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Aston Martin cleared of copying Red Bull's F1 car

BARCELONA, Spain -- Formula One's governing body, the FIA, have announced that Aston Martin's upgraded car is legal after it launched an investigation into the apparent similarities between its AMR22 car and Red Bull's RB18.

Aston Martin is among a number of teams that have brought significant updates to this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix and its new package includes revised sidepods and a new engine cover. The new design looks similar to Red Bull's and comes after two senior aerodynamicists, Dan Fallows and Andrew Alessi, left Red Bull to join Aston Martin at the end of last year.

Formula One recently banned teams from directly copying rival designs after Racing Point, which became Aston Martin in 2021, employed a process that used photos to copy the design of the 2019 Mercedes car.

In a statement ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix weekend, the FIA said it launched an investigation into the revised Aston Martin design and found that it was not a case of "reverse engineering" or a result of an illegal transfer of intellectual property (IP).

"The FIA carried out a routine pre-event legality check of the planned aerodynamic upgrade of the Aston Martin team for the 2022 FIA Formula One Spanish Grand Prix," the statement said.

"During this process, it became apparent that a number of features on the Aston Martin resembled those of another Competitor. The FIA therefore launched an investigation to check compliance with Article 17.3 of the Technical Regulations, and in particular the topic of "Reverse Engineering" and potential illicit IP transfer.

"Both teams collaborated fully with the FIA in this investigation and provided all the relevant information. The investigation, which involved CAD checks and a detailed analysis of the development process adopted by Aston Martin, confirmed that no wrongdoing had been committed, and therefore the FIA considers that the Aston Martin aerodynamic upgrades are compliant.

"Article 17.3 specifically defines and prohibits 'Reverse Engineering,' i.e. the digital process of converting photographs (or other data) to CAD models, and prohibits IP transfer between teams, but equally, this Article permits car designs getting influenced by those of competitors, as has always been the case in Formula 1. In the analysis we carried out we confirmed that the processes followed by Aston Martin were consistent with this Article's requirements."

Red Bull, whose engineers poked fun at the situation by sitting on the pit wall during the first practice session drinking cans of Green Edition Red Bull, issued its own statement on Friday.

"Oracle Red Bull Racing have noted the FIA's statement with interest," the team's statement said.

"While imitation is the greatest form of flattery, any replication of design would obviously need to comply with the FIA's rules around 'Reverse Engineering.'

"However, should any transfer of IP have taken place that would clearly be a breach of regulations and would be a serious concern."

The Aston Martin update has been applied to both cars in Spain, with the team's mechanics breaking F1's paddock curfew to complete the work ahead of Friday's practice sessions. Lance Stroll finished FP1 in 12th while Sebastian Vettel was 16th.