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FIA plans fresh guidance on F1 team collaborations

The FIA plans to issue fresh guidance in a bid to ensure any collaboration going on between Formula 1 teams does not breach the regulations.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, leads Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT04, Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri AT04, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C43, Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR23, Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C43, and others out of the pit lane

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, leads Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT04, Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri AT04, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C43, Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR23, Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C43, and others out of the pit lane

Motorsport Images

There has been an increased focus on teams working together over recent weeks off the back of dramatic improvements that AlphaTauri made thanks to its closer ties to Red Bull. 

Ahead of a 2024 season, where AlphaTauri intends to use many more customer Red Bull parts than it has done in the recent past, some teams have voiced concerns about the potential for two teams to gain an advantage from working so closely together. 

The FIA is well aware of the risks of teams benefiting from collaboration if they acted in a nefarious way. 

However, it said the checks it does are robust enough to catch anything untoward –  especially with an increased scrutiny that is placed on teams that openly work together. 

Asked for his views on the questions raised about Red Bull and AlphaTauri, the FIA’s single-seater chief Nikolas Tombazis said that analysis of both cars had shown nothing to be worried about. 

“We check teams that are in close proximity to each other a lot more closely than we check completely independent teams, exactly to make sure this thing doesn't happen,” he said. “That is a concern.

“It has been a concern not only between the two teams mentioned, but also among other pairs of teams.

“We believe that AlphaTauri specifically does have quite different aerodynamic solutions to the other company, and we don't think there's any sign of any direct collaboration.

“Clearly, they are working hard and they have made a step forward. But I don't think it can be said it's due to collaboration.

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT04, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT04, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

“That said, collaboration, or making sure that no such thing happens, is one of the tricky parts of policing teams.

“We do need to audit and make sure that all of these teams are well segregated. And we will be issuing some further guidance quite soon to just provide further information to the teams about how they can convince us none of that is happening.

“We're not underestimating the challenge and it is one of the difficulties we have.”

There have been theories about teams working together to cover off alternative development avenues – such as trying out different concepts of wings – to help fast track arriving at the best solution.

However, Tombazis is clear that such an activity would be a breach of the regulations, and also would easily be caught by the way the FIA inspects designs.

“That is obviously heavily illegal, because we have at times in the past checked similar components between teams and then got into their development process to see how they evolved,” he said.

“I don't think there's something like that happening at the moment. We have checked and we have a process to check. Is it easy? No, I'm not saying it's easy, it's always sort of a challenge.”

But while Tombazis is confident that the FIA can be on top of checking teams that work so publicly in collaboration, he said the bigger risk actually comes from teams that work alone.

“The main incentive for two teams to collaborate isn't whether they exchange components or whether they even share a wind tunnel,” he said.

Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner talks with Nikolas Tombazis, FIA Single Seater Director

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner talks with Nikolas Tombazis, FIA Single Seater Director

“You can have two teams collaborating, one is in the UK, and one is in Argentina, and if two teams wants to communicate against regulations, have Zoom calls and have the engineers chat with each other, that is quite feasible.

“We don't watch people's day-to-day movements, and nor is it our intention to do so. These pairs of teams get more frequently criticised for collaboration just because they have common ownership or whatever, but it is not the only pair of teams that could collaborate. You could have two independent teams who decide to mutually gain by helping each other.

“I don't think that's happening, but I'm just saying that our tools to prevent this happening don't need to be just linked to physical components that are sold by one team to the other.”

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