Racing Point co-owner Lawrence Stroll is ‘appalled’ by the actions of rival Formula 1 teams after his own squad was found in breach of the sport’s sporting regulations.
An investigation into the brake ducts on the RP20 resulted in the loss of 15 points in the constructors’ championship and a fine of more than $650,000.
The team was found to have breached Appendix 6 of the sporting regulations which dictates that teams must design specific components on their car.
However, despite the fine and loss of points, the team will be allowed to continue using the brake ducts in question, with a simple reprimand being handed down by the stewards each time it does.
In response, five teams have appealed the decision, including Racing Point itself.
Renault, McLaren, Ferrari, and Williams have all claimed the penalty does not go far enough, while Racing Point has argued that it’s unjust.
A similar intellectual property dispute in 2007 resulted in McLaren being excluded from constructors’ championship and a $100 million fine when one of its engineers was found in possession of Ferrari designs.
Racing Point’s RP20 has come under heavy criticism for its similarity to the 2019 Mercedes W10.
At the Styrian Grand Prix a protest surrounding the brake ducts on the RP20 was submitted, triggering an investigation which was only resolved last Friday.
Despite the FIA ruling against Racing Point, the team has maintained its innocence by claiming its brake ducts were an evolution of knowledge it already had, owing to its relationship with engine supplier Mercedes.
Ahead of the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix in Silverstone, team owner Stroll issued a terse statement in which he took aim at rival teams.
“I do not often speak publicly, however I am extremely angry at any suggestion we have been underhand or have cheated – particularly those comments coming from our competitors,” Stroll’s statement read.
“I have never cheated at anything in my life. These accusations are completely unacceptable and not true. My integrity – and that of my team – are beyond question.
“Everyone at Racing Point was shocked and disappointed by the FIA ruling and firmly maintain our innocence.”
Central to the dispute is the fact brake ducts transferred from a non-listed to listed part for 2020.
Teams are obliged to design listed parts, or own the intellectual property to the designs, with regulations specifically outlawing the use of a rival competitor in any outsourcing arrangements.
Racing Point’s defence to Renault’s protests has largely centred on the the argument that it cannot forget what it had already learned, and that its designs are an evolution of prior knowledge – knowledge gained from Mercedes in 2019.
In his statement, Stroll cites details from the FIA judgement which offers a number of mitigating factors;
- The parts transfer between Mercedes and Racing Point on January 6th 2020 does not constitute a breach of the regulations worthy of censure as the parts in question were both not used and did not expand the information that had previously passed from Mercedes to Racing Point quite legitimately under the regulations in 2019. The recent change of status of the Brake Ducts as Listed Parts further argues that censure or penalisation is not appropriate on this point. These are the words of the stewards.
- The change in classification of the Brake Ducts from Non‐Listed Parts in 2019 to Listed Parts in 2020, as a mitigating factor.
- The lack of detailed focus on Brake Ducts by the FIA personnel who inspected the RP20 in March 2020, when they were admittedly focused on the entire car.
- Racing Point could probably have obtained much of the same amount of competitive advantage from photographing the Mercedes W10 Rear Brake Ducts and reverse engineering them, albeit with additional design resources expended in the process, say the stewards.
- In every respect regarding this matter, Racing Point has been open and transparent with regard to their actions, which they fully believed to have been compliant with the regulations, and the Stewards attribute no deliberate intent to any breach of the regulations that occurred.
“The rules, as they are written, state that after 2019, no further information on Brake Duct design can be shared or acquired,” Stroll asserted.
“At that point, what you know and have learned, is your own information. From that point onwards, you are on your own. Which is exactly what we have done.
“So, to clarify, there was no guidance in place by the FIA surrounding the transition of non-listed to listed items and Racing Point received in March 2020 written confirmation from the FIA with regards to our compliance on the matter.
“This week I was also shocked to see the FIA introduced a new grandfather clause, which had never previously existed.
“Beyond the clear fact that Racing Point complied with the technical regulations, I am appalled by the way Renault, McLaren, Ferrari and Williams have taken this opportunity to appeal, and in doing so attempted to detract from our performances.
“They are dragging our name through the mud and I will not stand by nor accept this.
“I intend to take all necessary actions to prove our innocence.
“My team has worked tirelessly to deliver the competitive car we have on the grid. I am truly upset to see the poor sportsmanship of our competitors.”
Racing Point is an evolution of the Jordan Grand Prix team, which first entered Formula 1 in 1991.
It’s since then gone through a number of identities, most recognisably Force India from 2008 to 2018.
The team hit the rocks midway through the 2018 season before a Stroll-led consortium effectively created a new team and transferred the assets to the new entity.
Since then, the outfit has enjoyed significant investment which will next year see it re-branded to the Aston Martin factory team.