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The price of success? How victory cost Force India $1.3m

The car used by Lotus during the 2010 Formula One season is at the center of Force India's dispute with Aerolab.

Story highlights

  • An Italian design company has been ordered by a British court to pay Force India $39,500
  • Aerolab used the team's intellectual property while designing the 2010 Lotus, now Caterham
  • Force India told to pay $1.3 million in unpaid fees to wind tunnel manufacturer Aerolab
  • The marque intend to refer the incident to motorsport's global governing body

Formula One is a sport where fine margins separate success and failure, with teams going to extreme lengths to squeeze fractions of a second out of their precision-engineered racing machines.

As a result, constructors jealously guard the secrets behind the design of their car. If those details were to fall into the hands of a rival team, it could dent a potential world championship charge.

With that in mind, the Force India team pursued Italian wind tunnel manufacturer Aerolab for £15 million ($23.6 million), eventually reduced to £13 million ($20 million), after claiming aspects of their 2009 car design had been replicated by a rival team.

What followed was a British High Court case involving Force India, Aerolab, and F1 marque Team Lotus -- now known as Caterham.

2012 Formula One teams and drivers

Aerolab initially launched a claim against Force India, run by team principal Vijay Mallya, for unpaid funds.

The case was complicated when, shortly after their split from Force India, Aerolab signed a contract to work on Lotus' 2010 car.

A statement issued by Aerolab's legal representatives on Wednesday said the company had been ordered to pay €25,000 ($39,500) in damages after work conducted during their contract with Force India had been used on Lotus' 2010 car.

The statement read: "The Honorable Mr Justice Arnold held that Aerolab's CAD designers had misused certain of Force India's confidential information as a means of taking a 'short cut' to produce a wind tunnel model which could begin to be used for testing as soon as possible.

"He further held that a small number of the relevant wind tunnel model components had found their way as full size components into the car which Caterham F1 Team (then racing under the name of Team Lotus) had raced at the beginning of the 2010 season."

It was a victory for Force India, but an expensive one. Despite ruling Aerolab had incorrectly used intellectual property, the judge also said Force India must pay €846,230 ($1.3 million) in unpaid fees.

It was also decreed that Force India's claim of "systematic copying" by Lotus, in particular chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne, was unfounded.

Force India were unavailable for comment but a statement was issued on their official website.

It said Force India will report the case to F1's global governing body, the FIA, while continuing a criminal case against Caterham team principal Tony Fernandes, Gascoyne and Aerolab owner Jean-Claude Migeot.

"The UK High Court judgment, in respect of the illegal copying, will now be referred for the consideration of Formula One's governing body," read the statement. "The Italian criminal case against Mike Gascoyne, Tony Fernandes and Jean Claude Migeot remains ongoing."