January 20, 2021

Racing Point-Renault protest hearing being held

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Stewards meeting with Racing Point, Renault and Mercedes representatives at Silverstone over RP20 brake duct controversy

Last Updated: 05/08/20 2:15pm

5:43
EXPLAINED: Ted Kravitz investigates Renault’s protest against the Racing Point ‘Pink Panther’ cars, which has led to an FIA investigation

EXPLAINED: Ted Kravitz investigates Renault’s protest against the Racing Point ‘Pink Panther’ cars, which has led to an FIA investigation

Renault’s protest against the legality of Racing Point’s car is being heard at Silverstone on Wednesday.

Representatives from both teams – plus world champions Mercedes – were called to a meeting with F1 stewards on Wednesday morning to present their respective cases after Renault protested the brake duct design on the RP20.

Renault have lodged protests against the Racing Point cars after the last three grands prix – Styria, Hungary and Britain.

All parties have been given several weeks to compile evidence for the hearing.

Racing Point have openly said that this year’s RP20 is heavily based on last year’s title-winning Mercedes but have remained adamant that they have operated completely inside the regulations and that they have designed their own brake ducts for 2020.

Speaking at the British GP, team boss Otmar Szafnauer predicted: “It’s not going to go against us, it’s pretty clear. We didn’t contravene any of the rules.

“The FIA came and looked and checked [in pre-season]. They’re happy that we didn’t but you know the stewards didn’t come and look and check and now that there’s a protest against us, we’ve got to take the data that we showed to the FIA already and show that to the stewards.”

What’s the controversy all about?

Racing Point’s 2020 car caught the attention of midfield rivals from almost when it was launched and hit the track in February owing to its resemblance to the title-winning 2019 Mercedes, the W10.

The team have since made a fast start to the delayed season and are fifth in the Constructors’ Championship.

The ‘copying’ of rival teams’ cars – from digital photographs, for instance – is not illegal in Formula 1 and Racing Point have been clear that they have adopted Mercedes’ successful design philosophy for this year.

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Sky F1’s Ted Kravitz spoke to Racing Point’s Technical Director Andy Green back at winter testing in February, who explained their new approach for 2020

Sky F1’s Ted Kravitz spoke to Racing Point’s Technical Director Andy Green back at winter testing in February, who explained their new approach for 2020

While teams can buy certain parts from other teams, technical regulations state that other ‘listed parts’ must be designed completely by teams themselves.

Brake ducts were added to that prescribed list for 2020, having previously been non-listed, meaning designs could have been legally shared by teams in 2019.

Renault’s protest effectively centres on the process by which Racing Point came to run their 2020 brake-duct designs.

“We assume that the brake ducts of the Racing Point and some other parts are a design from another team, and that is not legal in the regulations,” Renault executive director Marcin Budkowski told Sky F1.

Nikolas Tombazis, the head of single-seater technical matters at the FIA, told Sky F1 at the Hungarian GP: “I think the debate will be more philosophical from a regulation point of view whether they (Racing Point) followed the right process.”

The status of brake-duct design has changed between the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Whereas teams were able to buy brake ducts from another last year, for this year the parts were made a ‘listed part’ – meaning teams had to design them themselves.

With Mercedes having been asked to supply their 2019 brake ducts for comparison by the stewards, technical director James Allison recently explained: “I think it’s pretty straightforward. There’s an argument between Racing Point and Renault and in order to settle that argument the FIA need to seek some information from us because the dispute is about what brake ducts Racing Point are running and so we’re perfectly happy to provide them with the information they asked for on last year’s Mercedes brake ducts.”