Lewis Hamilton’s all-conquering Mercedes team have been dragged into Formula One’s latest ‘cheat’ storm on the eve of the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Racing Point were docked 15 points and fined £361,000 on Friday after they were found guilty of copying parts of Hamilton’s title-winning 2019 machine.
A 14-page dossier issued in the wake of the FIA’s investigation, revealed that Mercedes had supplied a complete set of last year’s brake ducts to Racing Point on January 6.
It was also established that Mercedes provided Racing Point with computer-aided design models for the parts which assisted them in building this year’s car, which has been dubbed the “Pink Mercedes” given its likeness to the machine Hamilton drove to a sixth world title.
Formula One’s governing body ruled that the transfer of brake ducts did not constitute a “significant breach of the sporting regulations”, and the transferring of data as within the rules.
But some in the Silverstone paddock were on Friday questioning why Mercedes assisted Racing Point.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff enjoys a good relationship with Racing Point co-owner Lawrence Stroll. Wolff is a shareholder in Aston Martin, also controlled by Stroll, who will return to the grid in place of Racing Point in 2021.
Racing Point, whose performances have greatly improved this season, had previously claimed that their car was designed simply on photographs of last year’s Mercedes.
“The investigation has thrown up a lot more questions than answers and there is new evidence that we are able to see,” said McLaren chief executive Zak Brown on Friday.
“Obviously Racing Point claimed that they had copied the car via photography. It’s clear from reading the document that that is BS (b*******).
“And therefore you have to question everything else around that car. This is potentially the tip of the iceberg, the starting point of what has happened here.
“It’s not healthy for the sport. It is something that we are going to review quickly so that we are able to understand the process and if that’s something we want to potentially participate in.”
Ferrari have confirmed their intention to appeal the FIA’s verdict, while Renault, who have protested the Racing Point car after all four races so far this year, are also weighing up whether to challenge the decision.
The PA news agency understands they could be joined by other teams, including McLaren. They will have until Saturday morning to lodge the intention of an appeal, and then a further 96 hours to decide if they want to continue with their legal action.
On Friday, Wolff, who has presided over Mercedes’ unprecedented six consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ championships, defended his team’s role in the saga which threatens to overshadow Hamilton’s march towards a record-equalling seventh title.
“We feel 100 per cent comfortable with our position,” he said.
“We have read the rules over and over again. The verdict that came out today is extremely complicated, and comes up with an interpretation that is new to all of us.
“We have provided certain data in 2019, which was totally within the rules. The January 6 delivery of ducts has no material effect on any of the action, because the whole thing was delivered much earlier.”
On track, Hamilton, who holds a 30-point championship lead over team-mate Valtteri Bottas, finished fastest in practice for Sunday’s race at Silverstone.
Hamilton will move to within three victories of Michael Schumacher’s win record of 91 if he triumphs again on Sunday. He will also equal the German’s all-time tally of 155 career podiums if he finishes in the top three.