Wolff has “zero worry” Racing Point appeal may find Mercedes broke rules

2020 70th Anniversary Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has no concern his team could be found in breach of the rules if appeals against the FIA’s decision on Racing Point go ahead.

Five teams – half of the Formula 1 grid – have given the FIA notice of their intention to appeal Friday’s verdict on the cars dubbed the ‘pink Mercedes’. The stewards found Racing Point broke the rules by using parts received from Mercedes as the basis for designing the rear brake ducts on its RP20.

Racing Point has obvious reasons for contesting a verdict which will cost them €400,000 (£360,000) and 15 constructors championship points. Four of their rivals – Ferrari, McLaren, Williams and protest originators Renault – have various objections to both the decision, which allows Racing Point to continue using the disputed ducts, and sanction, which they consider too lenient.

On Friday, Wolff predicted “a very long, very messy argument involving QCs and lawyers” if the International Court of Appeal becomes involved, “with the outcome unknown for Renault, the outcome unknown for Racing Point.”

A change in the regulations between 2019 and 2020 is central to the row. Last year teams were allowed to obtain brake ducts from rivals; this year brake ducts were redefined as ‘listed parts’, meaning teams must design their own.

Racing Point was found in breach of the sporting regulations because the rear ducts they are using last year are modelled on those designed by Mercedes last season. Crucially, while Racing Point had both front and rear Mercedes brake ducts last year, it never raced the rear ducts.

While the team has been penalised for using the parts, the FIA has also determined they should not be barred from continuing to use them, as the parts conform to the technical regulations and the team cannot “unlearn” the design information they have obtained.

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Wolff believes the FIA “tried to act sensibly” in its judgement.

Mercedes acted “totally within the rules”, says Wolff
“I’m obviously not an integral part of this protest so I’m not sure I should really comment on the case, speaking for Racing Point,” he said. “As far as I have read the verdict, I think that because the regulations are tremendously complicated, and there has never been a situation where a non-listed part because a listed part, that the FIA tried to somehow bridge the gap of finding a solution that was acceptable to all parties.

“Obviously for Racing Point, they strongly feel that they haven’t been in breach. As it has been found out the possible breach was that they haven’t designed something – the rear brake ducts – from the beginning and it’s not their proprietary design. The breach has happened and they cannot unlearn what they already know. They have had these brake ducts on the car. They can also not change them.

“So the consequence would be, ‘do you want to disqualify a team from the whole championship?’ Because there is no way of taking those brake ducts away. As a matter of fact, if they were to design them again themselves, the same product would come out.”

In their verdict the stewards noted “a complete set of Mercedes 2019 [brake ducts]… arrived at Racing Point on or about January 6th 2020.” Racing Point CEO Otmar Szafnauer said they were supplied “as spares to run in winter testing” in case they did not finish work on their own parts in time.

The stewards judged this was a breach of the regulations, albeit not a significant one, “because there was nothing in the transfer that had not been legitimately provided to Racing Point in 2019 under the then in force regulations.”

Wolff said the verdict showed Mercedes was “not involved” in Racing Point’s breach of the rules. “We feel 100% comfortable with our position,” he said.

Esteban Ocon, Renault, Silverstone, 2020
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“We’ve read the rules over and over again. The verdict that came out is extremely complicated. It comes up with an interpretation that is new. New to all of us.

“We have provided certain data in 2019 which was totally within the rules. The 6th of January [date] has no material effect on any of the action because the whole thing was delivered much earlier and all the CAD drawings and designers were delivered much earlier. And Racing Point and ourselves are still of the opinion that is within the regulations.”

Wolff insisted he has no concerns over any possible ramifications for Mercedes if the case goes to appeal.

“At the end, to be honest, there is zero worry on our side – and when I say zero, I mean zero – that we were in any breach.

“Nor do I think that Racing Point was in breach. And I believe that if that would go to the ICA, it would be probably a complex matter, because it’s very technical – but I doubt there would be any outcome [for us].”

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19 comments on “Wolff has “zero worry” Racing Point appeal may find Mercedes broke rules”

  1. Pedro Andrade
    9th August 2020, 8:34

    In their verdict the stewards noted “a complete set of Mercedes 2019 [brake ducts]… arrived at Racing Point on or about January 6th 2020.” Racing Point CEO Otmar Szafnauer said they were supplied “as spares to run in winter testing” in case they did not finish work on their own parts in time.

    The stewards judged this was a breach of the regulations, albeit not a significant one, “because there was nothing in the transfer that had not been legitimately provided to Racing Point in 2019 under the then in force regulations.”

    This actually seems quite significant. How could Mercedes know Racing Point would need Mercedes-like brake ducts? Did RP ask them, thereby revealing their design would be similar? And even if not, do you just lend a listed part to a competitor? If RP asked for a front wing or a sidepod, would Mercedes send them? This doesn’t make much sense…

    1. They use Mercedes uprights, so Mercedes ducts will always fit. Even the air outlets from the ducts have to be the same size and location to work with the Mercedes uprights.
      Add to this that RP already had possession of the data anyway, so along with the upright design being identical, any ducts were bound to be very similar indeed.

      According to Toto and Otmar, all Mercedes did in January was supply manufactured parts for testing, and in testing your car can run anything you want. It was effectively an old part design for RP. As long as they turn up at the first race with something different, I don’t see an issue.

  2. I understand that the brake ducts are legal and compliant under the technical regulations. However, Racing Point did not justify that their current rear brake ducts were designed by themselves, as they did not use them on their cars last year. As such, this is the reason for the penalties handed out to them. What I do not understand is, why would the FIA allow a car whose parts could be illegal on the car, allow them to continue using the rear brake ducts, in spite of the parts being under compliance with the technical regulations. Or is this just me being wrong in interpretation or of opinion?

    Honestly, I do not think a disqualification should be given to Racing Point, given that their brake ducts are within the technical regulations. If anything, I think the FIA needs to clarify to the teams in regards to their interpretation of the rules because this could go forever.

    Off track action is better this year than on track eh?

    1. The FIA haven’t stopped the team from continuing to use them because as the article says they can’t ‘unlearn’ what they know about the Mercedes ones. If forced to design their own now they’d be the same as the ones on the car already. Which in design, are legal.

      1. Yeah and then the ironic question comes along are the brake ducts an infringement of copyright laws, if so, RP will have to design brake ducts that are different, no matter what they have learned.

        Other companies are also not allowed to sport nike’s swoosh or adidas 3 stripes or Ferrari’s pranching horse logo, so why should RP be allowed to use brake ducts.

        1. Copyright is for the copied party to enforce. If Mercedes don’t complain then copyright law doesn’t come into it.

  3. I wonder why Red Bull haven’t gotten involved yet?

    1. Because they are ahead of RP. The teams that are complaining are behind. I suspect if RP had done a poorer job of copying the Mercedes and were qualifying 16th there would have been no complaints lodged.

    2. Maybe because they don’t want anyone to take a closer look at their sister team that is effectively using the 2019 redbull.

  4. geoffgroom44 (@)
    9th August 2020, 8:59

    Clearly a complex issue. Surprising, however, that it is all public when Ferrari’s ‘non-compliant’ engine issue last year is not public. I would have thought that Ferrari should not be complaining about this supposed breach of ‘sporting regulations’ in the light of that.
    At the time when RP first arranged for these brake duct designs, they were not ‘listed parts’. There was no breach of regulations.
    The whole issue is primarily concerned with off track attempts to limit the success of a rival team. Clearly a change in such a regulation, a sporting regulation, should enjoy a transitional period to allow cost effective solutions to be employed. Not all teams have the financial resources to comply at such ‘short notice’.
    Those that do have the financial resources, or the ‘power to influence’, seem able to cover their tracks.

    1. @geoffgroom44

      Surprising, however, that it is all public when Ferrari’s ‘non-compliant’ engine issue last year is not public

      The FIA knew what Ferrari were doing probably because someone blew the whistle but couldn’t prove it in any way despite the fact that they spent the whole winter investigating Ferrari PU. The data was also suggesting that everything was fine with regard to the fuel flow, that’s why they struck a deal to let Ferrari tell them whatever they were doing to prevent others from doing so. While RP plain copying of the Mercedes W10 can be noticed by the casual F1 fans, so why a struck a deal with them when they can easily rule that RP have breached the regulations and close the investigation. That’s the crux of it.

      1. geoffgroom44 (@)
        12th August 2020, 6:54

        I see. So the data was suggesting everything was fine with the fuel flow because the sensors had been bi-passed, a kind of VW/Audi system for producing incorrect readings.Whatever it was, it made a very substantial difference to Ferrari’s results after FIA had checked into it.
        Unfortunately, if that was FIA’s logic, then striking a deal to prevent others from doing so would actually require that the process be made public…so as to prevent others from doing it. You know, like malware or viruses are brought to public attention, or motor manufacturers having systems to cheat the government tests are made public. As it is, any Ferrari mechanic who knows about it, has some very marketable information to sell to other F1 competitors,huh?

  5. Big words, old man, big words!

  6. @Paul, Red Bull will finish ahead of RP in the constructors anyway, so they don”t stand to gain from RP receiving penalties.

  7. Toto is starting to remind of Sun King, Louis XIV.
    The arrogant oneliner he has produced this weekend are out of this world.

    An F1 team boss with a financial incentive in another F1 team sent or has allowed CAD drawings to be sent from the former to the latter team at a point in time it wasn’t allowed, and we apparently must accept that that is all fine.
    I think Toto is on thinner ice than he thinks.

    1. Nonsense

      CAD designs have been sent year ago.

    2. “An F1 team boss with a financial incentive in another F1 team sent or has allowed CAD drawings to be sent from the former to the latter team at a point in time it wasn’t allowed”

      There are no facts, which would suggest this. And it doesn’t make sense, because that would be much too late to construct the brake ducts.

  8. Media is once again trying to pull Mercedes into this.

    You will fail.

    There’s simply no story here.
    The whole hysteria is based on a thinly stretched decision around the fact that “RP didn’t use rear brake ducts in 2019”.

    Somehow this makes front brake ducts legal, but not the rear, even though both ducts have the same source, came in the same time and went through the same re-design process.

    The delivery of ducts in January also should be deemed totally legal:
    1) There is no regulation restricting the time of any delivery.
    2) Especially for parts purchased in 2018-2019
    3) Anything used or obtained for pre-season testing can’t be deemed a violation, as the car must comply with any rules only with the start of season.

  9. If we apply proper reasoning without emotions or bias, then the FIA has no case.
    Teams routinely test parts that may be illegal during race weekends but essential for research and calibration.
    We don’t all particularly like everything going on but Mercedes is not in the wrong, neither are RacingPoint the rules we’re changed mid season and is typical with the FIA, they did not take a detailed look at how to handle all permutations.
    Ferrari or Renault may just supply parts to customer teams, Mercedes supplies schematic alongside parts. Two completely relationship models

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