F1 teams at war over ugly cheating claims

A war of words has erupted between the Racing Point and Renault Formula One teams, following accusations of cheating at the Styrian Grand Prix.

Renault has protested the results of Sunday’s race, claiming the Racing Point is a copy of last year’s all-conquering Mercedes, which took Lewis Hamilton to the world title.

Stewards ruled the protest was admissible, with the sport’s governing body seizing the brake ducts on the Racing Point for comparison with the 2019 Mercedes.

If the Racing Point cars are excluded, Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo would move from eighth place to sixth in the final results.

“BWT Racing Point F1 Team is extremely disappointed to see its results in the Styrian Grand Prix questioned by what it considers to be a misconceived and poorly informed protest,” the team said in a statement.

“Any and all suggestion of wrongdoing is firmly rejected and the team will take all steps necessary to ensure the correct application of the regulations to the facts.

Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault leads Lance Stroll in the Racing Point during the Styrian Grand Prix. (Getty)

“Prior to the start of the season, the team co-operated with the FIA and satisfactorily addressed all questions regarding the origins of the designs of the RP20.

“The team is confident that the protest will be dismissed once it has presented its response.”

While this is the first time a formal protest has been lodged, there’s been whispers for months over the similarities between the Racing Point and the 2019 Mercedes, to the extent the car was nicknamed the ‘Pink Mercedes’ earlier in the year.

Sergio Perez in the Racing Point. (Getty)

The sport’s rules set out a list of components that each team must design themselves, which includes the brake ducts. Mercedes already supplied Racing Point with its engine and gearbox.

Racing Point maintains it has simply copied the Mercedes design after studying photographs of last year’s car, and this was done without access to Mercedes design documents.

The case is likely to hinge on the internal design of the brake ducts, which would not be visible in photographs, and therefore any similarity would likely be the result of shared intellectual property.

The 2019 Mercedes, which Renault alleges shares intellectual property with the 2020 Racing Point. (AP)

Racing Point finished seventh in last year’s Constructors’ Championship, however after the Styrian Grand Prix, driver Lance Stroll said the team had taken a big step forward in 2020.

“I really believe today we had, debatably, the second quickest car, maybe third, but we were definitely quicker than Renault, McLaren and a lot of other of our competitors. So that was really positive,” Stroll told Sky Sports F1.

Stroll finished seventh on Sunday after retiring from the previous week’s race, while teammate Sergio Perez has finished sixth in both races so far this season. 

A date is yet to be set for the FIA to hear the protest.

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