Caterham technical director Mike Gascoyne has been awarded £400,000 in costs as the legal dispute between Force India and 1 Malaysia Racing Team (now known as Caterham, formerly Team Lotus) moved another step closer to conclusion today.
In the original judgement in March, the judge found that a copyright infringement had taken place, but that it was not the ‘systematic copying’ which Force India alleged. He found that the windtunnel supplier Aerolab had misused Force India’s confidential information when Team Lotus was in a rush to design its first F1 car ahead of the 2010 F1 season. But he cleared Gascoyne of any wrongdoing, accepting that he was too busy setting up the team to have got involved at that level of design detail.
The judge at the time awarded Force India damages of €25,000, which Force India were not happy with. They pointed to a photo published by 1MRT in 2009 which showed a wind tunnel model with Bridgestone wind tunnel tyres, which the company did not have a contract for. They also questioned how 1MRT could have got a wind tunnel model together two months after being granted an entry. They also saw elements of their car, which had had work done on it by Aerolab, replicated on the Team Lotus car. 1MRT denied copying, but Force India decided to raise a complaint.
This goes back to the rather acrimonious way in which Gascoyne parted ways with Force India in particular his relationship with deputy team principal Robert Fearnley. Fearnley dismissed Gascoyne, who brought a wrongful dismissal action against them.
The FIA didn’t want to take up Force India’s complaint, the Italian courts did and that case is ongoing, while they also took it up in a UK civil court the outcome of which is now resolved.
Gascoyne’s costs relate to the period since November 2011 when his lawyers wrote to Force India to suggest that they drop the action as no evidence had been established against him. By continuing the action beyond that point Force India became liable for the higher level of costs if they could not prove wrongdoing.
1MRT was also awarded costs of £250,000.
Force India has subsequently issued a statement on the latest verdict this evening, stating that “the interim costs payments awarded to Mr Gascoyne and 1 Malaysia Racing in today’s ruling are more than covered by funds already provided by Sahara Force India Formula One Team as security for costs pending the outcome of the case”.
The team also commented on its attempts to appeal the size of the compensation fee from Aerolab: “In a curtailed hearing today at London’s High Court, the ruling on Sahara Force India Formula One Team’s application for permission to appeal was postponed with a further hearing expected in the coming weeks.
“The appeal relates to the 25,000 Euros of damages that Aerolab and Fondtech were ordered to pay Sahara Force India Formula One Team for misuse of confidential information.”
To date, the FIA have given no indication they will investigate this case. Force India believe that some of the components the court found had been copied, like parts of the brake ducts, wings, barge boards and vortex generator are covered in the Concorde Agreement and therefore replication on other cars is illegal. It remains to be seen whether any more action takes place on this story within the FIA. The Italian case (Aerolab is in Italy) is ongoing.