While all F1 eyes are focused on Red Bull’s closer ties with its soon-to-be-renamed junior team, Nikolas Tombazis says a bigger concern for the FIA is actually two unlinked teams colluding.
Having declared earlier this year that next season’s AlphaTauri, or whatever it will be called, will draw heavily from the Red Bull F1 car, rivals raised concerns about the collaboration between Red Bull’s two Formula 1 teams.
That collaboration was, they implied, already in play in the latter part of this year’s championship as AlphaTauri upgraded their off-the-pace AT04.
Teams colluding is ‘quite feasible’
The car was heavily upgraded at the Singapore Grand Prix with a sequence of floor updates said to have drawn inspiration from the RB19, while also including parts of the Red Bull’s rear suspension.
Scoring points in five of the season’s last eight races, AlphaTauri surged from the bottom of the log to eighth place and even challenged Williams for seventh.
It has rivals worried about what comes next.
However, according to the FIA’s single-seater chief Tombazis, it’s the potential for secret collaborations between rival teams that actually pose the biggest threat.
“The main incentive for two teams to collaborate isn’t whether they exchange components or whether they even share a wind tunnel,” he said as per Motorsport.com
“You can have two teams collaborating, one is in the UK, and one is in Argentina, and if two teams want to communicate against regulations, have Zoom calls and have the engineers chat with each other, that is quite feasible.
“We don’t watch people’s day-to-day movements, and nor is it our intention to do so.
“These pairs of teams get more frequently criticised for collaboration just because they have common ownership or whatever, but it is not the only pair of teams that could collaborate. You could have two independent teams who decide to mutually gain by helping each other.”
He, however, was quick to add that the FIA does not believe any such collusion is going on.
“I don’t think that’s happening,” he continued, “but I’m just saying that our tools to prevent this happening don’t need to be just linked to physical components that are sold by one team to the other.”
Speaking at the end of the season, McLaren team boss Andrea Stella was one of those who pointed out AlphaTauri’s huge late-season gains.
While he didn’t bring Red Bull into the conversation, he did highlight the AT04 taking over as the “best car” in low speed corners. And that had previously been one of Red Bull’s 2023 strengths.
“I think it is nowadays the best car at low speed. So, I would like to say very well done to the AlphaTauri engineers for having made the best car in low speed. It’s quite impressive,” he said.
Tombazis responded to that, saying: “We haven’t seen anything in AlphaTauri that is concerning us.”