When Aston Martin F1 arrived at the 2022 Spanish Grand Prix heads turned up and down the paddock and not for the reasons one might expect. No, Aston Martin did not reveal a brand new super car concept. Aston Martin had brought a number of updates for the AMR22. These were no ordinary updated parts, indeed Aston Martin appeared to have borrowed a few ideas from the Red Bull RB18. It is not not uncommon for teams up and down the F1 paddock to incorporate ideas from one another. Nor is it uncommon for teams to collaborate. One could say it is common practice.
However, Aston Martin appeared to have crossed the line, blurring the lexicon of copy/paste to simply cloning the RB18. The term “green Red Bull” was coined to describe Aston Martin’s replication/cloning of the RB18. The cloning specifically pertains to the sidepods, floor (including aero barges), and even the cooling vents.
The reason why Aston Martin cloned specific parts of the RB18 was to overcome the porpoising issues that is affected teams with the re-introduction of ground-effect aerodynamics. They were also looking for a performance gain. However, cloning a F1 car is no different to cloning a high-end mechanical watch.
Take for example a cloned Rolex, it may look like the real thing but the maker of the cloned watch will never fully understand how a Rolex works. That is the case with AMR22, it is a cloned ‘Rolex’ as much as it is a cloned RB18. Did the copy/paste work for Aston Martin? Like a cloned Rolex, the AMR22 didn’t work.
Aston Martin claimed that the Spanish GP updates were planned, as a result of natural development and evolution. Red Bull believes that Aston Martin could be in possession of the RB18’s schematics. They failed to provide evidence other than saying their computer systems could have been breached by a departing employee who moved to Aston Martin.
Christian Horner gave his thoughts during an interview with broadcast media:
“It was brought to our attention actually by the FIA earlier in the week when they said ‘we’ve got a car that looks remarkably like yours, can we have a list of your leavers to see where they went?”
“It’s no coincidence we’ve had a few individuals that have transferred from Red Bull to Aston Martin over the winter in the early part of this season.”
“So, of course, that immediately raises alarm bells. So now what is permissible is – we see it up and down the paddock – individuals move from team to team after a garden leave period. What they take in their head, that’s fair game. That’s their knowledge.”
“What isn’t fair, and what is totally unacceptable, which we wouldn’t accept, if there has been any transfer of IP at all.”
The FIA approved and cleared the AMR22 declaring the concept legal, the result of an organic design and development process. In the meantime, Red Bull is conducting a thorough internal audit to see if any data breaches and transfers of IP occurred. The shroud of the darkside has fallen, begun the clone war has.