FIA keen to avoid '8 or 10 Mercedes' clones as McLaren debunk copying argument

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FIA will take action to avoid other teams following Racing Point and creating "eight or 10" Mercedes' clones on the Formula 1 grid.

Last Friday, the Silverstone-based outfit was docked 15 Constructors' points and fined 400k Euros after the stewards declared the rear brake ducts on their 2020 car breached regulations on listed parts as they were initially designed by the German manufacturer.

However, that is just part of a much wider debate on how much smaller teams should be allowed to work with and use photos from the top teams on the grid to try and improve their own performance.

"Copying has been taking place in Formula 1 for a long time," FIA head of single-seater technical matters Nikolas Tombazis admitted on Saturday. "People take photos and sometimes reverse engineer them and make similar concepts.

"In some areas, [they are] even identical concepts or closely identical as other teams. We do not think that this can stop in the future completely.

"But what we do think is that Racing Point took this to another level. They clearly decided to apply this philosophy for the whole car.

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"By doing what I would call a paradigm shift: they actually use a disruption in the process that has been the norm of designing a Formula 1 car in the last 40 years.

"So one should not penalise them for that because they were original in deciding to follow this approach. However, we do not think this is what F1 should become.

"We don't want next year to have eight or 10 Mercedes or copies of Mercedes on the grid where the main skill becomes how you do this process. We don't want this to become the normal Formula 1."

As a result, the governing body is going to look at how they can limit the amount of copying teams can do through new regulations for 2021.

For now though, four teams (Renault, Ferrari, Williams and McLaren) are appealing the stewards' decision in the hope of a harsher punishment, while Racing Point themselves maintain their innocence and what their ruling overturned.

But McLaren technical director James Key outlined why the British team and others are so unhappy with what Racing Point has done with their 'Pink Mercedes'. 

“For us, we look at our car and – apart from the engine – it’s 100% a McLaren," he told RaceFans.

"We look at it and we can say ‘that’s all our own work’ and I think that’s what Formula 1 should be. That’s what it was traditionally in the past.

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“There’s a lot of arguments about how teams have always copied each other, and that’s absolutely true. The good thing with the biggest performance differentiator, with aero, is you can see surfaces but that’s 30% of the wider picture.

“To get those surfaces to work and the intricacies and the subtleties is pretty difficult, which is why you don’t often see what we’ve seen there with Racing Point.”

And when it comes to others copying a new innovation or trend, Key explained that each team was still developing their own interpretation of it.

“Brawn, Toyota and Williams turned up all with double diffusers [in 2009],” he began, recalling one of F1's better-known trends that went mainstream.

“Word had got out somehow in the movement of staff and it was obviously a very special way of treating the regulations.

“Everyone else ended up with them, but we all had to interpret the same regulations in the same way, generate our own IP [intellectual property] and we came up with what worked with our car.

“So we still owned, from first principles, that double diffuser, but the principle of a double diffuser was the thing that was copied and that’s the traditional way that you use information you see in other people’s cars to develop your own car.”