At the centre of this weekend that sees Formula 1 racing in Barcelona, for the Spanish GP, the most discussed questions are not about what happens on track. A rather peculiar situation occurred, when Red Bull accused Aston Martin of copying their design of the car.
On the occasion of the Spanish GP, the British team has brought several updates, that seemed very similar to the Red Bull design. Team principal Christian Horner explained that he had asked the FIA to investigate the alleged copy.
“It is quite a thing to instruct your team to come up with a very close-looking clone of our car. A few people have moved over the winter period, and what you can’t control is what they take in their heads,” Horner said to BBC 5 Live Sport.
“But 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.
“They have all the access and we will be relying on them heavily to ensure that no Red Bull IP has found its way into that car,” he added.
After FP2, Horner went further into the matter by telling Sky Sports: “It was brought to our attention by the FIA earlier in the week where they said: 'we got a car that looks remarkably similar to yours, can we have a list of your leavers to see where they went?' Of course that immediately raises alarm bells.”
After the callout, FIA made a statement on the matter:
"Both teams collaborated fully with the FIA in this investigation and provided all the relevant information.
"The investigation, which involved CAD checks and a detailed analysis of the development process adopted by Aston Martin, confirmed that no wrongdoing had been committed, and therefore the FIA considers that the Aston Martin aerodynamic upgrades are compliant.
"Article 17.3 specifically defines and prohibits 'Reverse Engineering', i.e. the digital process of converting photographs (or other data) to CAD models, and prohibits IP transfer between teams, but equally, this Article permits car designs getting influenced by those of competitors, as has always been the case in Formula 1.
Red Bull responded to the FIA by making another statement, in which the Austrian team express how they “noted the FIA’s statement with interest”.
“While imitation is the greatest form of flattery, any replication of design would obviously need to comply with the FIA’s rules around ‘Reverse Engineering’,” said Red Bull.
“However, should any transfer of IP have taken place that would clearly be a breach of regulations and would be a serious concern.”
Aston Martin answered back, by saying:
“We have shared details of our update with the FIA technical people. Having analysed the data and processes used, the FIA has confirmed in writing that our update was generated as a result of legitimate independent work in accordance with technical regulations.”
Also team boss Helmut Marko gave his opinion on the issue to Sky Sport DE michrophones, saying that even if the FIA considered the case close they [Red Bull] won’t close the door on it.
"According to the current status, yes, copying is not prohibited, but you also have to take into account that 7 people were poached from us. That our chief aerodynamicist was brought to Aston Martin for a disproportionately high fee."
"And there are still a few facts we are checking. But we will look into the matter in detail."