Formula One stewards fined Racing Point 400,000 euros ($473,000), stripped them of 15 points in the constructors’ championship and issued a reprimand on Friday after upholding a Renault protest about the legality of their rival’s car.
FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - British Grand Prix - Silverstone Circuit, Silverstone, Britain - August 1, 2020 Racing Point's Nico Hulkenberg in action during practice Bryn Lennon/Pool via REUTERSRenault had protested at the last three races, arguing that the brake ducts used by Racing Point were a copy of those used by Mercedes, their engine partner, in winning last year’s championship.
The governing FIA said the stewards had upheld the complaints against Racing Point, whose competitive car has been dubbed the ‘Pink Mercedes’ because it looks so similar to the 2019 Mercedes.
Racing Point’s drivers — Canadian Lance Stroll and Mexican Sergio Perez — will keep their points but the team will drop from fifth to sixth and behind Renault in the constructors’ standings ahead of Sunday’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.
Perez is absent from that race after testing positive for COVID-19, and will be replaced by German stand-in Nico Hulkenberg.
The team, owned by a consortium led by Stroll’s father Lawrence, were weighing up whether to appeal.
“The good news from the judgement is that the car is completely legal from a technical perspective so we can continue to run the brake ducts, it’s just a matter of process in the sporting regulations,” team principal Otmar Szafnauer told Sky Sports television.
Other teams could also appeal, with Ferrari — who have a close relationship with the Haas team and also provide Alfa Romeo with engines — saying they intended to do so while Renault considered their position.
“We will consider that matter, bearing in mind the advantage that was obviously obtained will keep on going for all the season and it’s a very material advantage,” said Renault team boss Cyril Abiteboul.
The stewards said the fine and points deduction — 7.5 per car for the original protest at the Styrian Grand Prix — were sufficient punishment and the team would not have to redesign the brake ducts.
“It is the view of the stewards that the penalty rendered at the Styrian Grand Prix was proportionate for the violation of the design process ...and a further penalty of reprimand is sufficient for the Hungarian and British Grands Prix,” they said.
The stewards said the penalty was “intended to penalise the potential advantage Racing Point may have accrued in the brake duct design process” and recognised it was not realistic to expect the team to “unlearn” information.
They also emphasised the breach was of the sporting regulations rather than non-compliance with the technical rules and therefore disqualification was not considered.
FIA head of single seaters Nikolas Tombazis said Racing Point had been transparent but the copying had been taken too far and amendments to next year’s sporting regulations are planned.
“We will still accept individual components to be copied in local areas, but we don’t want the whole car to be fundamentally a copy of another car,” he said.
Renault had said their protest was also about the future of the sport and what it means to be a constructor.
“We don’t want next year to have eight or 10 Mercedes or copies of Mercedes on the grid where the main skill becomes how you do this process,” said Tombazis. “We don’t want this to become the norm of Formula One.”
($1 = 0.8456 euros)