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Pressure mounts on Caterham as HRT complains to FIA

Caroline Reid
April 6, 2012 « Lotus terminates Group Lotus title sponsorship deal | Vettel has 'total faith' in Red Bull »
HRT could stand to profit substantially if the FIA decides to punish Caterham © Sutton Images

HRT has revealed that it has asked the FIA to investigate whether Caterham illegally benefited in 2010 from using car parts which Force India owned the copyright to.

The complaint was triggered by a recent court judgement which ruled that in 2010 Caterham, then known as Team Lotus, was in possession of files which "reproduce a substantial part of the corresponding Force India Computer Aided Design [CAD] files for the following parts: the vortex generator, rear brake duct lower element and rear view mirror." Caterham was fined €25,000 but could face far more severe penalties from the FIA.

HRT has put the complaint in motion since it could stand to gain an estimated $26m in prize money by taking over Caterham's championship position if the team is retrospectively removed from the standings.

"HRT has made an enquiry to the FIA to review the judgement in respect of the UK High Court civil case against Caterham," a team spokesperson said. "HRT will take any measures that may be considered appropriate. If there have been any illicit moves that may have been beneficial for some and detrimental for our team, HRT will obviously take a stand against it."

The basis of its complaint is the Concorde Agreement, the contract which commits the teams to race. According to Schedule Three of the Concorde, the teams are not allowed to use certain parts of the cars that they do not own the intellectual property rights to. It is not clear whether the Force India parts were actually raced by Team Lotus but having the files of them alone may be enough to breach the regulations.

In 2007 McLaren was fined $100m by the FIA for being in possession of confidential data about Ferrari's car and strippped of its points in the constructors' championship. The penalty was levied for breaking Article 151 c) of the International Sporting Code which states that competitors must not carry out "any fraudulent conduct or any act prejudicial to the interests of any competition or to the interests of motor sport generally."

As F1's governing body, the FIA's job is to ensure that regulations are adhered to and if Caterham is found to have been in breach it could be retrospectively excluded from the 2010 championship. HRT has the most to gain from this since it finished 11th in 2010 with Lotus Racing one place ahead of it. The three newest teams to Formula One all share set prize money at present as Column 3 constructors, but Caterham is set to become a Column 2 constructor having finished in the top ten in two of its first three seasons, earning it an estimated $26m for the two years that it has done so. Should it be removed from the 2010 standings HRT could take a significant step towards becoming a Column 2 team as it was next in the running order. HRT has the smallest budget on the grid and has had a poor start to the 2012 season, so the possibility of extra prize money in the future could make a monumental difference to the team's prospects.

Force India has already made it clear that it plans to approach the FIA about the situation and Marussia has also indicated that it will do the same. However, neither of these teams would gain financially from the retrospective removal of Team Lotus. As Force India finished 7th in 2010 it would not be affected if a team below it dropped out. Marussia finished 12th so although this would give it a boost to 11th, prize money would still be out of its reach.

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