Formula 1: Force India—Aerolab dispute heats up

By Gareth Llewellyn
force india
Force India driver Adrian Sutil's VJM03 (Photo: Gregory Moine)

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Force India have been ordered to pay more than €1million in damages to Italian aerodynamics company Aerolab by the High Court in London.

The case was instigated by Fondtech subsidiary Aerolab over unpaid fees relating to services provided to Force India, or “serious and persistent” breaches of contract.

Force India’s bill is for €1,074,730 plus damages and interest at the rate of eight per cent, but Aerolab believe that the High Court ruling is far from the end of the matter, with Force India’s criminal proceedings against Aerolab over wind tunnel models produced for Lotus’ T127 car still in the Italian legal system. The F1 team, however, are claiming the money cannot be paid because of the intellectual property theft.

Last year, Force India complained that its wind tunnel data for the VJM02 had been passed to Lotus Racing by Aerolab. Vijay Mallya’s team then issued criminal proceedings in the Italian courts over theft of its intellectual property.

A statement from Force India earlier this year read: “Force India believes that Lotus Racing, via its use of Aerolab and Fondtech facilities and data, has utilised and benefited from the use of Force India F1 Team’s intellectual property, including components and tyres exclusively licensed by Bridgestone to the Force India F1 Team, on its wind tunnel model design for the current Lotus T127 chassis without permission from the Force India F1 Team.”

Lotus deny the claims and have been provided with an indemnity by Fondtech/Aerolab. Chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne, who previously held the same role at Force India during its relationship with Fondtech/Aerolab, said: “Obviously our wind-tunnel model was designed for us by Fondtech in Italy.

“It is based around a 2010 chassis, because there is a big fuel volume in it, it has a Cosworth engine, an Xtrac gearbox, our suspension, and other stuff designed by us.”

Following the decision by the High Court, an Aerolab statement read: “As a result of the retaliatory action already taken by Force India, it is expected that Aerolab’s director, Mr. Jean Claude Migeot, will soon be charged pursuant to a criminal complaint filed in Bologna. Aerolab is confident in the positive outcome of all judicial matters in this affair.

“It appears that Force India’s strategy will be to try and force Aerolab into a settlement that the company has no intention of accepting. The upcoming Italian Grand Prix at Monza, during which Force India’s assets will be present under Italian jurisdiction, could trigger further exchanges of action between the two parties.”

Aerolab could attempt to seize assets belonging to the team during the Italian Grand Prix in lieu of the unpaid money.

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