Aston Martin boss hints at legal action against FIA

Sebastian Vettel at the wheel of an Aston Martin AMR21

Aston Martin team boss Otmar Szafnauer has hinted that his team could take legal action against the FIA.

A storm is brewing in the Formula 1 paddock over changes to aerodynamic regulations introduced for the 2021 season.

Changes have been made primarily to the floor in front of the rear wheels, with the consensus being that teams with a high-rake design philosophy have been less impacted.

Aston Martin, whose 2021 car is a development of the 2020 car – itself having drawn heavy inspiration from Mercedes’ 2019 championship-winning W10 – does not employ such a philosophy.

Szafnauer is now looking to open discussions with the FIA regarding the rule changes, which he implied were not made entirely by the sport’s governing body.

The changes made to the floor of cars was done so with a view to reduce the speed of cars, in turn reducing the load placed on the Pirelli tyres.

It was expected the same tyres used last year would be used again this season, though that has not been the case.

Some have therefore questioned why the floor changes were necessary at all, and whether the intent of the change was to slow the cars down, or if it was actually to shake up the pecking order in an era of Mercedes domination.

Otmar Szafnauer

“It’s hard to know the intent,” Szafnauer mused to Sky Sports.

“You know, that’s a question for the FIA – a regulation change that’s made for safety reasons, that type of governance rests solely with the FIA.”

Pressed on the next course of action, Szafnauer suggested a dialogue with the governing body was the next step, but did not rule out legal action.

“I think the right thing to do is you have the discussions with the FIA and find out exactly what happened and why and then see if there’s something that can be done to make it more equitable,” he said.

“I think that’s the right thing to do.

“We as a team have to work hard to try to claw back everything we can but, at the same time, we should be having the discussion with the FIA to see if anything can be done to make it a bit more equitable.”

The governance of Formula 1 is such that a separation of duties must be observed, with the FIA fulfilling the role of regulator.

Liberty Media, as the commercial rights holder, should have no direct input into the formation of the regulations.

A number of bodies have been created to have rule changes proposed, debated, developed, and eventually submitted to the FIA for approval.

The various bodies and structures in place have been created such that those separation duties and democratic principles are maintained.

Aston Martin’s rivals are, predictably, unsympathetic.

“Just consider Ferrari last year, we close the car after Australia and we knew that we were performing very badly,” Ferrari’s Mattia Binotto reasoned to Sky Sports.

“So I think that’s part of the game. I think regulations are the same for everybody. It’s the same challenge for everybody.

“I don’t think you can clearly say that one concept is better or worse, I think it’s only a matter for us to challenge our design and make sure that we are performing the best, whatever are the regulations.”

Aston Martin (while known as Racing Point) finished fourth in the constructors’ championship last year, seven points behind McLaren.

Early in the year it lost 15 points after it was found to have breached sporting regulations regarding the intellectual property of listed components – specifically the rear brake ducts on its car.

That came following a protest from Renault and a number of rivals taking issues with the team’s approach of drawing heavy inspiration from the previous year’s title winning Mercedes.

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