The F1 press conferences is fast becoming one of the best part of race weekends as Spanish GP has more with Renault, Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and Racing Point discussing the whole FIA decision.
Continuing on from what has been happening since the start of the 2020 F1 season, the chiefs of Renault, Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and Racing Point added more to the discussions regarding the FIA ruling and the future course of appeal.
Looking first at what Renault and Ferrari wants with the appeal, Cyril Abiteboul and Mattia Binotto had different ideologies, interestingly. The common ground was certain that they wanted to understand about the ‘how much’ copying rule is there in F1.
In addition to that, Renault had focus also on getting points chucked of Racing Point, considering they are getting a reprimand. It was a long discussion with regards to the FIA ruling, its interpretation and also having Mercedes as a ‘mediator’.
Here’s what Renault F1 chief Abiteboul said about multiple topics –
On appropriate penalty to Racing Point:
Abiteboul: “We were expecting a consistent sanction. With other sanctions that we’ve seen in the past and the most recent one being the one we accepted last year after Suzuka when we were found in breach of the Sporting Regulations and not the Technical Regulations and excluded from that event and therefore losing all our points. There was no discount for Renault, so I don’t know why there should be a discount for Racing Point. It should be all the points of the events that have been protested.
“I think we are also going to be in a bit of a strange situation where, after every single event, Otmar will be called to the stewards, his brake ducts will be found similar to what they were, and unchanged, and again he will receive a reprimand. So we are facing the prospect of – what – almost ten races or something like that, or a bit less than that? Where his cars will be reprimanded. So, it’s a bit of a strange situation and I think that we’d like to have a bit more clarity about that.
“Not necessarily saying that they should be excluded for the season – but I think that also from a communication standpoint to the fan, to the public, explaining why your car is still somewhat in breach because he will receive a reprimand, but it’s OK to be part of the Championship and therefore to be eligible for points. We think it’s a bit awkward. So we would like also some closure about that, if possible.”
Involvement of new Renault CEO Luca de Meo in the process:
Abiteboul: “Clearly the great news is that in Luca de Meo we have a CEO that is really passionate and enthusiastic about cars, about the product, about sports cars and about motor racing. Clearly that’s something that’s going to be a game-changer for all of us in Renault. And also for myself. He’s been a great person that I’ve been able to personally engage, and clearly I’m not going to hide or deny the fact that he’s had other discussions with peers from the paddock or associated to the paddock. Clearly the decision that has been made and the process that we are following is a process that has been perfectly built and aligned with Luca de Meo.”
McLaren pulling out of appeal:
Abiteboul: “We at Renault are not deciding what we do based on what others are doing. We define our own strategy, which is very much a high-level strategy for the sport. Indeed, what we are seeking since the start of that process, it’s not a legal outcome, it’s not a degradation of the relationship between teams or team principals in the paddock. It’s really some answers to a situation, to a precedent that has been set; a disruption that has been brought into the sport and that’s what we’re after. We don’t think we have a clear resolution to that as of yet. We’ve been at the start of that process.
“We want to make sure we lead that process until there is a crystal clear outcome that can not be turned around once things are settled. I’m not talking about a legal settlement: I’m talking about settlement in general. We want in particular satisfaction that the rules will be changed. We have indication that it will be the case – but until it is the case, in that environment we know that you can’t back-off. So that is what we are after.
“We are expecting that Formula 1 confirms again that it is a sport for constructors. Not just OEMs but constructors that design the whole car; that create the whole aerodynamic concept and that each car is its own aerodynamic concept. That’s what are after. We appreciate that the rules are not clear and that’s what we are seeking from the process.”
Toto Wolff becoming a de factor mediator, appeal not ending up in International Court of Appeal and settling before:
Abiteboul: “Toto has a natural leadership position within the sport and I’m not just saying that because he is here, you just have to look at what’s been happening in the last six Constructors’ Championships and as such I think it’s in everyone’s interest, including his interest, that the sport be able to put that matter behind and have a clear situation. I think we are all grown-ups and we can take our own decision and define our own strategy.
“There has been very intensive dialogue between all related parties but the main element is what FIA and what Nikolas Tombazis in particular, who has a lot on his plate, is coming up with in order to give satisfaction. We are not looking after a business settlement. It’s not that sort of thing that is going on. I want to be extremely clear that what we are after is clarity for the future of the sport and in particular for the manufacturers.
“We’ve had a number of discussions. There are other people that I have been very interested to talk to, like Christian Horner. You’ll see he is a bit in a particular situation with AlphaTauri, also to understand their view. I am interested to understand Toto’s view, Christian’s view, Mattia’s view as frankly the leading figures in the sport. But at the end of the day, the single possible mediator, and it’s not a mediator, it’s a regulator and that is the FIA.
“And regarding appeal not going to ICA, I think you are right in pointing out there are two processes almost going on in parallel. Our end game, our objective, has not changed. It is clarity of the rules and confirmation that F1 is a constructors’ championship. That’s what we are after. Again the onus is on the FIA to come up possibly, if they are aligned, with solutions and a response to that and we are not after anything else other than this.”
Here’s Ferrari F1 chief Mattia Binotto’s views –
How Racing Point have copied and if more than just ducts:
Binotto: “Honestly, I don’t think I have the answer and I don’t think it’s down to myself to judge. The reason why we have confirmed our appeal… I think it’s because we need to seek at least clarification and transparency. I think the brake duct is a point but I think that eventually the output and the decision of the international court of appeal will open up a more wider and broader discussion on the copy carbon car concept, which for us is important.
“It’s important as well for the future of the F1, because at the end it’s about discussing intellectual property and I think that intellectual property is an important asset or a very important asset of a company. If someone would somehow copy almost an identical car of the previous year of a competitor, I think the set of regulations should somehow protect the competitor itself and that’s why I think at the moment it’s important simply to move forward and understand. Clarity, transparency for the fairness of the competition and for the Formula 1 for the future is important.”
Getting answers from FIA or ICA:
Binotto: “First, I think, being an appealing party along with Renault, I don’t want to enter into too many details, I don’t think that would be appropriate. On the other side, I think no, I think that further clarifications are required which is not only… I think what, let me say, the decision of the international Court of Appeal will somehow open to our wider and broader discussion, which is of the entire car and not only the brake ducts.
“That’s what we are really looking for and as I said before, it’s a matter of sport fairness, it’s a matter of protecting the IP for the future. If I look back in the past I can’t remember once where a team has copied precisely or most precisely an entire car and at least that since we have got that set of regulations 2009 and therefore I think that clarify is required because I don’t think it’s good for the sport but again, it’s not down to me to judge and that’s why I think that the ICA will be important in that respect.”
Moving to McLaren, Zak Brown gave his side –
Why it stepped out of the appeal but still support it:
Brown: “When the verdict came out early in the race weekend in Silverstone, you’re in the middle of preparing to go motor racing, so we don’t have a lot of time to digest the verdict. And so with the intent to appeal – which you have to make pretty quickly – you just buy yourself some more time. There were contradictory statements from what’s been made from Racing Point, from a design, their own IP, etcetera on the brake ducts. The ruling from the FIA, they made some contradictory statements.
“So we wanted to take some time to understand it and then, over the course of the weekend, had several meetings, lots of discussions with the FIA and they made it clear that, from a bigger picture, we want to make sure that Formula 1 remains a constructors’ championship, as it’s historically been. I think the FIA agrees with that philosophy, as most people do. Just got a lot of confidence that the FIA will ultimately address that issue. Obviously Renault and Ferrari have continued with their appeal, which we respect, and are confident we’ll get the right outcome for the long term.”
Whether Mercedes played a role in backing out decision:
Brown: “I don’t know what drove Williams’ decision. I think I laid out earlier what drove our decision was our being comfortable that the FIA recognises this issue, says they don’t like this issue and they want to change it moving forward. That’s ultimately what we landed on the decision that we did. You’d have to ask Williams what their reason and rationale is. We don’t talk to other racing teams about issues other than with what we have with what’s going on with the Racing Point racing car.”
Response to Otmar Szafnauer’s ‘expert’ comment:
Brown: “I thought a lot of what Otmar said was accurate. I’m not an engineer. I don’t know the rulebook first page to the last page but as CEO you have a racing team and it’s their job to know the rulebook and the regulations. In my time here leading McLaren I’ve never been fined a dollar, let alone $400,000. I’ve never been docked points.
“I think Otmar thought it was seven-and-half points until Sky Television pointed out it was 15 points. As far as historic racing, I think people that know me, know I enjoy historic racing and I’d invite Otmar to come join me because he’s got a historic car that he’s currently racing. So you know, that’s all part of the race weekend fun.”
Meanwhile, Mercedes F1 chief Toto Wolff did not add much –
January 6 dispatch still the sticking point:
Wolff: “I don’t think that they are stretching Mercedes in it to me being a leader. I think Formula 1 has always been the competition on the track and also the competition off the track and as hard as we race each other on Sunday or on Saturday, we also fight the political game that is important and has always been the case.
“I think the Racing Point case is an opportunity for your direct competitors to maybe push us hard and that has always been the case. We have a clear position on the Racing Point situation and in that respect it doesn’t really bother us and it shouldn’t bother us because the FIA have made that clarification and the little nudging that is happening around that is something that is acceptable.”
And finally, Racing Point head Otmar Szafnauer continued his defence –
Encouraged by two F1 teams opting out:
Szafnauer: A little bit. We’ve appealed the decision based on what the stewards had written in their findings like how Renault did. The findings are pretty clear that, y’know, we didn’t do anything underhand or dishonest. We were completely transparent and open with the FIA throughout their process of checking both our brake ducts and the remainder of our car.
“It was basically… they concluded that the rules, especially for brake ducts, transitioning for a non-listed part to a listed part, were ambiguous and unclear and because of it, we believe our punishment for an unclear and ambiguous rule, that we didn’t intentionally contravene, is a bit harsh. It’s the reason we’re appealing and we’re very confident that we’ll win on the appeal.”
Business model change due to new directives:
Szafnauer: “I don’t think it changes our business model at all. We’re not the most affected team. We’ve got 500 employees. The reason we don’t have 700 or 800 like some of the bigger teams is that we lack in in-house manufacturing. But if you just compare us to everyone else in design, development, aero personnel, we are the same. We’re the same as the big teams. It has zero impact.
“We’ve always been a constructor, from the days of Jordan to the days of Racing Point and everywhere in between. So, we’ve got the capability of designing, developing, constructing all of our own components. It will have zero impact on our business model. If the rules become more clear, we will stay within the bounds of those rules. Absolutely no problem.”
Toto Wolff’s involvement, parallel discussions of no ICA:
Szafnauer: “Toto does have a really good knowledge of the sport, a big picture view. Not really about today or tomorrow but where should the sport go. He usually makes very good and very astute points, so no issue with Toto getting involved with the talks involving Renault, FIA and others.
“As for parallel discussions, from all the comments we heard, nobody can deny that we are in this situation because we have unclear rules, especially when transitioning from a non-listed part to a listed part. We too want clarity, we don’t want anyone else to be caught up in this.
“However, the appeals process is about clearing our name – we did nothing wrong, we weren’t dishonest, we were completely open – and the reason for us going ahead with the appeals process is that we believe the penalty is a bit harsh for an unclear rule and we want to clear our name.”
Clarity was taken from the FIA:
Szafnauer: “We did that in March. We invited the FIA and explained and showed to them our design and development process and they were happy with that and we got a clean bill of health from them. We got a letter that said that everything was in compliance with all the regulations, so we did exactly that. That happened in March. It just so happens that this year we started racing in July so there was a lot of time and a lot of opportunity, which didn’t come. We did just that.”
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