Renault’s next move in Formula One’s copying controversy will call for rivals Racing Point to be disqualified from every race at which its car was protested.
An investigation into the design process of Racing Point’s brake ducts was put in motion when Renault protested their legality at the Styrian Grand Prix, claiming they were a copy of the design from last year’s Mercedes.
Renault has protested Racing Point at every race since then, with a panel of FIA stewards finally declaring last weekend that the rear brake ducts were in breach of F1’s sporting regulations.
The decision, which treated all the individual protests as one, saw Racing Point docked 15 points and fined €400,000, but also allowed the team to continue to use the brake ducts for the rest of the season with nothing more than a reprimand at each race.
That verdict has been appealed by both Racing Point — on the basis that the team has done nothing wrong — and Ferrari and Renault, who are seeking clarity on the issue and calling for the punishment to go further.
Chief among Renault’s complaints is that it saw its cars disqualified from last year’s Japanese Grand Prix over a brake-bias system that was found to have broken the sporting regulations. On the basis that it was disqualified in Japan and had to remove the system from the car, Renault is calling for the same penalty to be applied to Racing Point.
“We were expecting a consistent sanction with other sanctions that we’ve seen in the past, with the most recent one being the one we accepted last year after Suzuka when we were found in breach of a sporting regulation, not a technical regulation, and were excluded from that event, therefore losing all our points,” Renault team principal Cyril Abiteboul said. “There was no discount for Renault so I don’t know why there should be a discount for Racing Point, it should be all the points of the events that we’ve been protesting.
“I think we are also going to be in a bit of a strange situation where after every single event Otmar will be called to the stewards, his brake ducts will be found similar to what they were and he will again receive a reprimand. We are facing, what, 10 races where his cars will be reprimanded.
“So it is a bit of a strange situation and I think we would like to have also a bit more clarity about that, not necessarily saying that they should be excluded from the season but I think that also from a communication standpoint to the fans to the public explaining why a car is still somewhat in breach because it will receive a reprimand but it is okay to be part of the championship and eligible for points. We think it is a bit awkward so we would like also some closure about that if possible.”
Racing Point, which was particularly vocal in defence of its car’s legality last week, said it intended to follow through with its appeal against the original fine and lost points.
Team principal Otmar Szafnauer pointed out that stewards’ own verdict had conceded that the rules around the change in status of brake ducts from a non-listed part, which could be bought from another team, to a listed part, which must be designed in-house, was not clear.
“We’ve appealed the decision based on what the stewards had written in their findings, and the findings are pretty clear that we didn’t do anything underhand or dishonest,” Szafnauer said.
“We were completely transparent and open with the FIA throughout their process of checking both our brake ducts and the remainder of our car.
“They concluded that the rule, especially for brake ducts transitioning from a non-listed part to a listed part were ambiguous and unclear. Because of it, we believe our punishment for an unclear and ambiguous rule that we didn’t intentionally contravene is a bit harsh.
“It’s the reason we’re appealing, and we’re very confident we’ll win on the appeal.”
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