Renault’s protest against the Racing Point’s brake ducts has been upheld, leading to a 15-point deduction and six-figure fine, but the relevant parts can continue to be used this season.
The legality of the Mercedes-inspired RP20 was questioned by Renault at the Styrian Grand Prix, with the protest relating to the front and rear brake ducts. The brake ducts became listed parts that a constructor must design itself this season, having previously been non-listed and therefore available for purchase from other teams. As those parts were also used in Hungary and at the first race in Silverstone, the protest was wrapped up as one and a hearing took place on Wednesday.
Announcing the result on Friday morning, the FIA stewards deemed the process used to come up with the design of the rear brake ducts illegal. The punishment of the points deduction and a €400,000 ($473,000) fine handed out relates to the way the design was achieved and the time and cost savings, but does not outlaw their use for the rest of the season.
Racing Point legally obtained the CAD models of the Mercedes W10 brake ducts in late 2018/early 2019 and used them to develop the front brake ducts for its 2019 car. This was deemed legal as brake ducts were not a listed part last season. At the time, Racing Point did not use the models to copy the rear brake ducts as they did not fit with the car’s concept.
The front brake ducts were then tweaked and refined during 2019, and small changes were required for the RP20. The stewards say the FIA would have provided guidance to allow for these changes if approached by Racing Point, but that didn’t happen. This borderline infringement was then deemed moot due to the rear brake ducts.
The stewards say in late 2019, Racing Point “decided to replicate the rear of the Mercedes W10 (as well as most other aspects of the Mercedes of the W10). Therefore, it took out the CAD models of the Mercedes W10 RBDs, and used them to develop RBDs with very similar surface dimensions/shapes (unsurprisingly, since it also did its best to copy the aerodynamic aspects of the rest of the Mercedes W10, including all of its other LPs).”
This was deemed illegal as the team was fully aware that the brake ducts would be a listed part in 2020, having been approved in the 2020 Sporting Regulations in April 2019.
“The method of creating the RP20 RBDs accrued a potential sporting advantage to Racing Point by allowing it to allocate a wide range of design resources to other design efforts as opposed to executing the detailed design effort on the RBDs that would have been necessary to replicate the equivalent effort from Mercedes in the original W10 design,” the stewards decision read.
As it is a breach of sporting regulations, the stewards deem it not necessary to consider disqualification as the car complies with the technical regulations, but the punishments were handed out against the first protest at the Styrian Grand Prix. For the following two races in Hungary and the UK, a reprimand is deemed sufficient.
The stewards say the punishment “is intended to penalize the potential advantage Racing Point may have accrued in the brake duct design process” and that “it is therefore appropriate to impose a penalty that covers the entire process of (non‐)designing the BDs and making them available for use during the whole 2020 season.”
Racing Point will receive a reprimand every time it uses the brake ducts in future races but will not face exclusion or any further penalties without an appeal. The team loses 15 points from its constructors’ championship total — 7.5 from each car — but the drivers themselves do not lose the points from the drivers’ standings.