. Eg. If a government wanted to outlaw a certain type of firearm, just because you bought one when they were legal does not mean you’re good to go with one of those in your collection. You now own an illegal firearm. Of course with this issue it is much more complex than the purchase of an item. It goes to design and the processes of said design and production. The brake ducts in their dimensions and makeup etc are legal physically which is seemingly why they can keep them. They’re illegal in how they came up with their design, if I’m not mistaken.

      2. @clueless
        when something goes illegal, everyone who has that something automatically in possession of illegal stuff! people cant be this simpleton…

        and when a someone who makes a super soaker and gives this design to someone do whatever they want, that is completely legal, as long as that someone explicitly said you cant copy it… if the someone gave permission to clone the said soaker, no court in the world will sue you for copyright infringement unless designer asks for it… and laws dont apply backwards! if something was not a criminal act when you did the act, you cant be sued for it after it became illegal. you can of course be sued, after it is deemed illegal and you continue to do so! So how in the world this will hold in a court (real one, not some circus entertainers called FIA Stewards, esp after allowing/washing clean Ferrari, like never really have happened even it is 1000% obvious today!) oh boy… people are not just plain mistaken, they are rooting for really silly dreams to come true just because their silly teams isnt up to snuff….

      3. That is exactly what I think too. In a court, there is no way the stewards’ argument would fly. You can talk all day about the ‘spirit’ of the regulation, but on paper what Racing Point has done is NOT illegal – well at least in my opinion.

      4. Zak is right! Last year it was legal for Racing Point to fit brake ducts designed by Mercedes to their car, this year it isn’t legal. It doesn’t matter whether these brake ducts were left sitting in a box in the store room or Racing Point bought the schematics 2 years ago, the simple fact is those brake ducts are Mercedes brake ducts. Using them is now a breach of the Technical regulations by Racing Point. The only team that can legally use them is Mercedes.
        Zak is also right in that if Racing Point had done what they originally said they did, which was to reverse engineer the ducts from pictures, then maybe the outcome would be different. However, we are now told those brake ducts weren’t reverse engineered, they were manufactured from blue prints obtained from Mercedes. So Racing Point got caught using brake ducts designed by Mercedes for their own car, they weren’t designed by Mercedes for Racing Point’s car.
        Racing Point should have rushed around and fitted new brake ducts designed by themselves as soon as this issue came to the Stewards attention. They didn’t, and now potentially have wasted a lot of effort.

  6. I think thats a fair rebuttal

  7. Apparently, this man and his team apparently don’t understand much either.

  8. GtisBetter (@passingisoverrated)
    7th August 2020, 22:55

    Going personally after a guy shows weakness. Fight the argument, not the guy making the argument. Not anything he says makes me think what they did was legal. Saying:”other people did it also when it was legal.” Is not really convincing,

    1. It’s the FIA that contradicts itself by tossing a coin and giving a result of both heads and tails at the same time

    2. @passingisoverrated
      “other people did it also when it was legal.” he doesnt actually say that, he is saying plainly the truth! they acquired the designs in 2018 when it was not a listed part aka they were allowed to be brought into another team… in 2019 it was still allowed, until the new season began! they were designing it last year for this year’s car so only applied it when their design made it to this year… they were already approved by fia!
      if you are not allowed to use your design from last year, now everyone who used cough partner teams and the like should not use any previous year’s original manufacturers’ parts too! everyone should design a new one! if the logic is there, you cant use a listed from said manufacturer, be it 2 years old 10 years old, or 1 day old! simple!

  9. How can Otmar say anything about any other team’s members, when he didn’t even know, on live TV, how many points his team had been deducted! He was trying to argue it was half the amount! What a tool!

  10. Bad decision which will get over-ruled I suspect and hope, but Otmar Szafnauer calling out Zak is plain dumb.

    Is he questioning McLaren’s dev of their own parts? Suspect McLaren been very squeaky clean about that sort of nonsense after Alonso left.

    Zak has been at the helm through McLaren’s recent resurgence, and like Otmar, is an ex-racer who has moved into management. I suspect Zak would be the first to admit he doesn’t design the car, or its elements. But he has steered the team back toward the sharp end of the grid very deftly.

    Otmar is overseer of a team which have bought off the peg Mercedes car parts. He is displaying sour grapes and flailing around for his team’s failure to read the tech rules. The decision may well get over-turned, indeed, I hope it does. But personal digs at fellow team bosses is not a good look for a team leader, or for their team.

    1. @salty Fair comment. I think Zak Brown has gotten under Szafnauer’s skin with the comments he (Zak) has made since the season began about ‘’Tracing Point’ and about them (Mac) taking the higher road of not tracing another’s car. So in that sense I don’t think Brown has made personal digs, but certainly has made digs that the likes of Szafnauer seems to have taken personally and is now making it personal.

      1. To a degree I think it’s not a matter of Szafnauer taking it personally but rather defending (as any good manager would) the integrity of his engineers and designers.

        I can’t help getting the feeling though that there might have been a fair bit of untruthfulness among the design team as to how they “designed” parts and that Szafnauer himself may have been kept deliberately out of a very small loop.

        Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always found Szafnauer refreshingly honest, or at least was until he was forced to be super supportive of their “new” driver being thrust in when Stroll bought the team, and I’d like to think that perhaps he may not have been aware of what seem to be some improprieties in the design of their new car.

  11. These comments of this Snafzauer guy are ridiculously low. Any sympathy they still had left from me is gone. I hope the appeal that the teams are making will give RP even more pain. It would be karma, right there.

    I loved this team when it was Force India. With the highlight of Spa 2009 obviously. Such a shame what has become of it after Vijay sold it..

    1. Josh (@canadianjosh)
      8th August 2020, 0:27

      They’ve been pretty competitive in the midfield since that crook sold it.

    2. @spafrancorchamps but strangely you were perfectly fine with Renault running a car that broke the sporting regulations for nearly the whole of the 2019 season, and indeed that team had been breaking the sporting regulations since at least 2015. Why weren’t you so angry at Renault for running cars for multiple years in a configuration that broke the sporting regulations?

      1. When did I say I was fine with that? Please provide me with a comment I’ve made, stating that was fine.

        My opinion on that: Renault should had been disqualified for all previous races in 2019 too. That has been my opinion then and now. Likewise I think that Ferrari should had been disqualified in 2019. Red Bull lost a lot of money by Ferrari cheating.. Unfortunately, there is a lot of politics in F1. The decision that is most fair, will often not be made as factory teams yield too much power..

        1. @spafrancorchamps it wasn’t so much that you said “it was fine” as more a case of being totally disinterested in the case – if you were so angry at the time, then why didn’t you say anything at all?

          Similarly, if Ferrari’s lack of a penalty in 2019 was meant to have been so much of an outrage, why then have you not made any complaint about it until now? You have been very passive when the bigger teams have fallen foul of the rules and said nothing about their transgressions at the time, only criticising them so far after the decision was made that those results are now locked in.

  12. @robbie Yep, I concur but he is doing himself and his team no favours by such behaviour.

    Next year they will be rebranded as Aston Martin, but still running the Mercedes engine. It is now very apparent Liberty via the F1A don’t want a customer team model. Good. It won’t be a W11-lite.

    McLaren will also be using the Mercedes power unit.

    My money is on Zak having a job in 2022

    1. @salty Between Mac and RP(AM) both with Merc pu’s and both having to design their own cars for 2022, yeah my money is on Mac, not that I have anything against RP/AM.

    2. If Zak brown & mclaren keep on saying that Mercedes helped racing point design their car then I dont know how happy Mercedes will be to supply mclaren with engines. I mran we have already seen how miffed toto is over this

  13. Well, sold is a very simple word to picture the circunstances where the team changed their owners. Vijay was making some questionable business till justice came for him.

    1. Well. at least it wasn’t a secret agreement. This time it’s completely muddled.

  14. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    8th August 2020, 4:17

    After imposing this penalty, the FIA really needs to investigate all brake ducts this year. Ideally Haas and Alfa Romeo are 100% different than Ferrari’s and Alpha Tauri’s completely different from Red Bull. The only winners here will be McLaren and Renault:) Perhaps

    1. @freelittlebirds They would be fine running brake ducts obtained from other teams so long as that design was run on there 2019 car.

      That’s the area Racing point have fallen foul of. Them running Mercedes 2019 front ducts is legal as they also had them on there 2019 car & so they are classified as a Racing Point design carried over from there previous year car. However last year they didn’t use the Mercedes rear brake ducts & so them putting them on the 2020 car is what has led to the penalty as they are not classified as a carry over part from the 2019 car.

      Had Racing Point run the rear brake ducts on last years car at any point during the season they wouldn’t have received any penalty.

      Racing Points argument against the penalty is that they got caught out by a grey area as there was nothing specifically in the regulations that covered this sort of situation.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        9th August 2020, 2:40

        @roger-ayles But that is absolutely ridiculous. Obviously they could have run them last year and this year and probably chose not to for whatever reasons. So what can they do this year? Run Indycar brake ducts? They can’t undesign Mercedes’s ducts and I’m sure the fronts and rears bear similarities so any design would encroach on Mercedes’s design and Racing Point would be penalized.

        If that’s the case then the FIA needs to be very specific about these changes warning teams that they need to run a design for at least 1 lap otherwise they can’t use it.

        It’s absurd to ask them to create a completely new design. Once you’ve seen the designs for a modern airplane, do you know how difficult it is to create a completely different design for an airplane?

        Designing a new brake duct that’s entirely different from current brake duct technology would be too expensive for F1, not racing point.

        Of course, Racing Point can modify the brake ducts slightly and be in complete compliance but the point is that they should not have to do that and should not be penalized for some ridiculous interpretation of the directives when every other team benefited for longer periods than Racing Point did by using designs from other teams.

  15. Hey Otmar, buddy, maybe it’s best to not talk about a rival principal’s lack of F1 knowledge, when your team is caught breaking the sport’s regulations. Meaning you either actually broke the regs or you failed to properly communicate and defend your position to the ruling body. Either way looks like the rival principal knows better despite not being an engineer.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      8th August 2020, 11:38

      @zimkazimka but have they broken the sport’s regulations? Being penalized means absolutely nothing in F1 in terms of wrongdoing.

  16. RP’20 IS MB’19 from nosecone to endplates
    Period

  17. And there are the ad hominems from someone that got caught cheating.

    When you cheat you are a punk, Punkbuster!

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