A potential loophole in the FIA’s new development token system will allow Racing Point and AlphaTauri to make significant upgrades to their Formula 1 cars without deploying tokens.
The loophole slipped through when the teams voted on a large package of measures to deal with the post-COVID-19 world, including the lower cost cap.
As part of the new freeze on homologated components that runs to the end of the 2021 season each team has been handed two tokens to deploy on an area of the car of their choice.
The teams have to notify the FIA next Wednesday of how they want to use their tokens, and must submit full details of the upgrade plans at a later date.
If a customer team takes a part that its supplying team has deployed tokens on to upgrade it, the customer also has to give up its tokens in order to be allowed to use it.
However, customer teams currently using 2019 parts can upgrade to the original 2020 versions of used by their partner teams without using their own tokens for 2021; Racing Point, which currently uses the 2019 Mercedes gearbox, would be able to make a token-free switch to the 2020 unit.
It can also take other key elements, such as suspension components and hydraulic, steering and braking systems from the 2020 Mercedes, with its two tokens free for another area of the 2021 car.
Although Racing Point would be getting technology that is already in use on the 2020 Mercedes the changes would potentially represent a step in performance for the Silverstone team in 2021 from where it is currently.
AlphaTauri is in a similar position, and can also trade its 2019 Red Bull gearbox and other elements to the 2020 spec currently used by RBR.
McLaren will have to use its development tokens to accommodate its switch to the Mercedes power unit for next year.
However Ferrari customers Haas and Alfa Romeo don’t have the same opportunity to make a significant “free” upgrade, as they already use 2020 parts or designs supplied by Ferrari.
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto admitted that his frustration that development is limited under the token system, while other teams can make a step without using them.
When asked for his thoughts on the token system by Autosport, Binotto replied “[it] has been put in place ahead of the entire freezing we’ve got.
“I think it was important to have at least two tokens. It’s obvious that the system is overall, let me say, a compromise of the current entire situation post-Covid.
“We cannot be fully happy because, if you look where we are as Ferrari, our intention would have been to fully develop, but we understand that’s part of the season compromises that have been taken during this period.
“I think that the only point on looking at next year, on which we are still debating, I think we are not fully happy that there are teams that eventually can upgrade their entire package from a 2019 to a 2020 package.
“That I believe would be unfair, because the season with two tokens is similar for everybody. We’ve got only two tokens, and everybody should be limited to that one.”
Renault executive director Marcin Budkowski supports the token system in principle, but agreed with Binotto regarding the loopholes.
“It was a necessary evil to be able to continue in this situation and part of the freeze decision for next year,” he said.
“But I will also support Mattia’s view that the system has some flaws, unfortunately.
“There’s a loophole there that would allow a couple of teams to benefit from the system, and this is something we’re discussing with the FIA and the other teams, and we hope will be addressed.”