Red Bull plan internal investigation over whether information leaked to Aston Martin

2022 Spanish Grand Prix

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is planning an internal investigation to discover whether Aston Martin received information on the design of their RB18.

Aston Martin turned up at the sixth round of the championship with an upgraded car bearing several striking similarities to the Red Bull. Horner suggested Aston Martin had copied the RB18, but the FIA confirmed the team had shown they had designed the new parts.

“They’ve followed a timeline and they’re accepting of what Aston Martin have presented here,” Horner told Sky. “Of course if any evidence of foul play came to light, it becomes a different issue.”

Despite the FIA’s assurances, Horner is concerned his team’s intellectual property could have been acquired by Aston Martin. The team has recruited some Red Bull team members over the past 12 months.

The FIA originally alerted Red Bull to their rival’s development, said Horner. “It was brought to our attention actually by the FIA earlier in the week where they said ‘we’ve got a car that looks remarkably like yours, can we have a list of your leavers to see where they went?’ So of course, that immediately raises alarm bells.

“What is permissible, and we see it up and down the paddock, individuals move from team to team after a garden leave period, what they take in their head, that’s fair game. That’s their knowledge.

“What isn’t fair and what is totally unacceptable, which we wouldn’t accept, is if there has been any transfer of IP at all.”

Horner declined to say whether he had any evidence this had happened. “I’m not going to disclose exactly where we are with certain individuals.

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“But it would be a criminal offence because IP is a team’s lifeblood. It’s what we invest millions of pounds into and you wouldn’t want to see that just turning up in a rival organisation otherwise we may as well franchise it, we may as well be able to sell aerodynamics.”

He said the team will examine whether any information may have ended up in its rival’s hands. “We will have an internal investigation,” said Horner.

“We’ve got our own software protections. We know exactly what software is looked at, where that software is controlled.

“But I think that it’s the job of the regulator, the FIA, because they have the access and we rely very much on them to ensure that there is no transfer of IP, that there has been no abuse of that. So it’s very much their job to go and police that.”

However Aston Martin team principal Mike Krack said the upgrade introduced on their car in Spain had been in progress since the original design was presented in February.

“When we had the launch of the car Andy Green at the time, our CTO [chief technical officer], was already mentioning that we had built in some flexibility in the car to be able to develop along the journey. And this is what we have done at the end of the day.

“So from that point of view, it was just a normal development process where at one point we have said, you remember we had all the porpoising difficulties with the other spec car. From that point of view, we said at one point we need to change, we need to make a little update here. And that’s what we did at the end.”

He said the FIA had given the team the “green light” over their development. “We have been clear, we have been transparent, we have been open and we have been given the green light. So from that point of view, we pursue our path, continue developing and try to move up the grid.”

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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...

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32 comments on “Red Bull plan internal investigation over whether information leaked to Aston Martin”

  1. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    20th May 2022, 18:58

    With ‘Astons’ history, I too wouldn’t believe anything that comes out of their garage. They’ve done it once and claimed they didn’t do anything wrong, wouldn’t be a surprise if they did it again.

    Same with Ferrari: They’ve cheated before, so their miracle engine a few years ago wasn’t a big surprise. Wouldn’t surprise me if they’re doing it again this year!

    1. I know two statements that are always true. “If one thing happens once, it can happen again.” – “If one thing happens twice, it can definitely happen again and become a habit.”

    2. I agree something smells. The hounds have been released by the parties and I would bet we should stand by for further developments. :)

    3. Yea how dare they hire Red Bull staff!

      1. @yaru you could also add that it is apparently acceptable for Red Bull to copy components from Aston Martin – the bib wing on the RB18 is a copy of the one on the AMR22 – but not OK when they’re on the receiving end of that sort of behaviour.

        1. copy is not a problem. Copying on base of stolen IP is!

          1. @seth-space and what evidence do you have for making the rather serious allegation that they stole the design? Considering that you could get this site into serious trouble for making such claims, do you have any evidence to back up your complaints – or are you just throwing the accusation out there maliciously?

    4. Not sure about you @barryfromdownunder, but Red Bull should be less certain. After all, before when the AM team took a design, the suggestion was they had willing help to make sure they understood the design, though officially it was from scans and foto’s of the car and looking at what simulations said about that; That combined with a team having been excluded and fined for using info and bits of designs that were taken from another (Nigel Stepney ringing a bell?) when the rules were less strict seems that a team would have to be crazy to try that but now with a large and clearly visible part of the car. Horner should be more certain, but maybe he is and just talking his usual?

      I’d say that there is a good chance that having seen their original ‘production’ design not working well and having seen a similar design to their ‘alternative’ concept do very well with Red Bull, perhaps AM early on decided it needed to switch. Yes, several of the new people, not using actual RB design, but having lived in the office that influenced that RB car, were more impressed any way with that alternative too (recall early rumours that Fallows wasn’t impressed with what AM had?), but perhaps not more than that.

    5. Do you trust McLaren?

  2. Not a tinfoil-hat idea, as we have seen this happening and confirmed in 2007 (the infamous Spygate, which just by Ecclestone’s pressure to keep “the show” alive, let the drivers keep their points in an illegal car), but also that same year Nigel Stepney tried to sabotage the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen putting some powder into Kimi’s car tank. Could there be any rogue Red Bull employee right now? After all, Red Bull had a double DNF at the beginning of the year and another one for Max later. If I recall correctly, Red Bull has received a crowd of former Mercedes team members, and Mercedes escaped a bigger investigation the year of the “pink Mercedes” (2020). Is it all connected? Well, maybe it’s all a tinfoil-hat theory after all…

    1. RedBull poaching Mercedes staff is a good thing.

      Aston poaching RedBull staff is a bad thing.

      Have we all got the Horner lesson for today now.

      1. No its not a “bad thing”.. stealing IP is!
        Nobody likes loosing top staff but thats not the real problem here.
        ( and you know that)

    2. The man has passed away in a tragical manner. Is it really appropriate and necessary to bring that up?

  3. Looking at them side by side they do look similar.

    But when you look more closely and especially if you overlay them (as someone on reddit has) they don’t look anywhere near as similar as they do at first glance.

    Red bull and others in the media are acting like they are identical but that isn’t the case upon closer inspection.

    1. ‘Red bull and others in the media are acting’

      There’s no business like show business….

    2. Agree. I still don’t see any resemblance other than the fact they are both F1 cars.

  4. Unless Christian has something we don’t know about (a leaked email, 2007 Spygate level info), I really don’t think he has a leg to stand on, Racing Point / Aston Martin copied and pasted an entire car and were only slightly punished on some rear brake ducts / technicality. People copy, and the idea that a teams ‘IP is its life blood’ is somewhat naive. This time last year I would struggle to identify any 2021 car from its silhouette. They converged because incrementally they each figured out what works and what works well.

    Either Red Bull are a bit dim, or we don’t know the whole story yet. I suspect it’s the latter.

    1. @bernasaurus I think there is an element of this being a continuation of the legal dispute between Red Bull and Aston Martin after Dan Fallows left Red Bull to join Aston Martin.

      Firstly, Red Bull were forced to let Fallows go to Aston Martin more than 15 months earlier than they originally wanted him to, which they were not happy about given his knowledge of the RB18. Secondly, it seems that the Fallows case has also raised questions about the legality of the gardening leave clauses that Red Bull has inserted into some of their employee contracts, which I can’t imagine Red Bull was particularly happy about either.

      Asides from Fallows, as hinted at by Horner in this article, Aston Martin has hired other members of Red Bull’s team – Andrew Alessi was another senior member of staff who moved across, and it seems that there may have been a few lower profile members of staff who followed Fallows and Alessi across to them as well.

      At the best of times, Red Bull was already on poor relations with Aston Martin because the latter had hired a number of staff that they didn’t want to see leave the team.

  5. I guess you can copy a lot purely based on pictures. Also if RB didnt make binding contracts with the engineers who worked on this years car then they will carry their knowledge with them. And ofc all teams look at the top teams to maybe copy something here and there. Unless data was stolen I dont see the issue.

    1. I guess you can copy a lot purely based on pictures.

      That’s what I was thinking about. The image quality of current top cameras, then it’s not like F1 engineers from any team don’t understand at least the overall idea of an aero concept once they see it, so….

      1. The software in some of these cameras is approaching the software of a Faro arm 3D scanner

  6. They should follow it up regardless, the similarities are too close. Will be interesting to see where the team ends up post qualifying.

  7. I am interested to see throughout the season how does this go. They did a decent job with it in 2020. Lawrence Stroll doing a statement again is going to be drive to survive comedy.

  8. They’re similar, but not identical. The sidepod of the Aston tapers off a little more steeply at the rear compared to the Red Bull.

    But I guess if you’re Christian Horner, never let the facts get in the way of a good moan.

  9. I don’t know why that’s bothering RB/Christian Horner at all. It’s not like the AM has suddenly become a threat to RB, their car is still far too slow.
    I understand that RB is willing to investigate this matter, as there probably has been some information leak inside their team or possibly still is. It’s very likely that their former engineers which left for AM have transferred some know-how over to their new team. But how that was even possibly (gardening leave etc.) is the real question. It wouldn’t surprise me if we had a Spygate 2.0, just with almost no impact on the championship, as AM is not competitive enough.
    RB should not pay too much attention to this, because they have a championship fight on their hands. They can’t afford to get too much involved into or possibly distracted by something that won’t have any kind of impact on this season. All they have to do is make sure they don’t have some spy leaking information to their rivals. Why should they care if a backmarker has joined the midfield?! This should concern the likes of Alfa Romeo, Alpine, Alpha Tauri, Haas and McLaren more than RB.

  10. I have an opinion
    20th May 2022, 23:15

    Aston Martin assert they had wind tunnel models of this specification in November 2021. This assertion practically affirms their culpability, as the only people who had knowledge of the RB18 before then were (ex-)Red Bull staff.

    1. The Dolphins
      21st May 2022, 1:59

      Not necessarily, the next logical question would be when did Red Bull have this design? Who knew of this design and where are they now? Did AM engineers go to RB or just vice-versa?

      While on the surface it may seem AM have “copied” RB, it’s plausible AM had the idea first but RB brought it to the track first.

      It’s similar to the double diffuser (in more ways than one): a few teams came up with the concept in parallel (arguably some discussion might have happened between engineers), others saw the advantage and copied it quickly (including RB). In this case the sidepod is an arguably insignificant portion of performance compared to the double diffuser.

  11. Luke S (@joeypropane)
    20th May 2022, 23:22

    “When we had the launch of the car Andy Green at the time, our CTO [chief technical officer], was already mentioning that we had built in some flexibility in the car to be able to develop along the journey. And this is what we have done at the end of the day.

    “So from that point of view, it was just a normal development process where at one point we have said, you remember we had all the porpoising difficulties with the other spec car. From that point of view, we said at one point we need to change, we need to make a little update here. And that’s what we did at the end.”

    Hmm, while I don’t believe Aston blatantly copied RBR, this is very clearly not a case of “built in flexibility” – it’s a completely different design philosophy… I’m not an aerodynamicist and can see that it’s more than a “little update”.

  12. Really impressed by Red Bull’s long standing, deep commitment to the exact following of the rules. They, of course, have never shown any tolerance for any rule breaking or bending of any kind, and would never dream, under any circumstances, of taking an advantage from a situation where rules were not followed.
    Well, that’s cleared that up then.

    1. Christian has also volunteered to be the 3rd race director and a steward this season.

  13. Braking news: “Mercedes will launch an internal investigation into the superiority of the RedHondaBull engine after some of it’s engineering work force moved to Red Bull.” Toto said.

  14. “Thare mast bee a lik! No vay they can kome up veeth this on thar own” He added

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