Renault Protest: Racing Point Lose Battle, Will Win War?

FIA rule against Racing Point in the protest made by Renault before the 2020 70th Anniversary Grand Prix
Racing Point lose protest by Renault, but will they still win the war of the mid-field team battle?

After weeks of waiting, the FIA finally released their ruling of Renault’s protest against Racing Point via an exhaustive and descriptive document detailing their findings. Here’s a summary of the key points from the Conclusion of the Stewards. I’ll follow them up with some of the questions I’ve been asked via social media and other mediums to further breakdown the Renault-Racing Point protest.

Racing Point: Underachievers Of F1 2020…Yet

Point #10: However, since RP20 RBDs (rear brake ducts) were not run on RP19 and since the Stewards believe that the design effort expended by Racing Point in adapting the RBDs originally designed by Mercedes for the W10 pales in comparison to the significance of the original Mercedes work, the Stewards conclude that the principal designer of the RP29 RBDs was Mercedes, not Racing Point.

#13 (excerpts): It is not realistic to expect Racing Point to re-design or re-engineer the BDs in a way that would effectively require them to ‘unlearn’ what they already know. Therefore, the penalty imposed is intended to penalise the potential advantage RP may have accrued in the BD design process which resulted in the use of LPs (listed parts) which were not designed by it. 

#14 (summary): This breach is one of the Sporting Regulations rather than a non-compliance with the Technical Regulations – there it is not necessary to consider disqualification as default sanction for the breach.

#14b (mitigating factors for RP’s penalty): The absence of specific guidance or clarification from the fIA in respect to how that transition to LPs might be managed within the spirit and intent of the regulations.

#14c (contd.): The lack of detailed focus on BDs by the FIA personnel who inspected the RP20 in March 2020 when they were admittedly focussed on the entire car.

#15 (my interpretation): Racing Point are penalised for the BD design process and not the actual usage of the copied BDs. The penalty of reprimand will continue for future races. The actual penalty is deduction of points for 2020 Styrian Grand Prix + €400,000.

#16: The points deduction is only for the Constructors’ Championship and NOT for the individual drivers.

And of course, Racing Point (& other teams involved) have the right to appeal this ruling.

Key Questions Around FIA’s Ruling Of The Renault-Racing Point Protest:

1. Can Racing Point continue using the RP20 (current car) for the rest of the 2020 Formula 1 season?

Answer: Yes. Basis point #15, the FIA deem that Racing Point will not be in breach if they keep using the copied BDs

2. Do they need to design new brake ducts? 

Answer: No. Plus, read point #13 above where the FIA explains ‘unlearn’ 

3. Are the brake ducts on Racing Point’s RP20 legal?

Answer: Yes, the FIA have deemed the design process of the brake ducts was in breach of regulations and not the brake ducts itself 

4. Can Renault continue to protest against Racing Point even after this ruling?

Answer: Yes, Renault can protest against Racing Point but not when it comes to brake ducts. This ruling is a decision on the legality of Racing Point’s brake ducts. Renault will need to protest against other car parts, if so (Read: REAL Reason Why Renault Protested Against Racing Point)

5. Will Racing Point continue to be reprimanded for using the current car and brake ducts for the rest of 2020?

Answer: Yes, it’s possible

6. How many reprimands before it actually translates into a penalty?

Answer: In the case of teams, it’s not known 

7. Does this ruling mean the end of the current protest from Renault against Racing Point?

Answer: Yes, unless either of the parties appeal the ruling

8. Why have Racing Point not been disqualified for this breach?

Answer: The FIA have explained that this breach is towards the Sporting and not the Technical Regulations. The FIA deem that it is the process of BD design that was in breach and not the BDs itself

9. Have Racing Point been let off lightly?

Answer: It depends how you see it. Racing Point have been docked 15 points in the Constructors’ Championship + a financial penalty. However, they can continue using this car for the rest of the 2020 Formula 1 season – this means that they will retain their competitive advantage. However, the FIA have expressed that they will make minor modifications to the regulations for the 2021 Formula 1 season that ban teams from copying another team’s car altogether

Excerpts from Nikolas Tombazis’ (FIA’s Head of Single-Seater Technical Matters) statement: “We do plan within the very short notice to introduce some amendments to the 2021 sporting regulations that will prevent this becoming the norm. It will prevent teams from using extensive parts of photos to copy whole portions of other cars in the way that Racing Point has done. We will still accept individual components to be copied in local areas. But we don’t want the whole car to be to be fundamentally a copy of another car.”

The 70th Anniversary Grand Prix will be contested this weekend. Here’s a Pits To Podium video on the ‘5 things to watch for’.

Kunal Shah is an FIA-accredited Formula 1 journalist who has been reporting on Formula 1 for nearly two decades. He worked with the Force India Formula 1 Team for 6 seasons in Marketing, Sponsorship and Commercial roles. As a former single-seater racer, he was responsible for Force India's grassroots talent program, One from a Billion Hunt. Presently, he co-writes a regular Formula 1 column for Firstpost, speaks on Inside Line F1 Podcast & Pits to Podium and produces broadcast/OTT content for NENT Group (Viasport & Viaplay).

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