Aston Martin AMR22, Circuit de Catalunya, 2022

FIA confirm Aston Martin complied with rules after Horner raises “copying” concern

2022 Spanish Grand Prix

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The FIA says it has no legality concerns over the upgrade Aston Martin has introduced to its car for this weekend’s race.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said the update Aston Martin has brought to the Spanish Grand Prix was inspired by his team’s car.

“Copying is the biggest form of flattery,” Horner told the BBC. “It’s quite a thing to instruct your team to come up with a very close-looking clone of our car.”

Horner pointed out Aston Martin have also hired several ex-Red Bull staff. They include head of technical operations Andrew Alessi and head of aerodynamics Dan Fallows, though the latter only arrived at Aston Martin last month, long after work on the upgrade would have begun.

“Of course a few people have moved over the winter period,” said Horner. “What you can’t control is what they take in their heads.

Red Bull’s sidepod is similar to Aston Martin’s
“But obviously what would be of grave concern to us is if any IP [intellectual property] had in any way changed hands. So that’s why we rely on the FIA to do their job, to do their research, to do the checks, they have all the access, and we’ll be relying on them heavily to ensure that no Red Bull IP has found its way into that car.”

An Aston Martin spokesperson said the team had co-operated with the FIA’s inquiries over how the upgrade was produced. “We have shared details of our update with the FIA technical people. Having analysed the data and the processes used to create the update, the FIA has now confirmed in writing that our update was generated as a result of legitimate independent work in accordance with the Technical Regulations.”

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The FIA confirmed it had noticed the similarities between the two cars and taken steps to confirm Aston Martin had produced its own designs without obtaining any information from Red Bull in contravention of the rules.

“The FIA carried out a routine pre-event legality check of the planned aerodynamic upgrade of the Aston Martin team for the 2022 FIA Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix,” it said in a statement. “During this process, it became apparent that a number of features on the Aston Martin resembled those of another competitor.

“The FIA therefore launched an investigation to check compliance with Article 17.3 of the Technical Regulations, and in particular the topic of “Reverse Engineering” and potential illicit IP transfer.

“Both teams collaborated fully with the FIA in this investigation and provided all the relevant information. The investigation, which involved CAD checks and a detailed analysis of the development process adopted by Aston Martin, confirmed that no wrongdoing had been committed, and therefore the FIA considers that the Aston Martin aerodynamic upgrades are compliant.

“Article 17.3 [of the technical regulations] specifically defines and prohibits ‘reverse engineering’, i.e. the digital process of converting photographs (or other data) to CAD models, and prohibits IP transfer between teams, but equally, this article permits car designs getting influenced by those of competitors, as has always been the case in Formula 1. In the analysis we carried out we confirmed that the processes followed by Aston Martin were consistent with this article’s requirements.”

Red Bull said they “noted the FIA’s statement with interest”.

“While imitation is the greatest form of flattery, any replication of design would obviously need to comply with the FIA’s rules around ‘reverse engineering’,” they continued. “However, should any transfer of IP have taken place that would clearly be a breach of regulations and would be a serious concern.”

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2022 Spanish Grand Prix

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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...
Claire Cottingham
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37 comments on “FIA confirm Aston Martin complied with rules after Horner raises “copying” concern”

  1. Insert “Green Red Bull” comment here.

    1. Apologies @geemac, my fat fingers hit the “report” button when aiming for the reply button! @keithcollantine please ignore that!

    2. What I’d meant to say was simply how funny it all is. AM couldn’t have chosen a better team to be influenced by

  2. Deja vu….

  3. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    20th May 2022, 14:07

    I recall the FIA being fine with the Merc-copy too at first….

    1. They are fine now too, incidentally Aston Martin was fined due to the rear brakes which were not used in the first place in 2019, so they didn’t carry over it. If they did use the 2020 brakes in 2019, then they would have not been punished, because other than than copying was not illegal that time or now it’s tweaked now.

      1. then they would have not been punished

        They were indeed punished.

    2. @barryfromdownunder What caught them out with that was more a technicality than anything else. The FIA’s later punishment also had nothing to do with the actual car design been a copy of the Mercedes.

      They had brought the design for the Mercedes brake duct at a time when doing so was legal but due to the high rake concept of there 2019 car hadn’t run them on the rear. Going into 2020 the regulations were changed which prevented teams buying brake ducts from another team, However they were allowed to run designs brought from another team previously as long as they had run them on the car. Racing point felt they had complied with that but overlooked that they hadn’t run the Mercedes rear ducts in 2019 & as such using those rear ducts in 2020 wasn’t allowed & that is what got them in trouble.

      The FIA weren’t necessarily happy that the overall car design was a copy of the Mercedes but they didn’t punish the team for the overall car design specifically as they technically hadn’t broken any regulations.

    3. Alianora La Canta (@alianora-la-canta)
      22nd May 2022, 9:21

      @barryfromdownunder The only reason the FIA ever wasn’t fine with it was because a data transfer happened 6 days past the recognised permitted window and was subsequently incorporated into the design work.

      Since there has never been a recognised permitted window for data transfer between Aston Martin and Red Bull, it would be unlikely (albeit possible if data theft was involved) for the same thing to have occurred on this occasion.

  4. Always fun to hear Whinger Spice have a good old moan.

  5. We can now safely assume, the cars in 2023 will all look the same.

  6. During Sky’s FP1 broadcast they said at one point during the build-up show that Aston were saying they could prove that they started down the design concept for this update well before they had seen the Red Bull.

    And they played in a Lance Stroll interview where he said that it was his understanding that they had 2 concepts that they designed alongside each other last year, They went with the one & when that didn’t work as hoped they put the 2nd concept into production to roll out as the update.

    I think teams have to provide the FIA with full CAD drawings now with dates on those and other drawings to prove when designs were started & what line of thinking went into them. I guess thats what the FIA looked at & if the dates & so on show it was done before they would have seen the Red Bull then I guess thats what cleared them.

    1. I’d be interested to see the FIA investigate how they could design and build 2 cars within the budget cap.

      1. It might be to the fact that, Aston Martin didn’t develop the 2021 car much, maybe since they are at the back they are more at a liberty to develop two cars inspite of the budget cap,
        1 they didn’t develop the 2021 car, and doing development work of the 22 cwr
        2 maybe the first iteration of the 22 car was a plain and simple one, that they were mainly focusing on the second one, which might explain the funds management

      2. @bassclef the list of components that Aston Martin have changed is as follows: floor, sidepod inlet, engine cover, cooling louvres, rear wing and the Halo.

        Whilst it might look big, other teams have thrown a lot of changes at their cars as well – if you run a comparison with McLaren, their list of upgraded parts are a new front wing flap, revised front suspension legs, new front brake ducts, a new floor, new sidepods, a new engine cover, modified cooling outlets, a new high downforce rear wing, new rear brake duct winglets and a new diffuser.

        Meanwhile, Red Bull’s brought yet another new floor, along with a new front wing, as well as modifications to internal components, Alfa Romeo’s brought new front and rear wings and changed both the front and rear suspension, Williams have new front and rear wings and new brake ducts – that’s some of the items that teams have been upgrading in Spain for this race.

        What Aston Martin have changed is, predominantly, external bodywork – most of the car will be the same, as the team have not changed the suspension, survival cell, rear, side or front crash structures, gearbox and so on. However much you might want to argue about the extent of the changes and the relationship it bears to the RB18, I do not see how the cost of the changes brought here would be disproportionately expensive when compared to the fabrication costs for the upgrades that all of the other teams have also been introducing over the season.

      3. Alianora La Canta (@alianora-la-canta)
        22nd May 2022, 9:23

        @bassclef By stopping development on one of them sufficiently early. Obviously that has implications for how far design #2 could be progressed in a given timeframe, which may partly explain why the Aston Martin is so slow compared to its rivals.

  7. I bet he makes no comment when next years Alpha Tauri rolls out as this years Red Bull

    1. @slowmo Would a comment be necessary given that AT is owned by Red Bull? It’s not like AT will have stolen IP from RBR.

      1. @robbie they’re still meant to be independent of each other as constructors, though, right? So, regardless of whether or not the ultimate owner of the teams themselves is one and the same, they should not share IP of parts like those in question. But it they did then it’s certainly unlikely that it would be Horner would be making the complaint!

      2. @robbie as Picasso said, irrelevant of who owns the teams they should be independent constructors with limited data sharing. Despite this fact, every year the AT seems to turn up with a car looking suspiciously like the previous years Red Bull. The only reason it’s not identical is they share the same current years rear end usually. It’s just a bit rich them complaining about other teams copying when it clearly goes on between their teams. Of course Horner wouldn’t comment on the situation as it would draw light to something they would rather continue to be ignored.

        I think he’s just bitter about this situation because a lot of the rules around what you can have supplied by other teams had to be created specifically due to AT. Super Aguri and Honda had a similar deal as RB and AT but obviously that didn’t last long before Honda pulled out. I think other teams gave them a hard time to ensure there was no B teams running around with 3rd and 4th cars on the grid.

        1. @slowmo Somewhat fair comment in that I get what you and @picasso-19d-ftw are saying wrt IP and AT, but I just don’t think Horner is bitter, nor moaning as someone suggested above, but we do know that of course when FIA investigates a team such as AM because of the resemblance to RBR’s sidepod, that is going to raise the issue wrt their procedures to arrive at said sidepod, and that is going to force CH to have to comment. After all, RBR had to provide info on the design and construction of their side pods so that FIA could compare to AM’s notes.

          So FIA sees something to investigate, they do, they find AM didn’t do anything illegal, and Horner makes a comment about how it would be concerning if indeed they had used RBR IP, and that they are all dependent on FIA to suss this sort of thing out. This is just normal F1 stuff and all TP’s would react the same way as Horner has, and as I say I don’t see bitterness, nor moaning here…just normal kind of stuff when of course concerns are going to be raised when FIA decides they need to investigate a car due to it’s obvious similarity to another. I haven’t read anything this morning to suggest it was CH that put FIA onto the case due to AM’s sidepod and rather it was FIA that took the initiative.

          1. @robbie yeah I agree. This is normal stuff really and CH is totally right to be fighting his team’s corner. On the whole that’s typical and acceptable F1, and snarky as we might get it’s really what you’d expect of a team principal. I don’t like it when things get more bitchy as they have at times with him and Wolff, though I’m sure some people love that bit, and then the temptation is to see legitimate protests as petty and moany as well.
            I think it’s still safe to assume that if AT did do something like AM have, it wouldn’t be RB that asked for confirmation of its legality – but I bet someone else would.
            More generally I think that the rules now appear to make good sense, although no doubt there’s plenty of scope for ambiguity and argument. Hopefully “reverse engineering” has been defined tightly enough – as the digital process of converting photos etc into CAD drawings – that it can be distinguished from more “traditional” forms of learning from competitors, whereby they could copy an idea (say, heavily undercut sidepods with a particular shaped opening) without cloning it at the level of taking measurements and profiles right off the car. And obviously taking actual CAD models or plans would also count as “illicit IP transfer”. So to me it treads the line OK, such that the perennial process of nicking ideas can continue but not the direct cloning of designs.

          2. @robbie he gave a good interview to Sky on the subject and highlighted the concerns were not the end result but how they got to that point. They just want to be sure that none of their IP was used in the creation as the design of the parts clearly started prior to anyone seeing the new Red Bull.

            To paraphrase he said if someone took some knowledge in their head to AM then its fair game but its right that the FIA check that there is nothing nefarious.

            I took issue with him moaning about the design being copied but it seems he’s clarified their concern is not the end product but how it got made and that’s fair enough to want that checking against a competitor.

          3. @slowmo Yeah fair comment, I haven’t seen the practice sessions on TV yet (it’s Sky for us in Canada via sports channel TSN and I have it recorded as always) but I also just read those quotes from the Sky interview. I found it very interesting that FIA as part of their investigation wanted to know the history/timing on RBR’s ‘leavers’ as it was put.

          4. Yeah @robbie I agree it’s most likely, with the new rules for this year where updates do require pre-event check-off from the FIA, they themselves looked and noted the likeness, then investigated (as the article meantions I guess) which maybe involved also checking with Red Bull which is how they learned of it; it might be Red Bull heard some rumours before (small world, esp. with the ex-RB staff now at AM?) but it isn’t needed.

            Still, given the lead time for things like this, I’d say that if it were any other team than AM (maybe AT, as per your discussion with @picasso-19-ftw) with their previous of closely copying Red Bull might be a lot less spooked too, as it would indicate some insider knowledge (well, there’s that article from later right about an internal RB investigation ;)

      3. Alianora La Canta (@alianora-la-canta)
        22nd May 2022, 9:24

        @robbie The regulations forbid any 2 teams sharing certain IP, regardless of ownership or lack of same. (Although Red Bull are experienced enough at this that I trust them to follow the regulations as stated at any given time on the matter of IP transfer).

  8. Gosh it’s terrible when a competitor blatantly steals a design feature from a rival car, which they didn’t have the smarts to come up with themselves, in order to close a performance gap. Glad that never happened with, for example, the double diffuser, or the blown rear wing, or…

  9. Maybe the Seb is cloned as well… :)

  10. Whilst its probably a little bit naughty to copy for teams to copy others, the Mr Bean exam sketch springs to mind! it is also quite clever of them too try this new concept.

    I think Aston Martin have recruited some top design people from Red Bull so I wouldn’t be surprised if more ideas from the Red Bull car appear in due course.

  11. Horner is correct. Teams that hire employees from other teams to steal IP from other teams are cheaters. Fortunately, Red Bull has never done that.

    I’m shocked, absolutely shocked to find cheating going on. (reference classic movie Casablanca)

    1. Catered Ham
      20th May 2022, 17:21

      Your USB drive, sir…

  12. The Dolphins
    20th May 2022, 16:59

    I looked up article 17.3 of the Technical Regulations and nowhere do I see mention of a team being prohibited of reverse-engineering nor could I interpret the wording to imply that. The statement made by Red Bull in that regard is not accurate.

    It’s also my opinion that while a team may wish to use technology to map out the exterior/visible surfaces of a car it can only get them so far because of the complexities of the internal geometries which are occluded. It’s better to approach it from the new “show and tell” format and allow teams to get a good look at the competitors cars at a dedicated time.

    Copying in F1 (in any field) has and will be a fact of life. I don’t fault Red Bull for wanting to ensure there was no corporate espionage however. It takes skill to look at what someone else has done, understand the concept behind the design, and apply it with the design you currently have in a way that (hopefully) translates to increased performance. Adrian Newey, one of the greatest aero engineers in the sport, takes every opportunity to walk up and down the grid and study the competitors cars.

    1. I couldn’t see anything specifically about reverse engineering in 17.3 either, but I’m not sure how you equate that to RBR’s statement being inaccurate. In the article above it is quotes from FIA that can be attributed to the reverse engineering concept, so perhaps they themselves see or know of something in the wording of 17.3 that implies reverse engineering as being a no-no, as we know it is. Or at least reverse engineering to a degree that takes it beyond the pale such as what happened with AM a few years ago. I don’t fault RBR for anything they have said today and I just don’t see what they have said that is inaccurate.

      1. The Dolphins
        20th May 2022, 18:30

        I must have misread the quote above as being attributed to Red Bull, you are correct it is written as the FIA’s response which mentions article 17.3 (incorrectly, in my opinion) as deeming reverse engineering illegal.

    2. Alianora La Canta (@alianora-la-canta)
      22nd May 2022, 9:32

      The relevant quote from 17.3 is, “Listed Team Components” (LTC) are components whose design, manufacture and
      Intellectual Property is owned and/or controlled by a single Competitor or its agents on an
      exclusive basis” . Intellectual property can only be such if it is sufficiently different from a competitor to be able to obtain distinct registration as intellectual property. This is only possible if it is not identical.

      Digital reverse engineering has now reached the point that – for some components at least – it’s possible to create an exact copy without having the original data. However, this could not be registered as intellectual property because it is too similar to the original idea. Thus, a good digital reverse engineering effort could not result in a Listed Team Component and would be against the regulations.

      Bad attempts at digital reverse engineering are covered under 17.3.3, where it is also necessary for the team to have exclusive knowledge of “all aspects of the design, manufacturing, know-how, operating procedures, properties and calibrations” (something that can’t be the case if copying something without understanding how to make it work in the new context).

      Now, I expect Red Bull to move to investigating possible breaches of 17.3.4, which covers industrial espionage of various types.

  13. As long as you remember its a show and not a sport it all makes sense ;-) ……

  14. I mean, it’s similar, but it’s really not that close in the details. The sidepod intake is very different, as is the floor below it. The area around the halo hardpoint is much squarer and thinner on the aston, the airbox is bigger and continues straight down to the exhaust, unlike red bull’s curve. The whole side pod is quite a bit chunkier too where the red bull has the better packaging towards the back, with the final slope to the diffuser area being much more gradual on the aston. On top of that, the floor is pretty different a lot of the way around, much flatter in the front section and more elements in the back. Annnd, the suspension set up is significantly different.
    Maybe inspired by, but a straight copy of the red bull side pod creases is not going to work with all those other difference. Sounds like another moan over nothing to distract from… something.

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