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Formula 1

Renault debating appeal despite winning Racing Point protest

by Matt Beer
4 min read

Renault is weighing up lodging an appeal despite winning its protest of Formula 1 rival Racing Point, because it questions the extent of the sanction applied.

Racing Point was fined €400,000 and docked 15 points in the constructors’ championship after a panel of FIA stewards determined it had illegally used Mercedes information in the design of its rear brake ducts.

Renault had lodged a trio of protests against the RP20’s brake ducts following the Styrian, Hungarian and British Grands Prix but the stewards’ penalty was specific to the first of those events, with only reprimands issued for the following too.

Racing Point will also be allowed to continue running the parts this season.

Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul hinted on Friday that he did not consider the sanction sufficient, and when asked by The Race if Renault may appeal for that reason he said: “I can confirm that we’re considering whether or not to appeal.

“Usually we have one hour to do that but in this particular case, given the complexity, we have 24 hours to do that and then 96 hours to confirm or not.

“We need to balance carefully the interest of the sport also, and the consistency of the sanction.

“We are looking whether or not we will appeal the sanction, not the decision.”

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship 70th Anniversary Grand Prix Practice Day Silverstone, England

Renault had targeted the brake ducts because the internals would be difficult to just copy from photographs, which Racing Point has said was the basis for how it has replicated the aerodynamic parts of the 2019 Mercedes.

But Renault also considered them an area of significant performance sensitivity, a position supported by the stewards who said that it carried “enormous” potential.

Racing Point’s Mercedes copy has allowed it to start the season in strong form and the 15-point deduction only drops it behind Renault in the constructors’ championship by five points.

This technical issue became a sporting matter because it boiled down to the process Racing Point employed, rather than the legality of the part from a technical perspective, and Abiteboul said he was pleased the stewards ruled in Renault’s favour even though the penalty is considered lenient.

“We are satisfied with the fact that the FIA and the stewards confirmed that some of these parts were in breach of the sporting regulations,” he said.

“It’s a sporting regulation but it’s really a technical matters that ends up being placed in the sporting regulation. But it is a technical matter.

“So we are satisfied with that conclusion, I think that the question of sanction is open for debate and could be discussed probably endlessly.

“We will consider that matter, bearing in mind that the advantage that was obviously obtained will keep on going for all the season.

“And it’s a very material advantage, just to put things in perspective any team will be spending 20% of its ATR [Aerodynamic Testing Restriction] time into developing those parts so it’s not small.”

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship 70th Anniversary Grand Prix Practice Day Silverstone, England

F1’s rules will change next season to stop copycat designs becoming the norm following what FIA technical chief Nikolas Tombazis called the “paradigm shift” in Racing Point’s process of replicating the 2019 Mercedes.

The issue has sparked a wider philosophical debate beyond the protest, with several teams including McLaren insisting it goes beyond the usual scope for F1 teams to copy one another’s ideas.

Rule changes will be enforced next season to prevent designs like the RP20 being legal, although it is unclear which form these rules will take.

“We need to recognise that what Racing Point has done based on the cars that has such an advantage against anyone else on the grid has been a shock in the system, it has been a disruption,” said Abiteboul.

“We need to see how we deal with it.

“I think, yes, copying has been part of the history of Formula 1, but technology has evolved so much that it’s now possible to do things that were not possible to do before.

“So, the whole regulatory framework needs to evolve with the technology that allows you to do some steps that were not possible with a level of accuracy that was not possible before.

“And we’ve been pleased with the statement from the Nikolas Tombazis this morning in parallel to the decision of the stewards about his willingness to take on that matter, and to tackle it strongly without waiting for next year.

“But we need to understand exactly what’s behind that statement.

“That’s why again we take a bit of time before deciding what is our course of action from that point on.”

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