Lando Norris, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Ring, 2020

McLaren still seeking resolution over Racing Point’s ‘unfair’ tokens advantage for 2021

2020 Spanish Grand Prix

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McLaren will continue to seek a resolution over a loophole which could hand Racing Point and other teams an advantage in the 2021 F1 season, despite the FIA stating the rule in question will not be withdrawn.

The team said the chassis upgrade tokens system which has been introduced for next year is “not fair”.

The system of tokens was introduced to restrict how teams may develop their cars next year. This was done as part of the cost-saving measures prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic, when F1 postponed the introduction of new technical regulations from 2021 to 2022.

Customer teams such as Racing Point and AlphaTauri, who currently use 2019-specification hardware from Mercedes and Red Bull respectively, can upgrade to 2020 hardware next year without using one of their tokens. This effectively allows them to upgrade areas of their car for free, while using the tokens to introduce other developments.

In a letter to teams earlier this week, details of which were shared with RaceFans, the FIA’s secretary-general for sport Peter Bayer told teams the rule which allows teams to make token-free upgrades of customer parts will not be rescinded because planning work on next year’s cars had already begun. Bayer indicated the rule, article 22.8.5.b of the technical regulations, would only be withdrawn if all 10 teams unanimously voted to change it.

Speaking to media on Friday, McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl said the team will continue to seek a resolution to the problem.

“As we have communicated, that some teams can do this token-free, we think is not correct, is not fair,” he said. “But that’s part of the discussion we’re having with FIA and we need to see how that goes in the next weeks.”

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However Seidl stressed the matter was “a completely separate topic” to the issues raised by the FIA stewards’ decision against Racing Point last week, in which its rivals were penalised over similarities between its rear brake duct design and those Mercedes used last year. McLaren originally gave notice of its intention to appeal that decision, but later chose not to go ahead with it.

Seidl said the team is satisfied the FIA intends to take steps to prevent team cloning rivals’ cars in the future. “We lodged our intention to appeal last weekend in order to simply gain more time, in order to understand the details and in order to also understand what Formula 1 and the FIA wants to do with the overall topic,” he explained.

“In the end, if you look back at all the discussion in the last months since Racing Point put this car on track for the first time in Barcelona the most important thing for us was a clear commitment, an agreement from FIA and Formula 1 there, that they definitely want to prohibit extensive car copying in the future.

“We got this agreement with the announcement of Nikolas [Tombazis, FIA head of single-seater matters] last Friday in Silverstone and with further information we received on Tuesday. Based on that, for us, we got everything which is important for us as McLaren for the existence of our team in the future and for also making sure we can be competitive in the future. That’s what we wanted to get.”

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Author information

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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16 comments on “McLaren still seeking resolution over Racing Point’s ‘unfair’ tokens advantage for 2021”

  1. Did we really need 4 paragraphs of filler on a different topic in this article?

    1. Yes. Press and tv interviews are extremely limited within the bubble and from what i understand drivers are impossible to get hold of. So every bit of news is cut up into bite sized chunks and regurgitated into various separate articles. I think Ive seen at least a dozen different articles (elsewhere) all based around the Chandok/Ham 10 min interview. Many of then edited, cut and pasted to completely misrepresent what has actually been said.
      In that regard i think this site is doing a pretty good job.

  2. Given they’re they only band changing PU suppliers, you’d think there would be some leeway offered to them.

    That and the fact that they’re taking away party mode – Mclaren might be not so happy about the move to Mercedes at the end of the year.

    1. @dbradock I think Merc PU will still have an overall advantage, Renault and Honda will loose theirs as well if it can be enforced.

  3. Customer teams such as Racing Point and AlphaTauri, who currently use 2019-specification hardware from Mercedes and Red Bull respectively, can upgrade to 2020 hardware next year without using one of their tokens.

    Can somebody enlighten me why this is as such?
    It would seem fair that ‘customer team’ can either stay with the 2019-spec hardware or spend a token if they want to move with the main team to the 2020 vesion. It’s not that these items are mass produced and won’t be available the next year. Even Mercedes still had a set 2019 RBD’s available this year :P

    1. Unfortunately I can’t shed any light as to why they made it so.
      I am in complete agreement that any team can use their tokens as they wish.
      I would also argue the root of this issue is the introduction of the token system itself. If the FIA had said to the teams, “evolve your cars until the last race of the season at which point the design is frozen for 2021” or, “2021 will be the same ‘formula’ but you have a new budget cap which you can decide how to spend: developing your 2021 car vs your 2022 car” — the token system was not practical when introduced during the turbo hybrid engine development and it is not practical now.

  4. This has been so messy lately that I’m kind of lost, overall… From clone cars, to changes made for next year that weren’t supposed to go ahead, to token systems, to qualy engine maps being banned from next race …

  5. The simple answer is McLaren should not lose it’s two tokens for fitting the Mercedes engine to their car but that terrifies Red Bull and Renault and possibly Ferrari that they’ll make a big step forward in performance if they’re not hamstrung in development elsewhere. It’s a silly rule that was yet again poorly thought out and quickly implemented.

  6. Racing Point may have gained some sort of performance advantage (how large or how lasting is debatable) as a result of this token “loophole” but any constructors championship places gained as a result of this advantage will result in less aero development for 2021. Is that not correct?

    1. The issue is that from next year the aero regulations are frozen with only some small allowances allowed which will use up tokens in order for modifications to be done. This means that teams will not be able to update large portions of the car so Mercedes will by and large be running a largely similar car to this year. The Racing Point, Haas and Alpha Tauri however will all be allowed to update their rear ends to mate to the engine and gear box of their donor team.

      This means RP can fit a Mercedes 2020 rear end for free with the use of no tokens and then spend the tokens in the same manner as other teams. For McLaren though, they will need to use tokens to modify their rear end to fit the new Mercedes power unit. As you can see this means McLaren will then lose out on being able to update other aero on their car as they’ve been charged tokens for effectively doing the same as these customer teams. As you can probably appreciate this doesn’t sit well with McLaren who are in effect being punished for not being a customer car team.

      1. I guess the difference is that the need to change the rear end for RP is outwith their control, whereas for McLaren it is within their control (they chose to change engine supplier).

    2. They’re getting new parts from their suppliers without having to use their limited development tokens for 2021, the trade off is they are getting year old designs.

      It’s not really a “loophole”, every team should have been aware of it as part of the rules coming in for this season. It applies to all teams who buy non listed parts, so RP aren’t exploiting an opportunity that other customers don’t. Singling them out seems unfair.

      Mclaren changing engine and gearbox supplier is a pretty significant change, and different to getting slightly newer versions of existing parts. There is an argument that they could get some leeway because the deal was sorted before the coronavirus caused the development lockdown.

  7. This doesn’t really feel like a “loophole” in the conventional sense, but something that was fairly self-evident from the rules in the first place.

    What seems to make no sense is that this was the rule in the first place. Clearly there are changes equivalent to those that would cost tokens on non-customer teams allowed for free on customer teams.

    Anyone have any plausible justification for this at all?

  8. The more they try to ‘equalise’ F1 with restrictions, tokens, budget caps, spec parts & sole suppliers the more issues F1 seems to have in terms of stuff like this.

    Just let teams do what they want, If they can’t afford to develop something then they don’t develop it & if they can afford to do something then let them do so & get the performance from it they deserve.

    I think we will see more issues going forward than we would have had if they had just left everything alone so that F1 could continue been what it’s already been. The pinnacle of the sport with the best technical & engineering. The best teams win, The worst don’t. Simple!

    1. Yah but budget cap (to stop a 8 car grid with no promoter). So it all has to be levelled.

  9. There is no win win solution unless all teams are allowed to make the same modifications as McLaren.

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