Lance Stroll, Racing Point, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020

Was the verdict against Racing Point correct?

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Following a protest by Renault, three weeks ago the FIA stewards rendered a verdict on Racing Point and its ‘pink Mercedes’ which was unprecedented and contentious.

Unprecedented, because no F1 team had ever previously been penalised a set number of constructors’ championship points, rather than having all their points for a given race or races confiscated.

Contentious, because the verdict prompted appeals. Not just from Racing Point, who seek to overturn the decision against them, and not just from Renault, who believe a harsher penalty is deserved, but also from Ferrari, who believe the case could set a vital precedent for the future of Formula 1.

Racing Point were found to have broken rules which define which parts of a car teams must design by themselves. In a complicated verdict, the team were penalised 15 points and fined 400,000 Euros, but they were also permitted to continue using their rear brake ducts, despite the stewards ruling the means by which they had designed them broke the rules.

The case now looks likely to end up at the International Court of Appeal where the original decision will be reconsidered. Was it too harsh, too lenient – or correct?


While the design of Racing Point’s entire car has come under scrutiny, it has only been found to infringe the rules in one respect. Crucially, no part of the car has been found to violate the technical regulations, which ordinarily would mean a straight disqualification.

Instead, the team was found to have infringed on the rules concerning how it may design its car. And only in respect of a single part, the rear brake ducts.

Permitting the team to continue using the brake ducts is reasonable as they cannot be expected to ‘forget’ the parts they have already created and produce different ones. Racing Point note that while they received some brake ducts early in 2020 from Mercedes, a violation of the rules, they were previously allowed to obtain the same parts. A milder sanction could therefore be justified.


Through the information Racing Point obtained from Mercedes, in violation of the rules, the team gained an advantage which is greater than the penalty which has been handed down.

Producing the ducts costs considerably more than the amount they have been fined. They are sophisticated aerodynamic devices which are significant performance contributors to the overall car. Over the initial three-race period Renault protested Racing Point, the team scored 34 points. They have already overcome the 15-point deduction in the races since to rise to third in the constructors’ championship.

Whether the parts themselves or the procedure by which they were created is illegal, the stewards have failed to address the advantage Racing Point have gained and a harsher penalty is deserved.

I say

Trying to second-guess what the appeal court may decide is a somewhat futile exercise as new relevant details may come to light in the time between now and the case being heard.

At the time it was announced I felt the penalty issued seemed light for what Racing Point had been found guilty of. It was striking that soon afterwards the FIA made it clear they would seek to prevent teams ‘cloning’ rivals’ cars in the future, which felt like a potential sop to the teams who might be underwhelmed by the scale of Racing Point’s penalty.

Unless Racing Point are successful in challenging the reasons for which they were penalised – and their furious response to the verdict indicates they intend to argue this point vehemently – then given the obvious performance the RP20 has shown in the six races so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if the appeal court decides a stronger penalty is deserved. And, in particular, that something more than a reprimand is needed if the team continues to use the disputed ducts.

You say

What did you think of the original verdict in Renault’s protest against Racing Point? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.

The stewards' verdict on Racing Point was:

  • No opinion (6%)
  • Far too lenient (35%)
  • Slightly too lenient (16%)
  • Fair (9%)
  • Slightly too harsh (9%)
  • Far too harsh (25%)

Total Voters: 241

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 88 comments on “Was the verdict against Racing Point correct?”

    1. It was not simply “Far too harsh”, it was downright incorrect.

      The Stewards have stretched the current regulation to the limit and came up with inexistent “requirement” to having raced breaking ducts bought years before.

      There was no such requirement, there is no such requirement.

      Hope the Court of Appeal confirms this and throws the guilty verdict to the bin

      1. Agree, @dallein.

        Although… making up new meanings of non-existent rules makes the piranha club pool exciting.

        Can’t help but wonder if Renault/Ferrari has made some backroom deals we won’t know about next decade’s tell-all book.

      2. I have give it to @dallein This is a cause which the rules says RP was correct but the other ‘rules’ they were somehow to late with something so they deserve a penaulty….

        It’s a bit against the spirit of the game the verdict AND copying the car.

        In a normal court i think this verdict will be reversed if they review RP arguments and the reason they were penaulized which was very grey.

    2. The penalty shouldn’t be a DSQ from the races that RP raced these parts, not only because they didn’t breach the technical regs, but also because as the original verdict says “they cannot unlearn what they have already learned”, so given that, are they going to be DSQ for all the coming races because they can’t design a different/better solution? So if they are to be penalised, this uncoventional method of [fine+points deduction], seem like the only way. But that’s a way small fine and a way way small point deduction.

      They used a ‘not entirely legal part’ to design a good car that could get them from 7th place that they finished in 2019, to potentialy 3rd this year. That rise in the WCC is worth millions of prize money, money that could have been won by Renault or McLaren who designed a legal car. 400 thousand is a small fine compared to the potential financial benefits they could have by the end of the season.
      Also 15 points, is a joke. It took them just 1 race to get them back. They lost all of Force India’s points halfway back in 2018 just for changing the name or something (i know it was according to the regs, i’m not disputing that, but the only thing that changed to the team was the ownership, nothing else) and they still won them back by the end of the season. Given the circumstances of the dispute and again given they can’t redesign the parts and are ‘forced’ to race them for the rest of the season (so 11 more races to win big points), a more heavy points deduction of say at least 50-75 points seems more appropriate.

      1. In designing the car Racing Point worked with the FIA and asked beforehand whether they were on the right track, and the FIA did not object.
        I severely dislike the copying aspect, but the FIA is not in a position to penalize what they sanctioned earlier. If anyone deserves a penalty it is the FIA themselves.

      2. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
        24th August 2020, 13:55

        This “can’t unlearn” comment is futile and a weak argument. Okay, they learned something from the original Merc part. They could simply just take that knowledge and build on it just enough that they changed a good amount of the actual design (excluding mounting). These are engineers, aren’t they? Copying isn’t engineering. Taking concepts and general design is one thing, but flat out copying is another and lazy. Folks that are lazy should not reap the benefits. I think it was “slightly to lenient” of a penalty in that RP should be forced to remove that part.

    3. I voted for no opinion because I don’t really know which side of the issue to support. I tend to think that RP’s words are valid in that they didn’t do anything wrong, but the other side thinks otherwise, so I don’t know anymore.

      1. The FIA has shown how weak they are.
        According to reports they have accepted RP purchased parts from MB when rules allowed. How can they then punish RP for using parts that belong to them when rules were changed later?
        Natural justice doesn’t allow retrospective punishment.

    4. I found the penalty too light.
      When the FIA deems they are direct copies of the Mercedes and if Mercedes provided the CAD images illegally, then I think this is an infringement as big as Spy Gate or Crash Gate.

      In the past RP would be disqualified, lose all its points, and not earn any winnings from the season. Which seems fair, when the team is considered not to have designed their own car.

      And a punishment similar to that level seems appropriate for Mercedes, if they are deemed to have been an accomplice in undermining the rules with anticompetitive behavior.

      At this point it is alot of “if” and not “when”, but we will see how it develops.

      1. I think the fans who want racing point hit with a harsher penalty are the same fans who dont like Mercedes and are hoping/praying/desperate that Mercedes also get hit with a penalty despite not actually doing anything

        1. GtisBetter (@)
          23rd August 2020, 18:06

          I think you are wrong

        2. Oh yes, ofcourse. Because the Fan that wants to see F1 improve itself from the sorry state it has been in for almost two decades don’t exist.

          Good luck with the Ad hominems

          Time for Indy!

          1. SadF1fan, the thing is, there have been a number of people who have been commenting about wanting to see Mercedes punished and wanting to see their power reduced through this case, and the level of criticism that is being thrown at Racing Point does seem to be more vociferous compared to other breaches of the sporting regulations.

            After all, consider the case of Renault in the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix, where they were eventually disqualified from the race after their automatic brake bias adjustment mechanism was ruled to be breaking the sporting regulations.

            Abiteboul commented about how they’d had that system on their car for years, and indeed comments from Grosjean indicate that team will have been using that system since at least 2015 – and it seems that the legality of it was in question earlier than Racing Point’s protest too, as Grosjean has indicated that he suggested the idea to Haas, only for it to be rejected on the grounds that they questioned its legality.

            The team will have, therefore, accrued a significant amount of prize money over an extended period of time with multiple cars which we now know were breaching the sporting regulations. However, there were far fewer calls for Renault to be docked points from the other races in 2019 where they’d used that system or calls for Renault to face financial penalties – indeed, some seemed angrier at Racing Point for filing the protest than they were at Renault for racing with an illegal car.

            1. Hmm, interesting comparison, but I don’t think it works that way.
              Renault is protesting the legality of RP for multiple races now and not just one.
              If you want to connect the two cases the better way would probably like this: Renault kept using the auto brake bias system after it was considered illegal and RP kept protesting it until a court ultimately decides.
              In a case like this, I think everyone would (and imho rightly so) strongly argue that a potential penalty should be applied for all races since the first protest had been launched.

              But this case is different anyway because no one is questioning the technical legality of the RP only how it was (re)designed. So I think a proper court is definitely more suited to solve a non sportical issue like that anyway.

            2. Renault should have been punished harsher and Ferrari aswell.

              The Renault case in particular shows that the FIA is simply not capable of policing the convoluted regulations they have doctored up during this hybrid era. They can’t seem to guarantee that the cars that are on the grid are legal.

              And therefore changes need to be made in the technical regulations to make them simpler and easier to police.

              The rhetoric of unfairness because people are shouting louder is tit for tat fanboyism that i really don’t have any time for.
              When you cheat, you have to get punished, and that means no settlements, secret agreements or other shenanigans.
              Cheating is something else than exploiting loopholes.
              Loopholes only come from unclear, convoluted regulations, that haven’t been stress tested, often showing the ineptitude of the rulemakers.

      2. Spygate was only a scandal because the documents were stolen, and not given.

        1. Making this infinitely worse.

        2. Stolen or given, breaking rules is breaking rules.

      3. The pounts lost should be a percentage of pounts earned. Let’s say 50%…
        If this is to make precedence in the future, this is the most fair solution which will suit any situation…. The FIA can then decide the percentage according to the severity of the breach.

    5. The whole thing is an extremely complicated mess. In my opinion, such situations should not arise, or if they do, the verdict should be clear: either ban the parts, declare them illegal; or allow them to keep racing as usual. Much like track limits: either the car is on the track or off it.

    6. The only reason there was any penalty at all was because RP didn’t get around to actually racing the rear brake ducts last year, when they were legal. That was simply because they’re designed for a low rake car, and it was high rake.

      And so apparently they couldn’t have looked at them. Ridiculous.

    7. Through the information Racing Point obtained from Mercedes, in violation of the rules, the team gained an advantage which is greater than the penalty which has been handed down.

      Which specific rule did Racing Point break? We need the exact rule. As far as I know no rules were broken because I don’t believe the above scenario is covered by the rules. The rule is basically Racing Point have to own the Intellectual Property rights for the Listed Parts, i.e. own the IP for the rear brake ducts, and that they couldn’t be parts used by Mercedes or anyone else. I have never heard it was against the rules for Mercedes to assist Racing Point in designing their own Listed Parts, only that Racing Point had to own the IP rights to the Listed Parts. To my knowledge it isn’t against the rules for one team, e.g. Racing Point, to ask another team, e.g. Mercedes, to help them to design own parts, only that first team, e.g. Racing Point, had to own the intellectual property rights to the parts they designed.

      1. @drycrust The ruling was that in spite of the 780 odd pages of design work RP provided for the investigation, those showed that what they actually designed was a way to adapt the Mercedes RBDs to their car and that indeed the bulk of the design for the RBDs was done by Mercedes.

    8. Rather than too harsh or too lenient, I find it just wrong.
      That RP used the 2019 Mercedes RBD on their 2020 car is fine IMO as that item was non listed part in 2019. And using that part as the start of their own IP development (even when changing nothing) is okay as FIA did not define how to treat items which were non listed.

      I have a problem though that a RBD was transferred between MB and RP in 2020. It doesn’t matter of it was on 1 Jan, 6 Jan, or 23 Aug. It is explicitly prohibited, even if the exact same physical duct was non listed in 2019.

      Both RP and MB should receive the same penalty as both the sender and receiver are at fault according to the rules.
      What the penalty should be I don’t know. It should be more than a confidential agreement, but less than what McLaren received in the past.

      1. You know all the focus is on RBD because the protest was on RBD. Who knows what else is on that car that shouldn’t be. What else was supposedly overlooked by FIA during their investigation?

        1. If Colin Kolles was right, and Mercedes provided a scale model and/or a show car of the 2019 car (Kolles didn’t mention the year), then the same infringement took place for those listed parts (body work). Even if that happened in 2019 as bodywork has always been a listed part.
          Such an infringement would be enough to take away all the WCC points and a hefty fine (close to the McLaren fine) on top.

          1. I’m leaning on Kolles was right. People kept saying Kolles was not to be believed because he was once trying to blackmail Wolff. But the fact that Bernie came to settle dispute between them telling the accusations was true then. Might as well true now.

      2. petebaldwin (@)
        23rd August 2020, 15:11

        @coldfly – That’s just F1 though isn’t it?

        “They crossed the white line!”
        “Yeah… but only by a little bit…. It’s fine.”

        “He jumped the start”
        “Yeah he moved but you know… he was still in the box sort of. Nah, it’s fine”

        “They transferred data past January 1st!”
        “Yeah… I mean… It’s only by a few days though…”

        1. Indeed, @petebaldwin.
          Against FIA I’d vote “far too lenient” and “way too inconsistent’ and “they don’t even know what they want”.

          And they even go the other direction (i.e. consistently inconsistent):
          “He didn’t move before the lights went out!”
          “Yeah.. but it’s still a jump start, as he couldn’t have reacted that fast…”

      3. The level of politicking and overall willingness to sling mud around the paddock over all this stuff seems to me like all the teams venting their frustrations, after being forced to play nice due to Covid and whatnot putting all sport under the spotlight and making the teams and most certainly the FIA unable or scared to engage in their own brutally, inexcusably selfish Machiavellian games.

        F1 has quite literally survived because of copycat designs at various points throughout its history, for good or for bad. This particular incident shows a vast mismatch between the alleged offense and the outcome, be it in terms of the punishment or the amount of attention being pointed at it. If i were Ferrari I would be doing everything in my power to prolong this trial-by-media so that it distracts from their far more obvious lawbreaking over the last few seasons, but I’m just a cynic…

        1. Or not cynical enough… if the media feeding frenzy continues and if RP finishes the season ahead of Ferrari, the red misters can claim:
          “But… they cheated!” Unlike Ferrari last year…

      4. @coldfly You are claiming that Mercedes gave the plans for their 2018 car in 2020? Designs which would be in place on the car which RP took to testing at the start of February?

        1. Can you please clarify your question/doubt, @f1osaurus?
          Even assuming you meant ‘2019’ I’m not sure what you are trying to confirm.

          1. @coldfly That you claim Racing Point got the designs for their break duct a few weeks before they rolled out the car.

            1. you claim Racing Point got the designs for their break (SIC) duct a few weeks before they rolled out the car.

              That’s not what I claimed, @f1osaurus.
              I merely repeated a well-established fact from the stewards’ report that “a (physical) RBD was transferred between MB and RP in 2020”.
              From memory it was the 6th of Januray when RP received this item. By that date (again according to the stewards’ interpretation of the rules) it was a listed part and could not longer be shared (send or receive) between teams in any way, shape or form.

            2. @coldfly Yeah that still doesn’t answer the question.

            3. @f1osaurus, ?????
              You did not ask me a question!
              You made an incorrect statement, which I patiently corrected.

            4. @coldfly I did ask a question. Questions are denoted by the curly thing at the end of the sentence.

              You didn’t answer and by now I understand you will not, because you clearly went down the wrong rabbit hole anyway.

            5. And I did respond to your original ‘incoherent writings with a questionmark at the end’, @f1osaurus.
              I suggest next time you ask a grown-up to help you formulate clear sentences.

              Let me try to do it again in simple words which even a minor will understand:

              You are claiming that Mercedes gave the plans for their 2018 car in 2020?

              (It’s weird that you put a question mark (‘curly things’ in child’s language) at the end of a statement. I still assume your reference to ‘2018’ is in error.)

              Designs which would be in place on the car which RP took to testing at the start of February?

              (There seems to be no predicate in this incomplete sentence.)

            6. @coldfly It’s ok man, you don’t get it. Fine. I should have kept your limited mental capacity in mind.

    9. Voted Far Too Lenient
      FIA is getting stupendously stupid with every single action – undislosed arrangement with Ferrari, reprimand for Racing Point every race and banning engine modes midway through the season.

    10. RP did not break the technical regulations so they were found in breach of the sporting regulations to satisfy the other teams who didn’t have the smarts to do what RP did.

      This use of the sporting regulations as a catchall was used against Renault and now RP. If we need to get you we will find a way.

      Unless you are Ferrari, of course, in which case we will let you off with a secret agreement. At least RP didn’t hide what they were doing, inviting inspectors in and showing them anything they wanted to see.

      And while all this is going on there is supposedly a concern about spending in F1. Reducing spending by forcing teams to spend more? Novel, to say the least.

      1. RP did not break the technical regulations so they were found in breach of the sporting regulations

        Nobody ever accused RP of breaking the Technical Regulations, Witan. RP was accused of copying a car which complied with the Technical Regulations (last year’s MB), so why would it suddenly not comply.

        The Sporting Regulations are the part where the sport decides HOW to participate and compete. It’s not a catch-all our fall-back.
        One important part of those regulations defines that you have to own the IP to the car. And that has always been the part where other teams believed (and now partially confirmed) that RP broke the rules.

      2. Is it really that smart to do what RP did? Sure they’ve elevated themselves (subject to further rulings) but a copy will never beat the original, and look at how much scrutiny they have invited. In the end they can say to themselves ‘Yay aren’t we great copiers! We’ve proved that we can’t design our own winning car! We can’t even win with a copy of a winner! And we didn’t even copy it the right way! Yay for us!’

        And how are teams being forced to spend more?

        1. @robbie it’s not a case of trying to beat the original, but instead trying to elevate themselves relative to other teams that have greater spending power and resources than they do. You’re talking about “never beating the original”, but that was never the point to begin with.

          As for the comment about being forced to spend more, Haas have stated that the FIA’s decision to increase the number of “listed parts” has pushed up their costs as they have now had to take on additional staff and expend additional resources on producing and designing components that could previously be purchased from another team before.

          1. @anon Yeah fair comment, but it’s just that in the pinnacle of racing it shouldn’t be good enough to just copy a team’s car just to elevate themselves in the Constructors. Perhaps that is why F1 will be questioning how much such copying should be allowed going forward. I mean, sure if that’s their only goal then I guess have at it, but to what end ultimately? Shaded accolades and some extra millions for guaranteeing themselves the inability to sort out their own effort and actually go after the top teams and win races and Championships?

            As to the additional costs to teams, yeah I’m all for that similar to what I hinted at in my first paragraph. This is supposed to be the pinnacle of racing and teams such as Haas, with the budget cap affecting the big teams and the fairer money distribution helping the lesser ones, should be able to stand on their own two feet, buying what they can but sorting the rest out themselves. Other than pu(s), or whole rear ends, they’re all going to have to do it for 2022 anyway. I’ll not shed a tear for Haas having to be a bit more original than before, in the pinnacle of racing, when they’ll be getting more money with which to compete.

            1. @robbie you are saying that Racing Point would be “guaranteeing themselves the inability to sort out their own effort and actually go after the top teams” at a time when the very fact that they are able to lift themselves higher in the WCC is helping to pay for the significant upgrades in facilities (the new design centre, improved production facilities and a new wind tunnel) – which is the rather obvious answer as to why they are doing it.

              If the idea that “in the pinnacle of racing it shouldn’t be good enough to just copy a team’s car”, well, there have been an awful lot of teams that have been fairly shameless about copying over the years. The late 1970s and early 1980s come to mind, with the multitude of teams trying to produce copies of the Lotus 79 and then the Williams FW08 – to the point where Piola once had to describe the difference between the Williams FW08 and the Arrows A5 as being where Arrows stuck their front roll bar. The rather harsher economic realities of competing in motorsport means that the high ideals you propose often take a rather lower priority to getting something that works now and at lower cost – flowing rhetoric about the ideals of the sport will rarely pay the bills.

        2. @robbie Sigh. How on earth do you figure it would be Racing Point’s goal to become WDC? Or even to beat Mercedes?

    11. If you can’t make anything better yourself, copying seems a very legitimate strategy for all teams to quickly catch-up. I hope Williams will take this as a lesson and I look forward to seeing them fight for podiums again next year. Oh wait, copying is going to be banned now? So only Racing Point got to take advantage and now the loophole is closed? Geey, that seems… like an even greater advantage to Racing Point!