Formula 1’s governing body – the FIA – gave Aston Martin’s revised car the all-clear at the Spanish Grand Prix after Red Bull, team of world champion Max Verstappen, raised suspicions their design had been copied.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, on Friday day one of practice for the Spanish Grand Prix, expressed concern that his team’s intellectual property had found its way to their rivals, in a breach of rules banning so-called ‘reverse engineering’.
The governing FIA said it had carried out a “routine pre-event legality” check of Aston Martin’s planned aerodynamic upgrade.
It said it became apparent during the process that “a number of features’ on the car resembled those on a competitor’s and an investigation was carried out to check compliance with the rules.
“The investigation…confirmed that no wrongdoing had been committed and therefore the FIA considers that the Aston Martin aerodynamic upgrades are compliant,” it added.
The FIA said the rules allowed designs to be influenced by others, as has always been the case.
Horner: Copying is the biggest form of flattery
Red Bull, who are fighting Ferrari for both championships while Mercedes-powered Aston Martin are ninth of the 10 teams after a difficult start to the season, noted the FIA’s ruling “with interest”.
Aston Martin, owned by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, have lofty ambitions and has recruited some high-profile names from other teams including Red Bull.
They include technical director Dan Fallows, Red Bull’s former head of aerodynamics who started at the Silverstone factory last month.
“Copying is the biggest form of flattery,” Horner told the BBC before the FIA statement.
“It is quite a thing to instruct your team to come up with a very close-looking clone of our car and of course, a few people have moved over the winter period, and what you can’t control is what they take in their heads.
“What would be of grave concern to us would be if any IP had in any way changed hands. That is where we rely on the FIA to do their job…”
The team formerly known as Racing Point were punished by the FIA when they illegally copied part of the 2019 Mercedes F1 car.
After protests lodged by the Renault team, the FIA launched an extensive investigation and on Friday morning published their ruling, stating Racing Point had copied the brake ducts used by Mercedes last season.
The car was known as the Pink Mercedes, and Racing Point were docked 15 points and fined €400,000 after the escapade which was reportedly mandated by Stroll senior who morphed the team into Aston Martin last year. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)