Renault duo Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hülkenberg have been disqualified from the Japanese Grand Prix after the team was deemed to have been using an illegal driver aid.

The pair had finished the race at Suzuka in sixth and tenth places respectively, however their finishing positions remained provisional after Racing Point lodged a protest alleging that the Enstone outfit was using a “pre-set lap distance-dependent brake bias adjustment system”. The two cars’ steering wheels were impounded by the FIA.

Racing Point’s protest alleged that this system breached Article 27.1 of the F1 sporting regulations which stipulate that a driver “drives the car alone and unaided”, as well as several F1 technical regulations that outlaw powered devices which can alter brake balance, or any system not controlled by the driver.

The FIA Stewards held a teleconference hearing on Wednesday to evaluate this brake bias system did indeed flout the regulations.

In its defence, Renault argued that the brake bias adjustment system did not use a lap distance trigger and was within the technical regulations. It provided the full specifications of the system to the FIA, however these have been kept confidential.

In their final ruling, the stewards found that…

  1. 1. The rear brake controller software used by Renault is an integral part of the control system referred to in Article 11.9 FIA Formula One Technical Regulations. As such, it is used in compliance with Article 11.1.3 and 11.1.4 of the FIA Formula One Technical Regulations.
  2. 2. The described control system is not pre-set, lap distance-dependent as alleged.
  3. 3. Renault drivers use buttons mounted on the steering wheel to control brake balance in compliance with Article 8.6.3 FIA Formula One Technical Regulations. These are connected to the FIA Standard ECU.
  4. 4. Given the above, the Stewards conclude that while Renault used innovative solutions to exploit certain ambiguities in the Technical Regulations and other supporting documents, their system does not breach any current Technical Regulation.

While the system did not breach the technical regulations, however, the stewards ruled that it constituted a driving aid in violation of the sporting regulations. Ricciardo and Hülkenberg were therefore stripped of their results.

“The brake balance adjustment system in question acts as a driver aid, by saving the driver from having to make a number of adjustments during a lap,” the FIA Stewards’ statement explained.

“The Stewards note that there is a clear distinction between this system and one which provides actual feedback control, which could be a substitute for driver skills or reflexes. Nevertheless, it is still an aid and, therefore, contravenes Article 27.1 FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations.”

Renault has been given a deadline until Thursday 10:00am local time in Mexico to notify the FIA should it wish to lodge an appeal.

“Considering the subjectivity of the qualification of a system as a driver aid and the variability of the associated penalties in recent cases, Renault F1 Team will consider its next course of action,” the team stated in a written response.

The disqualification and subsequent loss of championship points for Renault has provided an immediate advantage to its nearest rivals in the Constructors’ Championship standings.

Fourth-placed McLaren sits well clear on 111 points, with fifth-placed Renault (68) under immediate threat from Scuderia Toro Rosso (62) and Racing Point (58), which both gained further points as a result of being promoted in the final classification.

Driver Team / Entry Laps Result Pts
1. Valtteri Bottas Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10 52 1:21:46.755 28
2. Sebastian Vettel Scuderia Ferrari SF90 52 + 13.343 18
3. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10 52 + 13.858 16
4. Alexander Albon Red Bull Racing RB15 52 + 59.537 12
5. Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren F1 Team MCL34 52 + 1:09.101 10
DSQ. Daniel Ricciardo Renault F1 Team RS19 51 Excluded
6. Charles Leclerc Scuderia Ferrari SF90 51 1 lap behind 8
7. Pierre Gasly Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14 51 1 lap behind 6
8. Sergio Pérez Racing Point F1 Team RP19 51 1 lap behind 4
DSQ. Nico Hülkenberg Renault F1 Team RS19 51 Excluded
9. Lance Stroll Racing Point F1 Team RP19 51 1 lap behind 2
10. Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14 51 1 lap behind 1
11. Lando Norris McLaren F1 Team MCL34 51 1 lap behind
12. Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo Racing C38 51 1 lap behind
13. Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team VF-19 51 1 lap behind
14. Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing C38 51 1 lap behind
15. Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team VF-19 51 1 lap behind
16. George Russell ROKiT Williams Racing FW42 50 2 laps behind
17. Robert Kubica ROKiT Williams Racing FW42 50 2 laps behind
Not Classified Team / Entry Laps Reason
DNF. Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing RB15 14 Brakes

Championship Points:

  • Points are awarded to the top 10 classified finishers on a 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 scale.
  • Lewis Hamilton is awarded an additional 1 championship point for posting the fastest lap of the race by a points’ finisher.

Post-Race Penalties:

  • Charles Leclerc – provisionally classified P6 – was issued two post-race time penalties: five seconds for causing a collision with Max Verstappen and ten seconds for driving his car in an unsafe condition.
  • Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hülkenberg – provisionally classified P6 and P10 respectively – were disqualified for using an illegal braking assist system.

Image via Renault Sport

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.