FIA closes F1 aero/parts rules loopholes after Mercedes challenge

The FIA has closed a number of loopholes in its regulations that had sparked concerns of a potential "arms race" in Formula 1 after a challenge from Mercedes

FIA closes F1 aero/parts rules loopholes after Mercedes challenge

The champion team claimed there to be a number of ambiguities in appendices six and eight of the 2015 F1 sporting regulations, with the former relating to listed parts, and the latter to aerodynamic testing restrictions.

Mercedes argued it was seeking clarification with regards to opportunities in the regulations it was considering for the future.

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff suggested if the loopholes remained open and exploited it would lead to the bigger teams using a junior team to aid the speed of development.

American team Haas, for instance, enters F1 next year on the back of a deal with Ferrari, which will supply a number of parts, and with use of the Scuderia's windtunnel.

At no stage, however, in any correspondence over the past few weeks between Mercedes and the FIA were either Ferrari or Haas mentioned.

But Wolff warned on Saturday if such rules were allowed to go unchecked "it could become an arms race of how many corporations or partners you could sign up in order to develop at the greatest speed".

Following a meeting of the stewards in Abu Dhabi, spearheaded by former F1 driver and BRDC president Derek Warwick, steps have been taken to ensure the regulations in the future cannot be abused.

The stewards' full ruling on the case

The FIA has made clear its intention, via the rules, was to place limits on the amount of aero development each competitor would be able to carry out and to prevent an escalation of costs associated with research.

Decisions taken by the stewards include the fact one competitor cannot share information with another relating to the aerodynamic geometry/surfaces of listed parts.

Most notably, with regard to windtunnel use, the FIA has issued a list of activities that would be deemed attempts to circumvent the rules and are therefore outlawed with immediate effect (see list below).

It states that "the purpose of the aerodynamic testing restrictions is to place limits on the amount of aerodynamic development each competitor is able to carry out."

It adds that the detailed wording in the regulations "is also intended to ensure no competitor is able to circumvent the purpose or intention of the restrictions by, for example, using a third party to carry out aerodynamic development on their behalf".

In essence, no team can use another for its own aerodynamic development.

The FIA has confirmed receiving verbal submissions from Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari, Williams and Force India, and written submissions from not only Mercedes, Ferrari and Force India, but also Manor.

Previous correspondence was also examined between the FIA and Ferrari, Haas, Red Bull and Mercedes, while reports of FIA audits, inspections and visits to team facilities were examined.

A FIA inspection of Ferrari's windtunnel earlier this year found it operating within the rules, with the Scuderia not using Haas-allocated time for its own benefit.

THE FIA'S NEW RESTRICTIONS IN FULL

From the FIA stewards' decision:

The following (non‐exhaustive) list may be deemed attempts to circumvent the purpose or intention of Appendix 8, any of these could therefore be reported to the stewards of the next Event as a breach of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations.

1) No employee or consultant of a competitor who is involved in aerodynamic development may pass any information obtained under their own ATR quota to an employee or consultant of another competitor.

2) No employee of a competitor who is involved in aerodynamic development, who leaves that company and takes up a similar position with another competitor, may do so without a suitable (or normal) period of "gardening leave" or "isolation".

3) No employee of a competitor who is involved in aerodynamic development, and who leaves that company and takes up a similar position with another competitor, may then return to the original competitor without a suitable (or normal) period of "gardening leave" or "isolation".

4) No employee of a competitor who is involved in aerodynamic development, and who then leaves that company, may pass information obtained under their former employer's ATR quota to an employee or consultant of another competitor before a suitable (or normal) period of "gardening leave" or "isolation" has elapsed.

5) No employee of an external entity who is involved in F1 aerodynamic development may be employed by a competitor, on a permanent or temporary basis, without a suitable (or normal) period of "gardening leave" or "isolation".

6) No employee of a competitor who is involved in aerodynamic development may be seconded to, or temporarily employed by, another competitor unless such secondment or employment is a genuine long term arrangement for the sole purpose of providing the other competitor with technical expertise. Any seconded employee must not then return to the original competitor without a suitable (or normal) period of "gardening leave" or "isolation". Three months would be considered as a genuine long term arrangement.

7) No competitor may acquire aerodynamic surfaces from an external entity (even if such entity claims to have designed them for its own purposes), unless any aerodynamic testing resource used to develop the surfaces is counted within the relevant competitor's ATR quota.

8) Teams sharing a windtunnel (or any other aerodynamic testing resource as referred to in Appendix 8, including a CFD cluster) must put appropriate procedures in place to avoid any breach of confidentiality or of the general restrictions of Appendix 6 and Appendix 8. This would include (but not be limited to):

(i) ensuring staff shared by both parties or employed by one party but involved in the operational part of the aerodynamic testing of the other party (such as operating or maintaining the windtunnel and/or CFD hardware) give contractual covenants not to pass information or to allow information to pass between the parties.

(ii) putting the physical infrastructure in place so the two parties operate their support activities (such as windtunnel model preparation), other than the operational part of the testing mentioned above, in separate environments.

(iii) putting the IT infrastructure in place so the two parties operate on separate networks and store their data on separate (at least virtually) storage hardware.

Note: "A suitable or normal period of gardening leave or isolation" must be 6 months except in the case of force majeure or a competitor ceasing operations (for example due to bankruptcy). Normally "gardening leave" is a contractual matter between the employee and the competitor from which that employee is leaving, and "isolation" is a similar arrangement and obligation for the competitor to which the employee is moving.

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