Should Red Bull lose points over ‘illegal’ floor?

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Mark Webber, Red Bull, Barcelona, 2012The FIA has decided the hole in Red Bull’s floor in front of its rear wheels does not comply with the rules.

Red Bull have run the RB8 in this configuration for the last three races, of which they have won two.

Following the Monaco Grand Prix both Red Bulls (and all the other cars which finished in the top ten) were checked by FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer and passed scrutineering. The post-race technical report shows this included an inspection of the “rear bodywork area”.

However yesterday the FIA issued a new Technical Directive which stated that the hole in Red Bull’s floor is not legal:

“It has been argued that, as it is not explicitly stated that fully enclosed holes cannot be located in a surface lying on the step plane rearward of a line 450mm forward of the rear face of the cockpit template, then they may be located in such areas. We disagree with this view and consider it implicit that fully enclosed holes may not be located there.”

But if Red Bull’s car has not complied with the rules, should they be allowed to keep the points gained while their car has been running in this configuration?


At the Australian Grand Prix last year, the rear wings on both Saubers were found not to comply with the rules. They were thrown out of the results and the cars which finished behind them were promoted in the standings.

Three weeks ago at the Spanish Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton’s car was found in violation of the technical rules during qualifying, and he too was excluded from the results and had to start the race from last place.

The technical rules have to be enforced strictly, otherwise there’s no disincentive for teams to cheat and gain a performance advantage. The FIA sporting code even says that not gaining a performance advantage is no argument for breaking the technical rules.

The scale of the advantage gained is likely in the region of hundredths of a second, not tenths. But this is the margin pole positions are being won or lost by at the moment, and we all know how important that is on a track like Monaco.


Red Bull’s cars were ruled legal by the scrutineers at the races they competed in, so there are no grounds to go back and remove them from the results.

Their rival teams had the opportunity to protest against them and chose not to – despite much speculation in Monaco that McLaren, Ferrari or another of their rivals might do.

Given that, there is no reason for the FIA to change the results of the races Red Bull has won with a design which has now been ruled illegal.

I say

Red Bull can’t be blamed for pushing the FIA’s interpretation of the rules in a bid to gain every last fraction of a second of performance. That is what racing teams do.

The real question here is why have the FIA been allowing Red Bull to run their car in a specification which they now say is against the rules.

We have seen several examples of the difficulties of enforcing a written set of rules on car design in the past. But unlike past controversies such as flexible front wings, this does not involve discovering how much a wing is deforming when a car is in motion, but a rather more straightforward question of measuring a car part and deciding what constitutes a hole.

Given that, the only difference between Red Bull’s car being ruled illegal today and Sauber’s 14 months ago is the amount of time the FIA took to make its mind up.

How can it be right that a team whose cars are ruled illegal immediately after a race lose all their points, yet a team whose cars are ruled illegal a week after the race keep them?

Red Bull don’t deserve to be punished for the FIA’s ineffectual policing. But if they win the constructors’ title courtesy of the points gained at Monaco, McLaren or Ferrari may regret having passed up their chance to protest them.

You say

Should Red Bull lose the points and wins gained with their ‘illegal’ floor?

Should Red Bull lose points over their 'illegal' floor?

  • Yes, they should lose some or all of their points (43%)
  • No, they should not lose any points (55%)
  • No opinion (3%)

Total Voters: 666

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169 comments on Should Red Bull lose points over ‘illegal’ floor?

  1. DOSEFES (@dosefes) said on 3rd June 2012, 12:17

    The problem is the FIA has no points chart where we could discount some for every mistake they make. They would be far on the negative figures, not only in F1, also in rallying and other disciplines or motorsport.

  2. Jarred Walmsley (@jarred-walmsley) said on 3rd June 2012, 12:19

    No, for the simple reason that during those races that they won it was legal, if you wanted to argue the other way you would have infinite reasons for debate. It was legal when it raced and won so thats fine, it’s now illegal so they can’t use it at Canada simple.

    I fail to see how a change or clarification of the rules after the event when they were ruled legal is Red Bull’s fault. So they should not lose any points.

  3. damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 3rd June 2012, 12:20

    This is very confusing, but I voted no for the reasons Keith stated in the article.

    If the hole was declared illegal after Bahrain, then yes, the result should have been taken off them while they were at the track. Changing history and rewriting everything that happened this year seems excessive and not right. If the FIA didn’t say no to it, Red Bull can’t be expected to take it off their car if they believe it’s giving them an advantage. I really hope things like this are dealt with as soon as they become apparent in the future, though.

  4. sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 3rd June 2012, 12:22

    While I haven’t read all the comments, as far as I understand it (from Joe Saward’s blog) the foor hasn’t been declared illegal. One body of the FiA has stated that it doesn’t conform with the rules – and the others are therefore likely to agree with it – but strictly speaking, its not illegal.


  5. AnisB said on 3rd June 2012, 12:27

    It was said after Lewis Hamilton’s qualifying mess up that any technical breaches would lead to a disqualification of the event. Why is it that Red Bull are allowed to keep their results when they had a breach of the technical regulations?

  6. nemo87 (@nemo87) said on 3rd June 2012, 12:28

    I can’t help but think if it was anyone else they would have got stung :/

  7. Kanil (@kanil) said on 3rd June 2012, 12:49

    This all reminds me of the mass damper on the Renault in 06. They simply had to remove it from the car when it was no longer deemed legal, and adjust to the loss in performance.

    • beneboy (@beneboy) said on 3rd June 2012, 14:10

      And also the situation with McLaren’s extra brake pedal a few years before that.

      I’m no Red Bull fan but I think it would be a bit harsh for them to lose points over this.

  8. baluundertaker (@baluundertaker) said on 3rd June 2012, 12:57

    Voted No.
    It is totally incorrect to remove points from last 3 races for Red Bull since after Bahrain(where they introduced this hole), the car was declared legal and hence they kept the same in Monaco and Barcelona. If FIA had declared floor illegal after Bahrain, then Red Bull for sure would have reverted their floor for further races.

  9. Ilanin (@ilanin) said on 3rd June 2012, 13:10

    Under the circumstances, with no protest against the Monaco results, any points deduction would be an extrajudicial farce. I do think, though, that the Monaco results ought to have been protested (and suspect something of a stitch-up may have happened to ensure that they weren’t, for PR purposes).

  10. Phil Carr (@atseridluap) said on 3rd June 2012, 13:15

    This is what this site said about Sauber last year:
    Both Saubers have been disqualified from the Australian Grand Prix due to a technical infringement.
    Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi therefore lose their seventh and eighth place finished in the race.
    Their upper rear wing element was found not to conform to the regulations.
    Fast forward to this year RB8 floor has been ruled not to conform to the regulations. The FIA set a precedent with the Sauber incident & must act accordingly. Whether thats to strip just the points from Monaco (when the FIA received a post race complaint) or all the points from the last 3 races.

    • Max Jacobson (@vettel1) said on 3rd June 2012, 13:52

      @atseridluap – were the Sauber’s previously deemed legal though? The Red Bull had Charlie’s approval and held it until after the Monaco GP; a sudden change in opinion then affecting previous results would be grossly unfair (they would be stripped of 84 hard-earned points and relegated to 5th in the constructors standings; Sauber certainly didn’t loose that much!)

      • Andrew81 (@andrew81) said on 3rd June 2012, 18:06

        The fact that Red Bull would lose more if they are punished should not enter the equation. Breaking the rules is breaking the rules. Which is why Hamilton got disqualified from pole in Spain, relegating him to the back of the grid. It seemed harsh at the time, but that’s the way it is. I think it’s a sad fact that certain big teams seem to be above the rules because punishing them would cause controversy. Only McLaren stand out as the only big team that the FIA doesn’t mind creating a bit of controversy to punish.

        • Max Jacobson (@vettel1) said on 3rd June 2012, 19:34

          @andrew81 – Mclaren violated a clearly stated rule, which was brought on by a previous incident also involving Mclaren. Mclaren shouldn’t have sent Lewis out without enough fuel and that’s final.
          Red Bull had their car scrutinised and it was deemed legal by the FIA. It is a completely different situation to that of Hamilton, there is simply no comparison that can be made between the two events.

          • Andrew81 (@andrew81) said on 3rd June 2012, 20:09

            The car was deemed legal erroneously. The rules haven’t changed and yet it is now illegal. This clarification is essentially an admittance that the scrutineers were wrong. As I have said elsewhere in these comments, inept scrutineering by the FIA does not make it legal. Both of these cases are technical infringements. In one case, the FIA threw the book at Hamilton and in the other, they inexplicably forgot what a hole was and let Red Bull win two races until the other teams made some noise.

          • xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 5th June 2012, 14:47

            But that’s regardless, and anyway, the fia scrutineers are very highly qualified (or should be), and you saying it’s inept scrutineering is just an opinion; it was deemed legal after the race, in scrutineering, so to have the team chucked out of the monaco results is ridiculous; if it was decided on the spot, then it would be a different situation.

    • Max Jacobson (@vettel1) said on 3rd June 2012, 21:25

      It wasn’t clearly defined in the rules, that is why at first it was deemed legal. Technical regulations and sporting regulations fall into very different categories; the technical regulations are there to be exploited by teams and often have ‘grey areas’.
      Mclaren clearly violated a rule but Red Bull had previous consent from the FIA; the two events are under a completely different set of circumstances. Mclaren were punished for a mistake on their part, Red Bull shoudn’t for a ‘mistake’ (if you can even call it that) on the FIA’s part.

      • Ilanin (@ilanin) said on 4th June 2012, 0:08

        It was perfectly clearly defined in the rules. The rules require the floor to be impervious. Something with a hole in it isn’t impervious. The fact that the FIA managed to get this wrong for two races is astonishing, but doesn’t change the fact that this really is a very simple violation.

        • Max Jacobson (@vettel1) said on 4th June 2012, 11:10

          The fact that the FIA managed to get this wrong for two races is astonishing, but doesn’t change the fact that this really is a very simple violation

          @ilanin – So why then was it deemed legal for three races? Red Bull fan or not, they shouldn’t be punished for they had clarification from the FIA of its legality: they weren’t racing illegaly so shouldn’t loose the points.

  11. Max Jacobson (@vettel1) said on 3rd June 2012, 13:26

    If the FIA punished them for something that had been deemed legal it would be rather unfair in my opinion; punishing them for trying to extract the maximum performance from the car in an area where the rules didn’t specifically state against it would be punishing the designers for doing their job.

  12. Ben73 (@ben73) said on 3rd June 2012, 13:34

    I voted no. I am a Mclaren fan, and if I am not mistaken, at the start of the 2010 Mclaren had their diffuser, which by their own admission was borderline, deemed to have pushed past the interpreted boundaries of the rules. They did not receive any points deduction.
    I think the problem for me is that unlike the Mclaren situation this was called into question directly before a race. The team principle defiantly said that they would run with it regardless of it’s alleged illegality. The FIA should have acted before the race, as any result would always feel very tainted or
    unjust in the event of the holes being deemed illegal after the race. That being said, I think it is the fault of the FIA for not having acted swift enough.

  13. maxthecat said on 3rd June 2012, 13:39

    If it’s illegal now then it was illegal in Spain and Monaco and as running an illegal car results in expulsion from the championship i would suggest losing their points would be a very lenient punishment.

  14. No, the FIA has been aware of these holes…. Come on, I mean this is really nitpicking and it’s not like they are lapping the field or anything. Sheesh. I’m just ready for lotus to win this race in Montreal.

  15. Dafffid (@dafffid) said on 3rd June 2012, 14:07

    Correct me if I’m wrong – I honestly can’t remember, so apologies if I am – but didn’t Kimi Ferrari win in Australia in 2007 with a car that was LATER deemed illegal – and no points were deducted. That surely is the precedent.

    • sumedh said on 3rd June 2012, 14:16

      Yes, you are right. Ferrari had a movable floor. Mclaren launched a protest against it (they knew of Ferrari’s infringement thanks to the 700 page document).

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