The need for an investigation from the FIA came in Formula One after Renault (one of the constructors involved in the 2020 Formula One world championship) protested that Racing Point had copied the Mercedes 2019 world championship winning car’s rear brake ducts.
Since the rear brake ducts come under the title of being a listed part in the Formula One regulations it would have been illegal for Racing Point to have used these on their car when they did not design them
Racing Point refused to admit any wrongdoing as the rear brake ducts were not a listed part in 2019 when Mercedes had shared information on these parts and Racing Point had designed them. The FIA deemed Racing Point to have done some wrongdoing as they were docked 15 constructor’s world championship points and fined £361,000.
An important question that goes into deciding whether what Racing Point did was too far is understanding if these rear brake ducts affected the performance of the car in any way. One of the reasons why this was such a big scandal is because the Racing Point team did seem to make a big jump up in performance between their 2019 car and 2020 car. They managed to finish 4th in the constructors standings after finishing 7th in 2019 and doubled the amount of points that they received in 2019 as well.
As Formula One Is seen as the pinnacle of motor sport and car design the fact that it is possible for teams to copy each other and make such big improvements tarnishes the meaning and reputation of not just the teams in question but the whole of Formula One, but it is also unfair to assume that these improvements were only made due to them copying Mercedes and not down to intelligent engineering.
In Formula One there will always be teams copying each other, for example the double diffuser scandal in 2009 which saw Brawn, Williams and Toyota seek benefit in innovating the double diffuser, which resulted in every other team having to fast-track their car updates to also include a double diffuser. The difference between this example and the Racing Point scandal is that Brawn, Williams and Toyota were not deemed to have broken any rules, while Racing Point did break the rules that state that
“A competitor shall, in respect of the Listed Parts to be used in its cars in Formula One, only use
Listed Parts which are designed by it.”
“No competitor shall be entitled:
To pass on or receive any information on Listed Parts (including but not limited to data,
designs or drawings) directly to or from another competitor or via an external entity or
Ultimately even though Racing Point felt they were justified to do what they did they crossed the line between being sneaky but smart and braking the rules which is not acceptable in this sport.