Ralf Schumacher believes Renault may have been getting a “big advantage” from an automated brake bias system on their cars that is now under FIA scrutiny.
After Suzuka, Racing Point lodged a 12-page dossier protesting what it claims is French rival Renault’s “pre-set lap distance-dependent brake bias adjustment system”.
The ECUs and steering wheels used by Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo in Japan were seized and an investigation launched. The consequences for Renault could be dire.
Former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher told Sky Germany that disqualification from the championship and a fine like the $100 million one given to McLaren for the ‘spygate’ scandal are possible.
But he hopes Renault did not deliberately cheat, “As a works team that would be very questionable. They’d have to rethink everything.”
At the very least, he thinks an automatic brake balance system would give the drivers a clear advantage, “The driver is normally responsible for adjusting the brake balance, so if it is happening automatically you could brake later and take more speed into each corner.
“It would be a big advantage. An automatic system controlled electronically could do it much better and faster than the driver can manually.”
Schumacher thinks there is a big risk that Renault will be found guilty of wrongdoing, “The suspicion must be reasonable because it’s an unwritten rule that you don’t accuse another team of something like that unless you’re 100 per cent sure.
“If they’re right, it’s a catastrophe for Renault. And it’s not the first time they’ve attracted attention,” he said.
Schumacher is referring to Singapore , where Ricciardo was excluded from qualifying when his MGU-K exceeded the maximum allowed power flow limit.
But he thinks it could be some time before the new controversy is settled, “The FIA already seems overwhelmed with the simplest decisions, and this is definitely a mammoth task. They need to be completely sure, because it would be a huge setback for Renault.”
F1 motorsport chief Ross Brawn was also taken by surprise with the e=developments after the race at Suzuka, “Much more unexpected than any typhoon, came the protest from Racing Point, alleging a violation of the technical regulations relating to a pre-set lap distance-dependent brake bias adjustment system.”
“The Stewards decided not to rule on such a complex matter in Japan, as it needs a careful investigation by the FIA, but it’s true that this question hovers over a result that was like finding water in the desert for a team that, compared to last year, has not made the progress it might have expected, and which is currently being beaten by its customer team McLaren,” added Brawn.
The French F1 team has previously been in hot water with the rules during the Flavio Briatore era, when he deliberately ordered Nelsinho Piquet to crash during the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix to hand victory to Renault teammate Fernando Alonso.
The saga took a year to surface and when it did it exploded as the infamous ‘Crashgate’ scandal which ultimately caused Renault to pull the plug on their F1 project at the time.
Big Question: Have Renault been bust cheating?