ABU DHABI — The stewards at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix have dismissed a protest lodged by the Haas F1 team against both Force India cars this weekend.
Haas was protesting the legality of its rival’s cars on the basis that Force India was not a constructor under the terms laid out in the Sporting Regulations. The argument is based on Force India’s rescue from administration earlier this year, when the team came under new ownership and re-entered the championship under the new name Racing Point Force India.
Because Racing Point Force India was still using a car designed and built by the previous incarnation of the team, known as Sahara Force India, Haas argued that Force India was outsourcing the construction of its car to a competitor — something which is not allowed under Article 6.3 of the Sporting Regulations. However, the stewards found that, because Sahara Force India no longer exits, it is not a competitor and Racing Point Force India was within its rights to continue using the same car.
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 certain strand of F1 prize money, known as Column 1 money. Teams only qualify for Column 1 money, which is based on F1’s revenues and worth in the region of £24 million, if they have finished two of the previous three constructors’ championships in the top 10.
Haas did not receive this money during its first two years in F1 in 2016 and 2017; Haas believes 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.
Speaking on Friday evening before the stewards’ decision was released, Haas team principal Guenther Steiner said: “The problem is maybe bigger than Force India, but we are just seeking that everybody is treated equally. That is the only thing we are seeking. We are not trying to get more. We are just trying to make sure that everybody in this position in the future [as a new team] knows what he’s going to do.”