Haas lodges intention to appeal unsuccessful Force India protest

ABU DHABI — Haas has lodged its intention to appeal its unsuccessful protest of Force India at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Haas protested the legality of Force India’s cars based on the regulations around what constitutes being a constructor, but its case was dismissed on Saturday in a lengthy verdict. Following the stewards’ decision, Haas then had a brief window of time to notify the stewards of its intention to appeal in order to open up a 96-hour time period in which it can assess whether or not to lodge a full appeal.

The case revolved around Force India’s rescue from administration earlier this year and the way it was effectively rebooted as a new team in August. The team, formerly known officially as Sahara Force India, was re-entered into the championship as Racing Point Force India, but started from zero in the constructors’ championship.

Because Racing Point Force India was still using a car designed and built by the previous incarnation of the team, Haas argued that it was outsourcing the construction of its car to a competitor — something prohibited under Article 6.3 of the Sporting Regulations. The stewards ruled against this claim, saying that Sahara Force India could not be considered a rival as it no longer exists.

However, this weekend’s protest went beyond the simple legality of the Force India cars in Abu Dhabi and has its roots in a dispute over Force India’s eligibility for a strand of F1 prize money, known as Column 1 money. Teams only qualify for Column 1 money if they have finished two of the previous three constructors’ championships in the top ten.

Haas did not receive this money during their first two years in F1 in 2016 and 2017, and they believe Racing Point Force India should be held to the same standard since it entered F1 as a new team at this year’s Belgian Grand Prix. However, as part of the agreement for Racing Point Force India to rejoin the championship as a new team in August, it retained its right to keep its Column 1 money from the 2018 season.

Significantly, the stewards’ decision on Saturday stated that Racing Point Force India is a “new team”, and it is that part of the decision that may be useful in Haas’ wider argument with Formula One over whether Racing Point Force India should be eligible for Column 1 money.

Haas team boss Guenther Steiner would not offer further details on the matter, saying he was keen to focus on the on-track action shortly after the stewards’ released its official document.

“To be honest I didn’t read the whole document because we got it when we started going [in FP3] you know. We’ve got a good car, I didn’t focus on enough on the weekend and this is what I enjoy.

“This, I have to do it, it’s part of my job, but it’s like I said, file an intent of appeal and then we go from there. It was two days of just thinking of this stuff and I was done with it, so I just have to speak to my legal advisors and then we will see what we do.”

When asked for his thoughts on the verdict, he said: “I wasn’t surprised.”

Steiner was cagey about further details, refusing to be drawn on the wider implications of the stewards confirming Racing Point Force India was a new team. The Haas boss will wait until the race is finished before considering Haas’ next course of action.

“I’m going to think on Monday and Tuesday about it, that is what my idea is. Therefore you file an intent of appeal, that’s it.”