Christian Horner has confirmed plans for an internal investigation at Red Bull in response to Aston Martin's new upgrade package.
Aston Martin have added a host of updated parts to the AMR22 for this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix, including a new floor body, fences and edges, and changes to the engine cover, cooling louvres, rear wing, sidepod inlets and Halo.
The modifications, particularly in terms of the sidepods and engine cover, have drawn comparisons to the front-running Red Bull RB18.
F1's governing body, the FIA, released a statement confirming that they had investigated Aston Martin's new features - which "resembled those of another competitor" - to ensure the changes did not breach any regulations.
Aston Martin were ultimately cleared by the FIA, but Red Bull have come forward with several questions and comments.
Red Bull team boss Horner quickly described the new AMR22 as a "clone" of the RB18, while team advisor Helmut Marko claimed "there is evidence that data was downloaded".
Red Bull concerned about potential IP transfer
Expanding on his comments in an interview with Sky Sports F1, Horner made clear that Red Bull are taking the matter seriously.
"Imitation is the biggest form of flattery at the end of the day," he commented.
"It's no coincidence that we've had a few individuals that have transferred from Red Bull to Aston Martin over the winter [and] the early part of this season.
"It was brought to our attention actually by the FIA earlier in the week, where 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?' Of course, that immediately raises alarm bells.
"What is permissible, we see it up and down a paddock... individuals move from team to team after a gardening leave period, [and] 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, is if there has been any transfer of IP at all."
Horner: It would be a criminal offence
Dan Fallows, who was previously Red Bull's aerodynamics chief, is one of the high-profile names to have made the switch to Aston Martin in recent times, following lengthy talks between the two parties.
Asked about the potential for Aston Martin to 'reverse engineer' the Red Bull, Horner stated that "the look of this [updated RB18] wasn't released until a month or so ago, so the work started way before that".
Expanding on his and the team's next steps, Horner said: "I'm not going to disclose exactly where we are with certain individuals, but it would be an offence... it would be a criminal offence.
"IP is a team's lifeblood, it's what we invest millions and millions of pounds into, and you wouldn't want to see that just turning up in a rival organisation, otherwise we might as well franchise it, we might as well be able to sell aerodynamics."
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Red Bull planning an internal investigation
Horner then confirmed that Red Bull will conduct an "internal investigation".
"We've got our own software protections [and] we know exactly what software is looked at and where that software is controlled," he commented.
"But I think that it's the job of the regulator, the FIA, because they have the access, and we rely very much on them to ensure that there is no transfer of IP, that there has been no abuse of that, so it's very much their job to go and police that."
Pushed if this means the FIA's decision is not an end to the matter for Red Bull, Horner added: "They've said that they followed the timeline and they're accepting of what Aston Martin have presented here.
"Of course, if any evidence of foul play came to light, it becomes a different issue."
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