Williams join McLaren in dropping appeal against Racing Point

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SILVERSTONE, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 31: Lance Stroll, Racing Point RP20, Nicholas Latifi, Williams FW43, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16, and others practice their start procedures during the British GP at Silverstone on Friday July 31, 2020 in Northamptonshire, United Kingdom.

It’s official, Williams has backed away from any further appeal process regarding the FIA’s verdict on Racing Point’s brake duct. Initially four teams were protesting the verdict including Ferrari, Renault, McLaren and Williams.

McLaren removed itself from any further protests with an announcement yesterday. Today, Williams announced that it too is removing its name from a list of protesters leaving Ferrari and Renault to take the matter to the International Court of Appeal.

Williams said:

“After careful consideration, Williams have elected not to proceed with the formal appeal,”

“We believe the FIA’s decision to seek the prohibition of extensive car copying for 2021 onwards addresses our most fundamental concern and reasserts the role and responsibility of a constructor within the sport, which is fundamental to Formula 1’s DNA and Williams core beliefs and principles.”

Now this is an interesting development as Williams have always pushed back on any notion of a customer car. They have pushed back on any regulation change that came remotely close to customer cars.

Williams F1’s position on customer cars is patently clear when Sir Frank Williams was ready for legal action back in 2008 to keep Super Aguri, Toro Rosso and David Richards and his ProDrive team out of the series with customer cars. This reversal of opposition toward Racing Point is an interesting one.

Racing Point and Williams are both customer teams to Mercedes with McLaren signed to come on board in 2021 as a customer as well. A creative thinker might suggest that Mercedes put pressure on their customer teams to get alignment on the Racing Point issue.

It has been interesting to see the defense of Racing Point from Mercedes and now, two other Mercedes customers have dropped their protests. Perhaps Red Bull’s Christian Horner knows something we don’t about culpability in this matter?

“Well, it’s an interesting one,” said Horner.

“I think the biggest thing for us is that we just want absolute clarity as to what is and what isn’t permissible moving forwards.

“Obviously Red Bull are in the unique position that they own 100% of two Grand Prix teams.
“So we’ve always complied stringently with the regulations since the constructor rules within the last Concorde [Agreement] were made very, very clear.

“So for us it’s that there is a bigger picture to this, it’s not just about brake ducts, it’s about what is philosophically allowed, and what isn’t.

“Regarding Mercedes, I’m sure those questions will get asked, because if the team in question are guilty of receiving, surely the team that has provided has also been in breach of those regulations?

“That’s something for the FIA.”

Is there an exposed liability in this situation for Mercedes? Why would McLaren, who stand to lose the most from Racing Point’s current pace and performance challenging them for “best-of-the-rest”, suddenly drop an effort to remove one of its main competitors due to running illegal parts? In fact, as time goes on, it seems the fingerprints of Mercedes are all over this brake duct issue.

Is there culpability or exposure for Mercedes should the issue be litigated in the Court of Appeals? How much influence does Mercedes have as a supplier that both McLaren and Williams—both of whom have no interest in seeing Racing Point succeed—would drop their protests?

As odd as it may be for McLaren and Williams to drop their protests, it is equally odd that Red Bull are not involved and aligned with Ferrari and Renault. Racing Point isn’t challenging Red Bull in the constructor’s championship so perhaps they are less concerned but if they did feel Mercedes could be implicated, surely they would be interested in that situation?

It’s all a very intriguing development and one ripe with politics. As Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko said:

“But this result is not satisfactory for us either, because it does not bring the clarification we had hoped for.

“I hope that this will happen in the appeal process.

“As a lawyer, it is very difficult to understand that you get a penalty for the same offence and use the same parts again in the three subsequent races, and there is only a reprimand.

“How long can one reprimand? I think that this is not very balanced and not very well thought through.

“That is why it is important that it goes into appeal.”

Red Bull’s concern is quite clear but their unwillingness to engage in an appeal process could be based on a similar reasoning that saw McLaren and Williams pull out of their protests. Difficult to know without all the facts but it is interesting nonetheless.

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