Renault receives Japanese GP DQ due to the use of illegal driver-aid systems

Formula One (F1) racing team Renault has seen its points earned at the Japanese Grand Prix docked due to having an illegal driver-aid system on its cars.

As a result of the disqualification from the Japanese results, the French racing team has lost a total of nine points after drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg finished sixth and tenth respectively. 

The news comes after rival F1 team Racing Point, formerly known as Force India, launched protests after the race in Suzuka due to Renault allegedly breaching the Sporting and Technical Regulations and the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) International Sporting Code with the use of a ‘pre-set lap distance-dependent brake bias adjustment system’.

Following the protests the FIA standard electronic control units as well as the steering wheels used by Ricciardo and Hulkenberg were sealed, impounded and analysed, with the FIA’s Technical Department also conducting an investigation into the hardware, software, and data associated with the team.

Renault disputed Racing Point’s claim, and following extensive analysis by the FIA it was determined that the described control system was not pre-set nor lap distance-dependent as alleged – Therefore concluding that Renault were not in breach of the F1 Technical Regulations.

With this being said, stewards deemed that Renault had gained a clear advantage from the system due to the fact that it saved both Ricciardo and Hulkenberg from making adjustments during laps. 

Due to this, it was deemed that Renault was in fact in breach of Article 27.1 of F1’s Sporting Regulations which relates to driver aids and states that the driver must drive the car alone and unaided, therefore leading to the team’s disqualification. 

Renault, who has decided not to appeal the disqualification, released a statement which explained the team’s decision: “We regret the Stewards’ decision and, in particular, the severity of the sanction applied. In our opinion, the penalty is not proportionate to any benefit the drivers derived, especially when used within the context of a system confirmed fully legal and innovative. It is also inconsistent with previous sanctions for similar breaches, as acknowledged by the Stewards in their decision, but expressed without further argumentation.

“However, since we have no new evidence to bring other than that already produced to demonstrate the legality of our system, we do not wish to invest further time and effort in a sterile debate in front of the International Court of Appeal concerning the subjective appreciation, and therefore sanction, related to an aid that reduces the driver workload without enhancing the performance of the car.

“We have therefore decided not to appeal the Stewards’ decision,” it added. “Formula 1 will always be an arena for the relentless search for the slightest possible opportunities for competitive advantage. It is what we have always done and will continue to do, albeit with stronger internal processes before innovative solutions are brought on track.”

Insider Insight: The decision all but confirms Renault will miss its target of finishing fourth in the constructor’s championship for the second year in a row due to the fact that McLaren is now 43 points ahead with four races to go.

It is also the second time in its recent history where the Renault team finds itself in the headlines for the wrong reason following the 2009 Singapore crash scandal in which Nelson Piquet Junior, a Renault driver at the time, crashed on purpose to allow teammate Fernando Alonso to gain an advantage.