MEXICO CITY — Renault’s cars have been disqualified from this month’s Japanese Grand Prix after they were found to be running illegal driver aids.
After the race at Suzuka two weeks ago, rival team Racing Point protested the legality of Renault’s brake-bias adjuster — a system on all F1 cars that determines the split in braking force between the front and rear brakes to help turn the car into the corner and prevent locking a brake. On the basis of on-board video footage, Racing Point argued that Renault’s brake bias was changing without any driver input — something which it believed was in breach of Article 27.1 of the sporting regulations that outlaws driver aids.
After impounding the steering wheels and Electronic Control Units from Renault’s cars in Japan, the stewards at the race submitted the arguments of both teams to the FIA’s technical department. Further evidence was submitted via email by both teams before the FIA concluded on Tuesday that that the system on the Renault made use of a grey area in F1’s technical regulations, but still fell foul of Article 27.1 of the Sporting Regulations that requires the driver to drive his car alone and unaided.
As a result — and subject to appeal by 10am on Thursday in Mexico City — both Daniel Ricciardo, who finished sixth, and Nico Hulkenberg, who finished tenth, were disqualified from the results of the Japanese Grand Prix. With both drivers in the top ten, the decision has cost Renault nine points.
Exact details of how the system works has not been published in order to protect Renault’s IP, but the stewards found that it “acted as a driver aid, by saving the driver from having to make a number of adjustments during a lap”. Such a system would be beneficial as it would remove the need for drivers to make setting changes on the steering wheel on the straights, while making sure the braking system is perfectly primed for the next corner.
However, the stewards added that the system is not “pre-set and lap distance-dependent” as alleged in the original protest and that Renault had used “innovative solutions to exploit certain ambiguities in the technical regulations and other supporting documents”, meaning “their system does not breach any technical regulation” even though it breached the sporting regulations.
The stewards also noted that Renault’s penalty is “more severe” than other recent breaches of Article 27.1, but that the relative gains were “specifically assessed” to come to the conclusion of disqualification in Japan.
The period of time Renault has to appeal the stewards’ decision is longer than normal due to the timezone difference between Europe and Mexico City, where this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix will take place.
Renault released a statement shortly after the verdict was published, saying: “Renault F1 Team acknowledges the decision of the Stewards of the Japanese Grand Prix regarding the protest by SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team concerning the legality of Renault F1 Team’s braking system during the Japanese Grand Prix.
“Despite the FIA concurring with Renault that the system was entirely legal under the FIA Technical Regulations, it was judged by the stewards that the system was in breach of the FIA Sporting Regulations regarding driver aid. Both Renault cars were disqualified from the Japanese Grand Prix and the team loses the nine points scored.
“However, considering the subjectivity of the qualification of a system as a driver aid and the variability of the associated penalties in recent cases, Renault F1 Team will consider its next course of action within the timeframe laid out by the FIA.”