The underperforming engine supplied by Renault to Red Bull has significantly damaged its reputation in the 2018 season. As Renault itself operates a team in the same sport, many suspected that Renault purposely supplied faulty engines to its competitors to gain advantage. Renault has denied such accusations, but this raises a question: is it ethical to supply underpowered engines to get an edge over your competitor?
For: Race should be fair
Engine performance is critical in any racing competition, including Formula One. If Red Bull’s accusation is correct, the primary stakeholder will almost certainly be Red Bull’s racing team. Dealing with unreliable and underperforming engines would drastically impair their performance, resulting in suboptimal acceleration and potentially increasing the chance of retiring the car due to engine failure.
Second, the selling of engines is a lucrative revenue stream for Renault. Each engine might cost up to $15 million. As a major engine supplier, such accidents would result in a significant loss of reputation among F1 teams, making future contracting more difficult. This is precisely what occurred to them, since Red Bull switched allegiances to Honda following this occurrence. In terms of the code of conduct, delivering the same engine is consistent with the aspirational code. Along with adhering to applicable laws and regulations, businesses should promote healthy competition among themselves and refrain from engaging in behaviour that undermines the spirit of fair competition for their personal benefit. Renault should only provide verified and honest information to their customers and consumers regarding the products, services, and their qualities, in accordance with their code of ethics. If Renault agrees to become a supplier, it must accept full responsibility and maintain a pro-competitive stance consistent with professional standards. Simultaneously, it is a vehicle for Renault to communicate to the outside world the positive ideals it embraces.
Providing the same engine is utilitarian from an ethical standpoint. According to utilitarianism, an action is justified if it results in the greatest possible happiness for the largest number of people. For the overwhelming majority of stakeholders who pay to watch the event and are devoted to Formula 1. Allowing Formula One teams to maximise their talents and resources results in entertaining races that satisfy the great majority of people. Renault’s decision to supply Red Bull with a less powerful engine stifles competition and reduces the likelihood of competitive races. If Renault supplies Red Bull with the same engine, both teams will compete on an equal basis in terms of speed, Red Bull will be competitive in the top three teams, and the exciting game will appeal to a broader audience.
Furthermore, Kantian ethics bolster this position. Kant’s ethics is separated into two sections: deontological ethics and the ethics of kindness. Among them, the ethics of obligation promotes equality and reciprocity, while Kant’s ethics is founded on the concept of kindness. Providing the identical engine is entirely consistent with the idea of equality and reciprocal gain, and it also demonstrates Renault’s generosity. To summarise, giving the same engine is acceptable ethically and theoretically.
Against: Victory comes first
Renault has a justifiable reason to use any methods necessary to win as long as they do not violate any regulations. The objective of every team participating in a competitive sport is to get the greatest possible outcome. This is no exception for Renault’s team, which competes with Red Bull and McLaren, both of which use Renault engines. This becomes more likely when prior year’s results are considered, as Renault has struggled to crack the top five in the previous two years, while Red Bull has consistently finished in the top three. Finally, despite having a potential performance advantage, Renault does not violate the provisions of the agreement with Red Bull, nor does this activity violate any FISA laws. As a result, they are not obligated to supply the greatest engine to a large competitor. These are the reasons why Renault’s reluctance to offer the greatest engine to its opponents can be morally justified by Kantian theory, since it is consistent with the responsibility ethic of acting in accordance with the game’s rules and the participating team’s purpose.
Compared with Red Bull, Renault’s team has intrinsic disadvantages. They are not caused by the game’s regulations, but by the disparity in size between the corporations and the investment received by the teams. Renault had a budget of $190 million for its team in 2018, while Red Bull received $310 million. This financial disparity is visible in their teams’ performance, as optimising an F1 car can be quite expensive: Procurement of materials and other accessories can cost up to $60 million for a relatively small crew, while maintenance, repair, and driver compensation can cost up to $50 million. This would only increase for larger teams, as improving aerodynamics, reducing weight, and hiring better drivers always takes more money.
Finally, gaining reputation by outperforming its opponents is the best way to please the fans. The investor will be happy too and may provide greater monetary support in future seasons. As Renault also produces cars for the consumer market, it is plausible that the news of a great victory brought by their team can also bring the sales of its sports car models to a new level. As long as they comply with the rules of the game, any doubt for them gaining their place with unfair means would be irreverent in comparison with the benefit of their result. From the utilitarianism point of view, Renault’s decision does bring the greatest happiness to the most people that are important to them. Ultimately, the best method to get followers is to establish a reputation by surpassing opponents. The investor will be pleased as well, and may provide additional financial help in future seasons. Given that Renault also produces cars for the consumer market, it is conceivable that news of their team’s excellent triumph will boost sales of their sports car models. As long as they play by the rules, any uncertainty about them obtaining their position through unethical means would be trivial in comparison with their result. From a utilitarian standpoint, Renault’s decision does result in the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people who matter to them.
We think Renault should supply the same engine to Red Bull.