FIA didn’t investigate Racing Point brake ducts before season
The FIA has revealed that it did not inspect Racing Point's contentious brake ducts when it conducted an investigation into the RP20 before the original season-opening race in Australia.
After the car first appeared in Barcelona testing its overall similarity to last year's Mercedes W10 was noted by rivals, who raised their suspicions of illicit sharing of IP with the FIA.
The FIA's head of single seater technical matters Nikolas Tombazis subsequently visited Racing Point's factory, where the team showed him evidence of how it had used photographs to "reverse engineer" the general aerodynamic concept of the Mercedes, a process that is legal when replicating listed parts.
After the Styrian GP, Renault protested the front and rear brake ducts on the Racing Point cars, in essence arguing that information shared in 2019 – when brake ducts were not listed parts – has been used on the 2020 car.
Racing Point has consistently argued that the FIA inspected the car and passed it legal.
However, FIA technical boss Nikolas Tombazis admitted that while the FIA approved the car in general, it didn't look specifically at the brake ducts that have now become the focus of Renault's protest.
"We did have some noises made by some teams over February, and we decided to investigate before Australia, and we did go to the Racing Point factory," he said.
"We primarily focussed on the rest of the car, not the brake ducts, fortunately or unfortunately. The rest of the car was extremely similar, and the rest of the car was listed both last year and this year, so there were no excuses in any form or shape.
"If the rest of the car had been somehow obtained though CAD information, that would have been blatantly illegal. In fact it would be implicating both Mercedes and Racing Point very heavily.
"So when we went there we looked into this matter, we looked primarily at the rest of the car, and we convinced by what we saw that what Racing Point have been saying as their process of taking photographs and reverse engineering from the photos was very plausible.
"I would say even more than that, they showed us how they have done everything and we were satisfied that was the process they had indeed followed.
"So in the winter discussion we didn't go into the detail of the air ducts, rightly or wrongly, I'm not saying necessarily that was the right thing, with hindsight maybe we should have gone into that more, but we were looking at the whole car and the parts that that had traditionally been the listed components."
Regarding the ducts, he added: "We certainly have opinions about the air ducts, and we're discussing it also internally because there are some delicate legal and regulatory matters to address.
"But the Renault protest is specifically concentrating on what is the more complicated part of the matter – the front wing or the nose or the diffuser and all of that, let's say are relatively easy, and that's what we primarily focussed on in February and March.
"If it had been found that they had been given information on the diffuser for example then both teams, Mercedes and Racing Point, would have been in fairly deep trouble, I would say."
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