Both Renaults have been disqualified from the Japanese GP after it was deemed that Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo benefitted from an illegal driver aid.
The pair had finished sixth (Ricciardo) and tenth, but shortly after the race Racing Point protested both cars over an automated brake bias system.
Following a teleconference hearing today, the stewards deemed that although the system did not actually contravene the technical regulations it could be considered to be a driver aid.
Racing Point had protested the cars claiming that a pre-set, automated brake bias system, whose operation, they said, could be witnessed via onboard footage, which revealed the brake balance display on the steering wheels changing without any driver input, was a clear breach of the regulations.
Renault denied the claim, but after examining the electronic control units and steering wheels used by both drivers, which were impounded after the race, the FIA stewards deemed that the control system was not pre-set or lap distance-dependent as had been alleged and that while the French team had used "innovative solutions to exploit certain ambiguities", the system was not in breach of the technical regulations.
However, the team was deemed to have breached the sporting regulations relating to driver aids, which state the driver must drive the car alone and unaided.
The stewards discovered that the system meant the drivers didn't need to make certain adjustments over the course of a lap, noting that even though "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" it is still considered an aid and thereby a contravention of Article 27.1 FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations.
The stewards found that:
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. The described control system is not pre-set, lap distance-dependent as alleged.
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. 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.
Because it was felt that they had gained an advantage from the system, the decision was taken to disqualify both Ricciardo and Hulkenberg from the race.
With Racing Point believed to have known about the system since the summer break, after Hulkenberg's former engineer joined the Silverstone-based outfit, it prompts the question, why didn't they protest Renault earlier.
Renault has until 10:00 in Mexico (local time) to notify the FIA if it intends to appeal the decision.
As it stands, the double disqualification promotes Lance Stroll and Daniil Kvyat into the points.