Otmar Szafnauer, Racing Point, Silverstone, 2020

Racing Point CEO voted for change to listed parts rule which team broke

2020 F1 season

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Racing Point CEO Otmar Szafnauer has revealed he voted in favour of a change in the same rule his team have been found guilty of breaching.

Last year teams approved a move to redefine brake ducts as ‘listed parts’ for 2020. The change from ‘non-listed parts’ meant teams could no longer source them from rivals but had to produce their own.

The FIA stewards ruled Racing Point broke the rule by using rear brake ducts sourced from Mercedes to design the same parts on their 2020 car. In their ruling they pointed out Racing Point did not clarify the implications of the rules change with the FIA.

However Szafnauer said the fact he supported the rules change shows he had no doubt what it meant for his team.

“To us the rules were pretty clear,” he said. “In 2019, in 2018, you could get information, brake ducts, designs, whatever you wanted. Once you switch to 2020, you can’t. That’s what the rules were intended to say.

“I, for one, voted for this rule [change] to take place. We had a vote to change this and Cyril [Abiteboul, Renault managing director] was going around lobbying people because not everybody wanted the change from a non-listed into a listed part. And you can imagine those who didn’t want this to happen.

“But I voted for it, we talked about it in the Strategy Group meeting, why and the reasons and what that was all about. And we were 100% certain, as we are today, that we did nothing wrong. Which is why we didn’t ask for a clarification.

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“We knew the intent of the rule because I voted for it. We saw the way it was written. We received data from Mercedes on the non-listed part in 2018 and we used that data to design the brake ducts when we brought uprights from them. It’s completely legal.”

Szafnauer said the FIA’s representatives did not query their approach to designing the brake ducts when they inspected the team’s factory prior to the start of the season.

“We hid nothing,” he said. “We were completely open. We allowed the FIA to look at absolutely everything. We invited them to look at everything.

“They talked to our development people, they talked to our our designers, they talk to the CFD [computational fluid dynamics] guys, they talked to the aero guys, on any component they wanted they had freedom to choose.

“We even talked about the brake ducts. They said ‘how did you get to these brake ducts’? We explained it and they said ‘okay’ and moved on. So we thought that was it. They had plenty of opportunity.

“To say ‘maybe we should have asked more questions’, yeah in hindsight you can say all that kind of stuff. But we weren’t hiding anything. And the brake ducts were a part that went from non-listed to listed. I think it’s their duty to look into that kind of stuff if they think maybe this was unclear.”

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  • 15 comments on “Racing Point CEO voted for change to listed parts rule which team broke”

    1. Well, I can only agree with the man that it would have been good to have looked into details around those parts more when the FIA came around early this year.

      And yeah, since he was clear on what the rule was meant to be, it must have also been pretty clear to him that copying those rear brake ducts based on data and parts received in 2019 when they were working on their 2020 car would be at least on the edge of breaking the rules if not (as the Stewards ruled) breaking the rules on designing your own listed parts.

      But whatever, we will get more and more on this in the following months with the appeals. And to be honest, while I do think that RP did break the rules by so blatantly copying so much of a competitor car, and Mercedes cannot be completely innocent, since they willinly cooperated, kudos on them to upping the playing field and bringing the current rules mess with parts buying and copying to its F1 conclusion.

      Based on this, I hope we get a clearer defined reasoning of what a team can or cannot do and avoid copying too much of other cars (with the consent of the one who is copied) in the future from 2021 onward.

      1. That will always be the problem. More rules generate more rules.
        Every rule has an interpretation and when you have to create a new rule to enforce the old ones you are on a very slippery path.

        1. GtisBetter (@)
          20th August 2020, 17:54

          People looking to break/bend the rules to get an advantage creates more rules.

      2. They used a part they hard the right to use in 2019. They received the designs in 2019 and therefore could use them. Just because they didn’t the rear designs they lose the right to use it? That’s just daft.

        It would make sense to say RP broke the rules if they copied a 2020 listed part. They didn’t do that. They redesigned a 2019 part which they had the right to use.

        1. The ruling found that RP didn’t do enough of their own design to the brake ducts. The nearly 800 pages they presented the stewards on their rear brake ducts showed that the bulk of their work was in designing a way to adapt the brake ducts to their car, but not the actual brake duct. So they ruled that Mercedes indeed were the ones who did the heavy lifting on the design of the ducts, and all RP did was design a way to attach the Mercedes designed ducts to their car.

          1. “So they ruled that Mercedes indeed were the ones who did the heavy lifting on the design of the ducts, and all RP did was design a way to attach the Mercedes designed ducts to their car.”

            Of course Mercedes did the heavy lifting, these are Mercedes brake ducts, which Racing Point legally bought in 2018.

            The design process of the front brake ducts was the same as with the rear brake ducts. But because Racing Point raced the front brake ducts in 2019, they miraculously became Racing Point’s design in 2020. Of course Racing Point also used the rear brake ducts in 2019, the design process did not start in 2020.

            Nobody could have known that this would be the FIA’s stance in 2020, otherwise Racing Point would just have had to bolt on the rear brake ducts for a practice session in 2019 and been in the clear. Nowhere in the rules does it say a design, which you are legally allowed to use, only becomes your own design, when you race it.

            The case in front of the ICA will revolve around these matters. I suspect the brake ducts will not even be looked at, they are not really of interest, the facts concerning them are established and not in dispute. It will be philosophical discussions about the intentions of the rules and if Racing Point could have been aware of the FIA’s future interpretation. The court will not be able to prove that Racing Point intentionally broke the rules, so at most the current punishment will be upheld.

          2. @robbie Just so tiresome. Get lost with your numbnuttery.

            Glad some else wasted their time replying to your nonsense.

    2. I like how Szafnauer explains everything in very simple terms, which makes FIA people look like idiots.
      You either accept the part as legal and stick to your own rulings and regulations, or you don’t and explain why it is so.

    3. We received data from Mercedes on the non-listed part in 2018 and we used that data to design the brake ducts when we brought uprights from them. It’s completely legal.”

      Sorry, but no, while it was completely legal in 2018 or 2019 to fit Mercedes rear brake ducts to your car, it isn’t legal in 2020. The rule for 2020 is very simple: Design it yourself (or get a contractor to do it for you)! The rear brake ducts used by Racing Point this year were designed by Mercedes, and the intellectual property rights also belong to Mercedes, so the rear brake ducts fitted to the RP20 aren’t legal. Only rear brake ducts designed by Racing Point would allow them to meet the FIA’s team commitments.

      1. The trouble with your statement is that every single car woudl be illegal somewhere. All brake ducts on all the 20 cars look pretty similar from the outside which is not a surprise as all 10 teams are trying to do the same thing with their ducts. The ducts are not the same as Mercs – the FIA have seen countless RP drawings to prove that. They have been redesigned by RP. What would you have them do design a rear brake duct that does not look anything like Mercs when they are using same suspension system so it is 1) patently unsuitable and flawed in design because it doesn’t work, and 2) whilst trying to do that have collective amnesia on what the merc ducts look like just to make sure there is no resemblance?
        The ONLY issue according to the stewards is they did not run the rear ducts in 2019. If they had they would be ok. Why that is relevant is beyond me and nowhere have I seen it properly explained. That is simply a nonsense IMO and will be overturned when the lawyers opine.

        1. @add9 Yeah I agree with this. RP legally acquired 2019 Mercedes rear brake ducts – that part is not in dispute. They then produced identical brake ducts for themselves to use in 2020, using the knowledge gained from acquiring the 2019 Mercedes ducts. It would make no sense for them to try to design new brake ducts from scratch since they can’t unlearn everything they know – and it wouldn’t be logical either since they already have the ‘optimal’ solution in their hands. Having to design something different would actually be a penalty to them since they would be designing an inferior product, and there is nothing in the regulations that tells them just how ‘different’ their design would have to be to make it their own, rather than a copy.

          Why it should make a difference whether they ran those 2019 brake ducts last year I don’t know, it seems like a legal loophole to justify applying a small penalty to RP. To me it looks like the FIA is being too political and trying to appease all the teams – apply a small penalty to keep the objecting teams happy, but make it little more than a slap on the wrist so that RP aren’t too upset and can continue racing as is. That kind of reasoning falls apart quickly when looking at a specific set of regulations and having a bunch of lawyers analysing them to interpret them in a way that is beneficial to their side of the argument. And right enough, now the majority of teams are protesting the decision either one way or the other.

          The only thing I can see which would somewhat count against them is if they acquired documentation and data from Mercedes that was not permissible within the regulations. It seems investigation into this is still ongoing, so maybe there is still more to be uncovered in this saga.

        2. As I said above, the finding was that based on the info RP provided them, some 780 odd pages or so, it was found that the bulk of their design work was in re-designing the method of mounting the rear brake ducts, but not so much on re-designing the ducts themselves. It was ruled that Mercedes were the ones that did the lion’s share of the design of the duct, and RP merely designed a way to adapt them to their car.

      2. The FRONT brake ducts used by Racing Point this year were designed by Mercedes. Front and rear brake ducts have the same source: Mercedes. Racing Point bought them both at the same time in 2018. There is no difference in the design process between the front and rear brake ducts. The front brake ducts look virtually identical to the Mercedes brake ducts (which of course is logical, since they were built from Mercedes designs).

        1. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
          21st August 2020, 18:15

          but the front brake ducts are not part of the “list” where as the rears are.

          I think the failings of this discussion, as a whole, is behind what exactly is the rule saying. Can previous designs be “grandfathered” in or is the rule flat out saying… starting in 2020, the IPs of the parts on the list MUST be designed by each individual team with NO grandfathering of previous purchased parts. I’m apt to think the rules state it must be designed since it doesn’t state any grandfathering exceptions. I think its lazy to say that they gained this knowledge and it just makes sense to copy Mercs design. RP still could of taken the main concept of the design itself (aka knowledge) and changed it just enough to be there own IP based on the knowledge learned from the original Merc duct previously purchased. I don’t believe it would have been terribly hard for these guys change it up just enough to make it their own!

    4. Stephenhiggins53@yahoo.co.uk
      20th August 2020, 16:59

      Oops.

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