The Racing Point team have been punished by the FIA after they were judged to have illegally copied part of last year’s Mercedes car. However, before the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone this weekend, other teams reacted angrily that the team will be allowed to continue to use their car and the parts deemed illegal this season.
Mercedes also issued a warning at Silverstone that they had failed yet to reach an agreement to stay in Formula One beyond 2020.
After protests by the Renault team, the FIA had launched an extensive investigation into the Racing Point car and on Friday morning published its ruling, stating they had copied the rear brake ducts used by Mercedes in 2019. Racing Point have been docked 15 constructors’ points and fined €400,000 (£359,000) but can use the brake ducts.
Some teams are unhappy Racing Point can continue to compete with their car. Renault’s team principal, Cyril Abiteboul, said they may appeal against the punishment. “The question of sanction is up for debate,” he said. “The advantage that was obviously obtained will keep on going for all the season. And it’s a very material advantage.”
McLaren’s chief executive, Zak Brown, whose team have appealed against the decision, was scathing in his assessment. “They claimed they had copied the car via photography. It’s clear from reading the document that is BS. So you have to question everything else around the car. I am concerned they still have what was deemed illegal in Austria on the race car now. I think that is confusing for the fans.”
Ferrari have stated they will appeal against the decision. Ferrari’s team principal, Mattia Binotto, said: “We believe it is not possible to copy and simply understand the full concept behind the car. I don’t think the verdict of today is sufficient because it is only relevant to the brake ducts and not the entire concept, so it is only the tip of the iceberg.”
F1 has said it is to take immediate steps to prevent copycat designs being used in future. The FIA’s head of single seaters, Nikolas Tombazis, said it has agreed with the owner, Liberty Media, to change the regulations for 2021. “This will prevent teams from using extensive part of photos to copy whole portions of other cars in the way that Racing Point has done,” he said.
“Copying has been taking place in Formula One for a long time. People take photos and sometimes reverse engineer them and make similar concepts. We do not think this can stop in the future completely. But what we do think is that Racing Point took this to another level. They clearly decided to apply this philosophy for the whole car.”
The Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, has raised the possibility the team may not commit to staying in F1. The current concorde agreement between Liberty Media and the teams concludes at the end of 2020. Wolff said the proposed new contract – designed to more fairly distribute prize money – made Mercedes “the biggest victim in terms of prize fund loss”. The deadline for agreement is 12 August but Wolff was insistent F1 needed to compromise.
“I feel that Mercedes has contributed to the sport over the last years. We have, apart from being competitive on-track, the driver that has clearly the most global appeal,” he said. “We feel that whilst being in those negotiations, we weren’t treated in the way we should have been.”
Mercedes were once more on top on the track at Silverstone, with Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, who won here last week, taking a one-two in the first session. Hamilton led Bottas in the afternoon with Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo in third, a full eight-tenths back.
The Racing Point car has caused controversy ever since it hit the track in testing and was dubbed the “Pink Mercedes”. The team have admitted they copied the championship-winning 2019 Mercedes, which is not illegal as long as they have designed specific elements, known as “listed parts”, themselves.
However Renault argued the front and rear brake ducts – key aerodynamic components that control air flow and contribute to downforce and listed parts – were too similar to the 2019 Mercedes to have been designed from scratch.
The FIA ruling concluded the rear brake ducts were “designed in large part by Mercedes”. Mercedes had admitted they supplied information on their 2019 brake ducts because at the time they were not listed parts. However a subsequent rule change for 2020 meant brake ducts were required to be designed from scratch. The FIA confirmed that had Racing Point questioned whether the 2019 rear brake ducts could be used on their car, they would have been told it was not legal. However although the team did cooperate with the FIA in their design they did not query the governing body on their brake ducts.
Racing Point can appeal against the decision but have yet to indicate whether they will do so. The team also confirmed on Friday their driver Sergio Pérez, who missed the British Grand Prix after contracting Covid-19, will also be absent this weekend after he tested positive for coronavirus again. Nico Hülkenberg, drafted in last week to replace him, will once more deputise.