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. sumedh said on 3rd June 2012, 14:14

    No, they shouldn’t.

    Its very simple, the stewards at none of the three races found any problem, no team raised even an eyebrow for two of the three races. And didn’t even launch an official protest at the third race.

    You can’t consider Lewis’s exclusion as an example because in his case, the stewards found him guilty.

    Red Bull did what every racing team does, push the rules to the limit. The other teams and FIA missed a trick by not intervening earlier. Red Bull can’t be retro-actively penalized for other teams’ negligence. Plain and Simple.

  2. Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 3rd June 2012, 14:20

    I say no. The configuration was deemed legal when they acquired those points. Besides it would cause yet more controversy and would harm the image of F1.

  3. BBT (@bbt) said on 3rd June 2012, 14:32

    I say No as well.

    What will be interesting is how they remove it and what effect it has. It appeared around the same weekend that Brundle said that the RBR look more planted all of a sudden. However that could just be coincidental, they will probably just cut a small slot in it to make it open and not lose too much if anything.

  4. Andy (@turbof1) said on 3rd June 2012, 14:44

    Let Red Bull keep the points. It might not be showing consistency in light of Sauber’s and Hamilyon’s punishments, but truth is that it Red Bull clearly was allowed to race it. The teams and FIA played it very fair this time at least by allowing Red Bull to alter their car they deemed to be correct based on its allowance in the first 2 races it was used (yes Monaco was the thirth race is it was used!). With so much action going on at the tracks it would be a HUGE shame if it was messed up with politics. I’m glad sportsmanship has won this issue.

  5. Karthikeyan (@ridiculous) said on 3rd June 2012, 14:47

    Massive brain freeze after reading the ‘For’ section – Saubers failed post race scrutineering. Hamilton’s car was under fuelled and therefore illegal. There was at no point a flag from FIA clearing the cars and then banning them for a violation, which is the case with RedBull. Don’t even see where a comparison could me made with all these in consideration.

  6. xeroxpt (@) said on 3rd June 2012, 14:59

    We must be realistic not picky, Red Bull had an counter argument FIA stood with the original argument they werent hasty they took long to decide, but the degree of the violation was so small that no one really cared about it and that’s why everyone is moving on.

  7. Alex Brown (@splittimes) said on 3rd June 2012, 15:07

    One view:

    “Yes, the election results were counted incorrectly, but we’ve decided that’s not your fault so you can keep the presidency”.

    I don’t blame Red Bull for this, and I think going back to previous incidences of questionable legality and favourable/unfavourable rulings isn’t all that helpful. My belief is that the FIA need to make a fresh start in terms of consistency, with some plain and simple, black and white decisions. When that fresh start should begin (now? Or at the start of the next season?) is debatable.

    I don’t know about everyone else, but I get a sense that Charlie Whiting cuts a formidable figure in the paddock, but his decisions seem a little bit weak and justification for them a little thin. Anyone else get this impression?

    • Olivier42 (@olivier42) said on 3rd June 2012, 17:08

      Here’s another attempt at an analogy.
      Street X has a sign that says “Speed Limit: 60″ on it. Everybody assumed it was 60kph, but RBR made a case for 60mph. Charlie Whiting and the stewards accepted that, and let them drive at 60mph for 3 days. A lot of other drivers were unhappy and complained – they either wanted to drive at 60mph too or for nobody to drive at that speed. The sign has now been updated to say 60kph, so everything is clear.

      Now some people want to give RedBull retroactive driving violations for exceeding the speed limit.

      • Alex Brown (@splittimes) said on 3rd June 2012, 17:58

        It just seems to me that there are too many steps between the rule book, the cars on track, and the eventual ruling of legality. I feel cars are believed to be legal until someone notices otherwise. That leaves the oportunity for people to design cars in a devious way (n.b. not saying Red Bull are being devious!). “We’ll put this on the car, its legality is dubious, but by the time anyone notices it’ll be too late, and they won’t take the points away retrospectively.”

        If the rule-makers were more hard-line about it all, perhaps we wouldn’t have the validity of the results fall into question so often.

        If I were instated as the top rule-maker, I’d consider changing the way the cars are scrutinised, reducing the number of people involved in determining whether a car is legal, and having a more definitive legal vs illegal perspective, and I’d start this at the beginning of next season. Red Bull? I think I’d take away their points for every instance they used the illegal parts without being told they were legal, which (I’m guessing) would mean they’d keep the points.

        Whoever told them they were legal should have all their points taken away though, and take a ten place grid penalty.

    • BBQ2 said on 3rd June 2012, 17:23

      Yes, see his decision in Spa 08. Ron asked him if the overtaking was within the rules and he said “Aye”!! Then went to the stewards for reference and Massa claimed a win he did not celebrate on the podium. They wrote a new rule but still punished the offender …. Ferrari International Assistance at work.

  8. Ciaran (@ciaran) said on 3rd June 2012, 15:14

    No, because the teams didn’t protest the RB8 post-race. Simple as that.

  9. Nickpkr said on 3rd June 2012, 15:20

    If mercedes double Drs is ban after the 2 seconds a lap advantage in Canada, should they also loses all points before that ?

  10. verstappen (@verstappen) said on 3rd June 2012, 15:22

    Joe Saward explains the situation best.
    There should be no punishment / points deducted. It’s not illegal per se.
    But with this clarification, they make it clear what the possible consequences are.

    The Red Bull has not been declared illegal. The FIA Technical department has said that in its opinion the floor does not meet the rules as it interprets them. If red Bull wishes to go on using the floor they can. They would then be reported to the FIA Stewards, who would rule on whether the opinion of the FIA Technical department was correct or not. If Red Bull did not agree with that, it could appeal to the FIA International Court of Appeal.

    However, Red Bull will probably decided that it is best not to go down this path. This is an alternative way of solving problems to having protests and it is much more sensible than having the result of events left hanging in the air.


    The role of the FIA in this one is a completely different matter and shows again why I can’t give Jean Todt my vote of confidence.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd June 2012, 17:01

      @verstappen It’s also more “sensible” than sticking your head in a deep fat fryer. That doesn’t make it a clever thing to do.

      I have no difficulty understanding why some people find it hard to accept the FIA calling the same design legal for one race and illegal for the next with no change in the regulations as they’re written.

      And make no mistake, what we’re talking about here is a difference between ‘legality’ and ‘illegality’, regardless of what euphemistic terms others may prefer.

      • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 3rd June 2012, 17:11

        @keithcollantine, I fully agree with what you have written in this article and what you say in this comment. This episode is a failure by the FIA to keep track of its own rules in a timely manner (basically until the other teams decided to get more loud about it at Monaco), and it has caused inconsistency. Still, that’s a problem for all teams, not Red Bulls doing.

        Red Bull didn’t do anything wrong, they made no mistake and were told the car was legal in all the races they had that hole. Apparently they were told this in error which is pretty silly from the FIA and/or stewards (but at multiple races? ==FIA then), and it took too long to correct that. but unless they turn out to have lied about some aspect, Red Bull should not be punished for that.

        I also have to say that I really dislike results changing after the fact, and especially weeks after the fact, so that makes me even more reluctant to see Red Bull retroactively punished.

      • verstappen (@verstappen) said on 3rd June 2012, 22:22

        I think Joe Saward means that given the choice between protesting and the possibility to have results altered, or just a clarification, the latter to me is more ‘sensible’.
        Of course, as I wrote, FIA messed up again. For a governing body which covers racing they’re waaaaaay too slow!

  11. Mikemat5150 (@mikemat5150) said on 3rd June 2012, 15:29

    So it was deemed legal for all the races it competed in and after a couple days the FIA changed their minds. I don’t see what the debate is about. You can’t retroactively punish someone for something that was once legal.

  12. HUHHII (@huhhii) said on 3rd June 2012, 15:42

    For me it’s an obvious No. The car passed all FIA’s investigations before the race and after the race, so their car was legal at Monaco Grand Prix.

    I’m quite amazed to see 42% answering “Yes”. McLaren fans are on the attack here :)

  13. Lothario said on 3rd June 2012, 16:07

    Yes, end of.

  14. ram (@ramjet) said on 3rd June 2012, 16:18

    blah blah blah….F1 used to be a racing series now its a facebook debate society

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd June 2012, 16:56

      Only the other day I was reading about the rows over the change in engine formula in 1961… the sport hasn’t changed at all.

      • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 3rd June 2012, 17:13

        It’s more like facebook now only because it remains less hidden with many more people looking into it, I agree.

      • jan (@jan) said on 3rd June 2012, 23:21

        Indeed. I’ve just been re-reading Christopher Hilton’s 1982 – one of the most poisonous F1 years on record – and it’s instructive to see who might have been aware of ‘water-tank-gate’ and who got protested. And who didn’t. RBR’s legality (or otherwise) needs to be divorced from the FIA’s competence (or otherwise). Scrutineers passed the cars: fact. Teams could have challenged, but didn’t. Results (and points) need to stand or we need to go back and wholesale re-write history books because smart engineers are smart. I say this not as a RBR fan (and not as a detractor) but as an F1 fan of >30 years. I’m not an engineer either – but I love it when they win one :-) The sport would be nowhere without smart folk pushing the envelope!

        • Ilanin (@ilanin) said on 4th June 2012, 0:12

          The best part about the water-tank stuff is the way that several cars with water-cooled brakes actually got points in the 1982 Brazilian GP, since Ferrari only protested the cars that finished in front of them.

          That said, I don’t think this is really pushing the envelope, this is ignoring the rules and hoping nobody notices. Not that there’s not a long and proud history of that in F1 as well, of course.

  15. Calum (@calum) said on 3rd June 2012, 16:38

    Can they not do what Mclaren got in 2007 for Spygate, and for the Hungary GP – drivers keep points but contructors were not counted?

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