Why a former F1 mechanic believes Mercedes’ secret test “was a huge advantage”

2013 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, 2013The FIA is still considering how to respond to the accusations leveled at Mercedes during the Monaco Grand Prix that they broke the F1 rules by conducting a test ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix.

On Friday the sport’s governing body announced it was also questioning Ferrari about a test it performed ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix. Ferrari’s test was conducted using their 2011 car, while Mercedes used their current chassis.

Pirelli have denied Mercedes gained a benefit from the test, which was conducted to assess potential changes to the tyres.

But one former F1 mechanic believes Mercedes could have gained a “huge advantage” from the test. Marc Priestley spent ten years as a McLaren mechanic and has extensive experience of how testing is conducted.

The details of what Mercedes ran on their car during the test are unknown. Priestley pointed out that as the FIA were unaware of the test, they were not on hand to monitor what Mercedes were doing:

“When you go to an aero day, for example, quite often you’ll get an FIA representative there, they’ll send somebody along. You have to inform them the test is happening. Quite often they’ll send somebody along just to make sure things are in order and you’re not doing something you shouldn’t be, more mileage than you should be, things like that.”

That meant there was nothing to stop Mercedes from testing whatever they like: “From that point of view they’ve got an open book to put on whatever sensors, whatever testing and development equipment they want on it.”

‘Every department will want something on the car’

Whenever an F1 team schedules a test those within the team are always eager to take advantage of the opportunity: “Whether it’s an aero test [in a straight line] or a full track test somewhere, the entire factory will come out of the woodwork and want something bolting onto the car,” Priestley explained.

“Whether it’s sensors somewhere, new parts, something experimental, every department will want to have something strapped to that car. It’s a very rare opportunity, particularly in this day and age where track testing is so limited. It’s a massive chance for them to try all sorts of things.”

“They’ll have almost certainly had various aero sensors on the car, for sure, because that’s something they can be monitoring while the car’s pounding round all day long. So the aero department will have been heavily involved.”

The value of mileage

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, 2013Mercedes also had the chance put mileage on new components and potentially bring forward the point at which they could be used on their race car: “When you have new parts coming to a Grand Prix we had a sign-off mileage that they wouldn’t be allowed to run the part on a race car until it had been signed off on a test car and done a certain amount of track mileage to prove it was safe and viable,” said Priestley.

“Today you can’t do that very easily. You can only do that on a Friday or on a rig in your factory. So it’s another are that they may well have been able to gain is just by bolting parts onto a car, new parts that are coming through, they may have been able to sign quite a lot of stuff off.”

Mercedes are known to have covered 1,000km in the test – more than three Grand Prix distances. “They’ll have had an enormous advantage in terms of proving reliability on any parts,” he added.

“They’ve had some issues with the hydraulic suspension they’ve got so just getting track time on those things will also have been an enormous help. They may have tweaked that system, for example, to overcome any problems they’ve had recently, and they’ve had a three-day test where they may have been able to prove that out, where other teams just don’t get that opportunity.”

Investigating driving styles

For Priestley, the most significant detail about Mercedes’ test was that it involved both their race drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

“From Mercedes’ point of view however it’s come about, whether they think they had permission or they’re just trying to pull a bit of a fast one I’m not sure, but the fact that they used both of their current race drivers – particularly the fact that they used both of them – is a big tell for me that they had an awful lot to gain from this.”

“It wasn’t just a case of doing something for Pirelli. They could have easily got Anthony Davidson or somebody in there, which would also have been useful for them to gain correlation between the simulator work and the real car.”

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, 2013“There’s lots of things they could have done just to help Pirelli out but the fact that they split the days between their two 2013 race drivers to me says an awful lot.”

Having the regular drivers conduct the test straight after a race weekend gave Mercedes the chance to investigate how different driving styles affect the life of the tyres: “We all know at the moment one of the big things with tyres is the way that the drivers use them, the way that they handle the car, it’s not just about car operation,” Priestley explained.

“I think they will almost certainly have been able to gain quite significantly by having those two guys in a car with all of these things logging tyre temperatures, tyre pressures, all of the different things they will have been logging. They almost certainly will have had thermal cameras, infrared sensors, temperature sensors. They obviously have their tyre pressure sensors and everything else that they normally have.”

“They’ll have been able to, over a course of a ten lap run, whatever tyres they’ll have been running, they’ll be able to monitor how different driving styles affect all of those different parameters.”

During races drivers receive information from their engineers on how to alter their driving style to improve tyre performance, based on what they’re learned previously.

“Those are things that you don’t get much of an opportunity to test out. On Friday at Grands Prix is your only chance and of course there’s so many different things to try out on those days.”

“So to have the chance to do it, also the chance to do it at a circuit where they’ve just gained three days of data from the race weekend so it’s all relevant, all directly comparable, I think they’ll have had an enormous advantage in that sense just by letting the drivers try different things at different points on the circuit and seeing if things behave differently that they have done in the previous three days over the course of the race.”

“It’s such a rare thing to be able to have that chance. I think they will have gained tremendously from that, from a driver point of view.”

Ferrari’s test

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Barcelona, 2011Much of the scope Mercedes had to make gains during their test came from the fact they used their current W04 car. Ferrari’s test was conducted using the 150??? Italia which last raced in 2011, which Marc believes means they will have learned “considerably less”.

This is in part because although today’s car reach similar levels of downforce as seen in 2011, they rely less on blowing exhaust gasses into the diffuser to achieve them.

“Although we are reaching the same downforce levels now without the blown diffusers, it’s not the same,” said Priestley. “The blown diffuser has great impact on downforce but it was a very slightly different effect.”

“As you can imagine the blown diffuser was giving levels of downforce at different points on the track to what we have today. I don’t think anyone’s going to get, in terms of that Ferrari test, the same sort of advantage as Mercedes. I’d say a world away, to be honest.”

But there was still scope for Ferrari to glean some useful data from their test: “They can still bolt sensors onto the car, if they’ve got new sensors that they want to try out they can still put them on, they can still get mileage onto certain parts – there are some some parts which will carry over from 2011 to 2013. Probably not major suspension items but electrical boxes or wiring harnesses or perhaps they can put a wing on – something they just need to get mileage on.”

“You can certainly run things like 2013 software on a 2011 car. The engines, I presume, are not an enormous amount different, so things like small tweaks or reliability things they want to check out with the engine, I’m sure they could do things like that.

“There’s nothing in the rules to say you can’t put a 2013 electrical component on a 2011 car.”

“The rules permit running a two-year-old car which is what Ferrari did, so in that sense there is nothing beyond that which says you can’t run a 2011 car with a 2013 front wing on it, for example, it doesn’t actually specify that in the regulations.”

Priestley is convinced that Mercedes’ test proved far more valuable than Ferrari’s: “I’ve no doubt it was a huge advantage to them.” The question is whether the FIA agrees, and believes Mercedes broke the rules to gain that advantage.

Mercedes and Ferrari Pirelli tyre test row

Browse all Mercedes and Ferrari Pirelli tyre test row articles

Images ?? Daimler/Hoch Zwei, Ferrari spa

144 comments on “Why a former F1 mechanic believes Mercedes’ secret test “was a huge advantage””

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  1. Former chief mechanic of mclaren, nice to have his input from pure engineering POV

    1. Traverse (@)
      4th June 2013, 14:06

      Yeah, because a former McLaren engineer wouldn’t be biased in anyway…

      1. Why would Priestley be @hellotraverse? He left without any axes to grind, and has been blogging about F1 for what, a year or so now.

        Not to mention the fact that this article is more about describing how a team learns from every single minute of testing than any ordeals about how much or little Mercedes did gain.

      2. How can you instantly assume that he’s biased? Yes, he used to work for a rival team, but doesn’t any more. If you read the type of language he used and how he went about portraying his point of view (given his technical experience) he seems rather objective, in my opinion.

        1. I have to agree. I was immediately ready to write this off when I realized who it was as I assumed a bias. But reading his explanation changed my mind as he offered (what seemed to me at least) unbiased, factual explanations for his statement. It all made a great deal of sense and I’m a Mercedes fan and didn’t want to admit they could have gotten an advantage.

      3. Im sure a biased ex mechanics still know hell lots about F1 than many of the so call journalists.

      4. Good article.

        He made good points, and i agree with him.

      5. Traverse (@)
        4th June 2013, 15:45

        @bascb @gfreeman

        “I think they will almost certainly have been able to gain quite significantly by having those two guys in a car with all of these things logging tyre temperatures, tyre pressures, all of the different things they will have been logging. They almost certainly will have had thermal cameras, infrared sensors, temperature sensors. They obviously have their tyre pressure sensors and everything else that they normally have.”

        I doubt he would’ve been this conjectural (using the the words “almost certainly” repeatedly to give more weight to a hypothetical) if it were McLaren being accused of an illegal act.

        But hey, maybe I’m just a cynical so and so…

        1. Traverse (@)
          4th June 2013, 15:49

          *Give more weight to an assumption

        2. Oh, I agree. Had it been about McLaren he might have mentioned “I had it confirmed by anonymous sources that …” instead @hellotraverse.

          If you look at Priestley’s blog post, he certainly seems more the guy to tell us about his knowledge from McLaren than hushing things up.

        3. I agree what what you said there. But taking into account that they were testing tyres, thermal cameras and sensors would have been a given in order to give Pirelli the data they wanted and needed.

      6. David not Coulthard (@)
        5th June 2013, 9:00

        While @bascb took a better approach of answering you than the one I’ll take, still:

        Because a former McLaren Engineer would hate Tyrrell more than Ferrari?

        McLaren wasn’t all about Mercedes (http://www.tamiyausa.com/images/product/200/89719/header_89719.jpg and http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/4409/McLaren-M16E-Offenhauser.html) , so I doubt that too much of an amount of hatred would rise from the fact that Tyrrell’s current incarnation is Mercedes (albeit in the same way that Toleman’s current incarnation is Lotus).

      7. I think his opinion was honest. I’m not a specialist and I think Mercedes has gained something with that, that’s why I think FIA should let everybody else test to the same extent as Mercedes did.

    2. PMccarthy_is_a_legend (@pmccarthy_is_a_legend)
      4th June 2013, 15:08

      Yes!!! Finally an article by someone who knows what they are talking about!!! We need more of those please, keep them coming!

      1. The article gives a good incite into what results can be achieved but failed miserably to address the fact that the team and drivers had no clue of tire used so comparison is impossible. Not much to go on. Given also they are 2014 spec tires.

        1. Bringing the tyres into this is circumstantial at best, misdirection at worse.

          The issue, as outlined in the article, is the test being conducted in violation of the sporting regs with current drivers and a current car, potentially with development parts that need shaking down.

      2. @pmccarthy_is_a_legend from a pure technical concept on what Merc GP could have gained or any team in general I guess one could say it was “good”. However, on the basis that it really isn’t acknowledging spec 2014 unmarked tires, that would only yield helpful results next year at the earliest it would seem. Furthermore, even such results wont matter because of the engines to be run are far different and the aero packages and many other things. Thus the idea that the 2013 V8 car will help toward a 2014 V6 package with a lower nose and different aero working that run toward the rear end…

        So really this article is just hypothetical conjecture in a technical aspect but unless the man was there and knows someone that was directly apart of the test and willing to tell all. This article does nothing more than add to the “what if or I think?” scenarios that everyone is posing.

        1. Its not all about the tires. Did you not read the article? Reliability testing components and bringing updates forward etc. are all part of it.

        2. PMccarthy_is_a_legend (@pmccarthy_is_a_legend)
          8th June 2013, 4:21

          @magillagorilla haha sorry buddy, if I had to choose what opinion to take seriously, a former F1 mechanic with ten years experience at the sharp end of the grid or some mummy’s boy, keyboard warrior/pseudo F1 expert I know which one i would choose…

          1. @pmccarthy_is_a_legend Ah yes, cause one must be a former F1 mechanic to have an understanding of the engineering aspects that go on in cars. I mean we all must just be arm chair monkey’s sitting around and doing nothing but watching. Clearly none of us have degrees in such areas that would make us knowledgeable. It’s good to see you assume then wrap up with some play ground insult tactics. Unless you know the credentials of people that come to the website, then you leaping to the asinine idea that were key punching no ones is just gullible and vastly ignorant on your part.

          2. PMccarthy_is_a_legend (@pmccarthy_is_a_legend)
            20th June 2013, 20:31

            @magillagorilla Ok let explain this to you. In your over eagerness to appear clever you failed to appreciate the point of the article. It’s not only about learning the tyres, it’s about getting mileage in the current car and learning about other aspects that you normally would not get the opportunity to learn about (new components, bringing forward updates etc.). No team would turn down 1000 km of in-season test, whatever the tyres. Think about it. It was ridiculous to me that you rated the article as “nothing more than what if and I think”, when your comment is exactly that. Worse still, by dismissing it, you succeeded only in broadcasting to everyone your ignorance, which I felt obliged to point it out for you (you are welcome). Marc Priestley has 10 years’ experience at McLaren. He worked in the testing team before graduating to the racing team. What are your credentials? Next time, before launching into a tirade please ensure you understand what you have read (you will find that taking the head out of one’s own rear end helps in achieving that).

  2. Elvis is always good for comment, and this sort of article shows why the tv crews’ constant dumbing down of expert input is so frustrating. Far too often they manage to get someone with potentially an interesting point of view, then they only allow a one or two sentence answer, so they can get back to talking amongst themselves. Good thinking to get comment from Marc on this one.

    1. I couldn’t agree more! I think Sky should have someone like this with valuable experience and an objective insight into the technical side of F1 and what is currently happening maybe in addition to Ted Kravitz. Saying that, I am a fan of Ted’s notebook portions of the SkyF1 coverage.

    2. Tire testing is very different from a test conducted by a team.

      The process would be that after system checks, the tire company has the team provide / generate a base set-up to be used during the rest of the test. Then the tire company tests the first tire set, then the next tire set, etc. They may revert back to their base set-up to verify the accuracy (of the driver, chassis, conditions, etc). The tire company is in charge of the whole test program.

      A team test is a very different process.

      I would respectfully suggest that it would have been very helpful to have made that clear in this article.

      Good points about the car being fully sensored, etc. But since Pirelli tested 12 different tire structures for 2014, some of the technical advantages of the data from that test would be muted (versus a test of tire compounds on a known tire structure, for example).

      Otherwise, good article!

  3. Certainly, it’s always nice to hear from someone inside the circus, and I have no doubts that what Marc says is correct.
    The big question is, of course, who is going to prove what and are we going to see actions taken.

  4. the most important question is: “now what?”

    how to level that potential (if any) advantage Mercedes get from those testings? and how to measure that advantage to give a reasonable penalty?

    1. There’s two things.
      First: No-one (except Mercedes and maybe Pirelli) knows what happened at the test. No one knows their specification, the wings they had, the tyres they used and so on. BUT…

      Second: Does it really matter to the FIA? Keeping things simple, you would say: They used a 2013 car, it’s not allowed, they need to be penalised.

      The only problem in here is the fact that obviously the FIA gave permission for such a test under certain conditions. To be honest I think the one really to blame is the FIA. By allowing such an incident to happen (and not controling that all the teams are simultaneously are informed and all of them agreed and participated) they created a mess. Both Mercedes and Pirelli will rely on the admission given by the FIA and bring that into account, basically saying: you allowed this, don’t blame us. It’s a contradiction of rules and admissions that caused the saga we’re in right now. And the worst thing is: This interfered with the performance level of the teams to such an unfair extent that the rest of the championship will be flawed by the whole story.

      1. On your second point I thought Karun Chandhok made a good point on the F1 show on Sky last week about which ‘agreement’ takes precedence in this situation.

        The technical regulations say that in-season testing is banned, yet Pirelli claim to have a contract with the FIA that permits them to test with teams in-season, providing certain conditions are met.

        Logic would suggest that the two agreements have to be complementary yet that would appear not to be the case. If they aren’t complementary then which infringement would be deemed to be more serious, and who would be charged with having instigated the test?

        1. No matter what the answer is: not everyone will agree. The drama will continue.

          1. Precisely, the moaning will continue even once the FIA have made their verdict… We might as well just get used to it! haha

        2. As a lawyer I can tell you that when we draft suites of contracts for complex transactions we always include a clause in all the documents which provides that “in the event of a conflict between document X and document Y, document X applies”.

          I would imagine/hope that Pirelli’s agreement contains a similar provision dealing with conflicts between the Pirelli agreement and the sporting regulations. But knowing how the FIA like to keep things vague in the technical and sporting regulations, the language of which is incredibly vague and open to interpretation (which is allegedly to allow them to decide which position they want to take on an issue once it arises and they can review all the facts) I doubt it will have such a clause.

          1. I would imagine/hope that Pirelli’s agreement contains a similar provision…

            @geema – Why would you imagine that? This is F1, after all…

  5. Could it be that Ferrari did the test to gain some knowledge for 2014, and not 2013?
    Are they able to run a new engine on an older car?

  6. What a read @keithcollantine, enormously great job you got together with Marc Priestley for this piece. It gives us a really good view of how these tests are done, what 3 days of running means, and it also shows why other teams are so livid about this test.

  7. When you think of it, would it be a punishment for Mercedes if they had to share ALL data generated during this test with all the other teams (apart from a monetary punishment or a ban or something)?

    I certainly hope the new procedures for fact finding and establishing a potential penalty work as open as possible because its all too clear that this is a pretty big mess up.

    1. @bascb
      The problem is that, sharing the data won’t help everyone else.
      Like milage testing on components. Those test (if carried out) would help Merc a lot, but be of no use to any other team.
      Same with all the aero data. Pretty much everything would be quite worthless to everyone else.
      Yeah sure they might be able to pick up a few tricks here and there, but getting 1000km of data on your own car is exactly a million times more valuable then getting 1000km of data gained on another car on an unknown tyre compound.
      Secondly, since no one apart from Merc knows exactly what data that they actually collected it will be impossible to make sure that they share everything that they got.
      Merc would be able to say that they didn’t collect any data apart from what is gained through the telemetry system, and who can actually prove them wrong?

      1. since no one apart from Merc knows exactly what data that they actually collected it will be impossible to make sure that they share everything that they got.

        – Well, I am pretty sure that if the FIA sends a team of experts over to get all available data at Mercedes HQ, they will be able to trace files from the dates the test were held.
        But certainly this is a matter where the fact that the test has taken place is something the sport will have to somehow deal with.

        1. I’m pretty sure Mercedes would have no data to share. Pirelli has it.

          1. You mean

            Pirelli has it *wink*wink*nudge*nudge*

          2. No I mean that I think this was a Pirelli tire test, not a Mercedes test, and I do not see what Pirelli would have to gain from helping Mercedes. They would only stand to lose bigtime. So there is no nudge nudge wink wink. Can you tell me what Pirelli would stand to gain from advantaging Mercedes? Because I sure can’t think of anything. It’s not like Mercedes it ‘their’ team and everyone else is on another maker’s tires. Why would Pirelli want to be perceived as favouring one team, and why Mercedes then?

          3. @robbie
            Pirelli wouldn’t have to give the data to Merc for them to have it. It’s their car. They WILL have the data. Whether Pirelli wanted them to or not.

          4. Oh I’m sure Merc will have some data…they just won’t know anything about what tires they were on when any specific set of data was logged. So I don’t think they will be able to relate certain lap times, or tire temps, or certain degrees of degradation, etc etc to a known construction or compound of tire, so I think they may have certain ‘facts’ but they won’t know what tires provided them with any given set of facts. ie. there would be nothing useful they could share with other teams because I suggest they themselves won’t know what tires made their car do what.

            Also that data was gleaned on certain days at certain air and track temps at one track and if anything we have learned it’s that figuring out these tires is the hardest thing for the teams to do these days and it totally depends on the track and the conditions and it’s a moving target.

          5. JimmyTheIllustratedBlindSolidSilverBeachStackapopolis III
            4th June 2013, 20:52

            At last i agree with you robbie. This was pirellis test not mercedes or ferraris, pirelli were in charge. The car given to them on x day would not have changed in anyways that pirelli didn’t request for testing until it was handed back over to the respective team. I hate to say it but this is a genuinely flawed article from elvis who is normally very good.

          6. JimmyTheIllustratedBlindSolidSilverBeachStackapopolis III
            4th June 2013, 20:57

            Pirelli used “Atlas” one of their first comments about the test was that after it’s over the system locks down so mercedes can’t access any data beyond the numbers they can recall in their heads. F1 engineers may be cleaver people but unless specificly the engineer on data collection has photographic memory this is a moot point.

          7. Lol…at last? What took you so long? Just kidding. I find the article very informative…as it relates to normal F1 team 3 day tests which I simply cannot believe is what we are talking about with respect to the Pirelli test. And I’m still waiting for someone to tell me what exactly Pirelli would gain by colluding with Mercedes to help them. They would, imho, lose their shirts by being found trying to affect the Championship by trying to help one team, but what would they gain? Anybody?

          8. I really hope that it is the case that Pirelli got all the data, and the mercedes team got to delete anything they might have gotten while monitoring the cars (ie. not on permanent storage). This being F1, and with the way this has so far played out, I’m not confident on that though. But it would at least make this a bit less of an issue. Mercedes would still have learned about reliability etc., and perhaps checked if things worked or not, but not have aero and other data.

          9. Well, I am very sure that that is one of the crucial things the FIA wants to / has to find out really @robbie.
            The point of the secrecy surrounding it, and the lack of a FIA representative there, means that for now its only the parties who are on the “wrong” side of the argument – that is Pirelli, Mercedes, and partly Ferrari – who uphold that, but the FIA needs it proven.

            Off course part of that might have to be sending experts to Mercedes (and Ferrari) to prove/disprove that they do/don’t have any Data from the test available in the team.

  8. Very well argumented. I can’t see why Mercedes won’t be penalised. Loosing Monaco points seems quite fair, and they probably need more punishment than that.

    1. Monaco will not change.
      1 or 2 race ban for Mercedes seems very likely, a comparable case with BAR Honda 2005.

    2. I don’t think they’ll strip previous points as @nomore has said as they tend not to do that often, so a race ban is more likely. That way they lose track time in which they could be running and obviously a valuable points scoring opportunity, so equalising the playing field once more.

      This is if the test was deemed to be an infringement of the rules of course, which it may not have been!

  9. So, Mercedes and Ferrari both could have gainned lot´s in there tests. Obviously Mercedes more tan Ferrari.

    I hope Mercedes gets punished; they tried and sought and obtained information that will benefit a lot in the rest of the championship.

  10. The more i read about this,the more I think mercedes deserves a very strong punishment.They should definitely get a points deduction or be banned for maybe the next 5 grand prix practise sessions.That should negate their 1000km free practise session.

    1. +1. a very good idea about free practice ban for Mercedes.

    2. Mercedes received approval from the FIA for this test. They won’t be punished.

      There was not an FIA delegate at the test, but there should have been. It was Pirelli’s test. So perhaps Pirelli may be punished.

      The question before the FIA now is did Pirelli have an explicit obligation to have the FIA attend their test. If the answer is yes, then Pirelli should expect a slap on the wrist. If the answer is no, then the FIA will require that Pirelli arrange for the FIA to be in attendance of future tire tests.

  11. Was there an FIA rep at this test? They knew this test was happening (maybe not which car was being used) so if they send people to straight line tests then surely they’d have someone at a 3 day tyre test.

    1. The statement from the FIA said they hadn’t been informed that the test was happening, so it follows that there was no FIA rep overseeing the test to ensure it complied with requirements. Indeed, according to the FIA, permission wouldn’t have been given for the test to go ahead anyway, since the conditions upon which a test could be carried out hadn’t actually been met.

      Still, it’s hard to see how they were completely in the dark about it, since it happened immediately following a GP on one of the largest race tracks in the world. They should surely be aware of something like that happening. The whole thing seems extremely fishy.

      1. “The statement from the FIA said they hadn’t been informed that the test was happening, so it follows that there was no FIA rep overseeing the test to ensure it complied with requirements.”

        According to Lauda there was a representative there.

        1. Indeed. And yet if you read through the FIA’s statement here, you’ll see that they say they had received no further communication with regards to Pirelli and Mercedes carrying out a test. Which seems weird doesn’t it, that an FIA person could be present at the test, and yet the FIA had received no notice that a test was due to go ahead. As I say, something doesn’t add up, and it all smells a little bit fishy.

          1. Yeah it is very odd. I’m more inclined to think its some inside-FIA mess up rather than some out-right attempt to cheat the ‘system’ by Merc and Pirelli though.

        2. According to Lauda there was a representative there.

          I was aware he’d said they obtained permission from the FIA but not that there was someone from the FIA present. That would contradict the FIA’s claim that they knew nothing further of the test. Have you got a source for that quote from Lauda?

          1. I dont have it in writing though im sure i heard it from his mouth during the Monaco GP weekend on Sky – Now im doubting myself, but im sure he said there was someone there to oversee it

          2. @keithcollantine here is a link for the article in spanish, he says Charlie Whiting was informed of the test. The interview was given to ‘O Estado de Sao Paulo’ of Brasil .

      2. Just to add to the question of whether a FIA rep was at the test. Would such a test require the same medical / safety facilities as would be required at say an official team test ?. If so I doubt Pirelli would’ve run such a test without the proper FIA sanctioned saftey proceedures in place, and I doubt Mercedes would’ve let their prize assets loose without them.

        I find it really difficult to believe the FIA didn’t know this test was taking place.

  12. This armchair expert just folds his arms and says hmmph…
    I want to see evidence, not just conjecture…

    1. This armchair expert just folds his arms and says hmmph…
      I want to see evidence, not just conjecture…

      “Armchair expert” a former F1 mechanic with 10 years of experience in the McLaren F1 Team…? :S:S:S It’s his personal opinion after all, and based on his experience, it’s certainly more credible than most of the people we hear talking about F1 stuff.

      1. I do believe that @johnson102 was calling himself an armchair expert, not Marc Priestley.

    2. @johnson102
      He doesn’t say what happened. He say what he knows from past experience with F1 testing, could, and most likely did happen. I don’t think that, that is unfair.

      1. I found his argument about using 2 drivers with different styles contradictory, surely that kind of information would be exactly what Pirelli were looking for.

  13. I blame the FIA!! They granted permission for the test to go ahead so it went ahead. If they did not do the due deligence then on their head be it!! Why did they not have their representative/observer attend the test?. Very fishy indeed !!!. Mercedes/Pirelli were given a cart blanche and they took it!!

    1. The FIA have made it clear that they didn’t give permission for the test to go ahead, so I would say that everyone involved bears some responsibility.

  14. Personally I find it very hard to believe that a team like Mercedes could do 1000km of track testing, free from the scrutiny of the FIA, and not gain some kind of benefit from it.

    But the whole question of advantage is beside the point. The real issue is whether or not there was permission in place for a test, and the FIA has all but said that there wasn’t any permission given. Regardless any advantage, if a rule is broken it’s hard to see how they could fail to pass sanction on those who broke the rules. I see it as very similar to the McLaren spygate saga, in that it was never proven definitely that they had gained an advantage from the data, but were punished simply for breaking the rules. I’d say this is in the same league in terms of seriousness and that a similar punishment could be appropriate. But of course, there are many political factors here – firstly that the McLaren punishment was in part a personal attack from Mosley towards Dennis, neither of whom are involved (indeed, Ross Brawn and Jean Todt have a good relationship for obvious reasons..), plus the FIA will be mindful of not upsetting Mercedes when it could have serious commercial implications should they decide to scale back their involvement as either a constructor or an engine supplier. Not that any of these things should really be a factor in deciding how to deal with the situation – punishments should be applied consistently to all, and not be based on anything other than the severity of the rule which has been breached – but that’s just the way F1 is.

    1. Of course this whole article is about what advantage Mercedes might have gained, so it is not beside the point, but you are right that it is equally important to know if permission was given or not, but then like you say they sometimes look at extenuating circumstances when it comes to punishments. (your example being personal attacks, strong relationships, not wanting to upset key commercial relationships etc).

      For me the bottom line is that better tires are needed, F1/FIA knew it, granted permission, and the bottom line will be that Pirelli didn’t share data with Merc because there would be nothing in it for them to do that, and they would have no reason to be seen to be favouring one team or affecting the Championship that way other than to be providing degrady tires that F1 itself asked for. F1 needs to share the responsibility for this because they mandated these tires as did the teams, and F1 has so little testing that back in September when the teams were given data on the current tires, and through the pre-season testing, nobody knew yet that the tires would be delaminating and causing 4 stop races and delta time running, especially in the hotter climes that didn’t exist when they tested in the pre-season.

      1. This whole article is about what advantage Mercedes might have gained, so it is not beside the point.

        It is beside the point.

        If the test was conducted within the rules, with FIA permission, then any potential advantage was obtained legally. Did Mercedes used all of their opportunities to game the system? We don’t know that, so it’s irrelevant. In this regard they are innocent until proven guilty. Speculations about potential advantages, although interesting, are not very useful. I also see it as a bit of projection, as in: “that’s what we would have done”. It doesn’t mean Mercedes did it.

        On the other hand, if the test was against the rules, then they should be penalized, whether they gained any advantage or not.

        As a side note: I’d also be interested in knowing who within Mercedes authorized it. Was it Brawn or Wolff? If they didn’t have a clear permission to use the new car, then it really wasn’t the brightest decision.

        1. My point would be that this article speculates what could have gone on potentially, but it is being spoken about as if this was a regular 3 day F1 team test, and I say it was a Pirelli tire test that was above board in the sense that Pirelli, imho, would not have wanted to risk appearing to help Mercedes in the Championship run. ie. just because the test may be deemed legal, which I think it should be, does not mean that Mercedes would have gone ahead and treated it like a regular F1 team test. I don’t think Pirelli’s test would have been set up for that, I don’t think Pirelli would have allowed it, and I don’t think Merecedes would want to win that way, nor think they could get away with taking advantage of a FIA sanctioned Pirelli tire test to make it their own regular F1 team test.

          So I don’t see how we can look at a headline as above, and read the body of the article which is very informative about how a regular F1 test works while the former mechanic projects what advantages Mercedes COULD have gleaned and still say ‘advantages are besides the point.’ I think that if the next headline were to state, ‘FIA satisfied Mercedes was not advantaged’ then wouldn’t much of this go away?

          1. No I disagree. The rule is about taking part in testing, and says nothing of how much or little advantage would be gained from it. Even if every team were to do exactly the same testing, it would still be a breach of Article 22.1 of the sporting regulations. This is the issue – Mercedes have taken part in a test in breach of the sporting regulations. The nature of the test is irrelevant. The only way this will stop being an issue would be if the FIA said that the conditions under which such a test would be permissible had been met. Since they’ve already effectively said that this wasn’t the case, it seems fairly straightforward to conclude that the rules had been broken.

          2. And I still say they can just pull the safety card and claim nobody wants to see anybody get hurt with a delaminating tire causing a crash if they can avoid it, and that’s awfully hard to argue against.

  15. I want to qualify what I want to say by admitting I am a big Lewis Hamilton fan but despit having followed F1 for the better part of 30 yearsy technical expertise is limited to what I’ve seen in the Telly and what I’ve read in the same journals and websites as most layman F1 fans.

    I find it exceedingly difficult to believe Merc (and Ferrari) haven’t learned *something* from their respective tests that would help them make progress. Whether an advantage was gleaned or not I am not in a position to say but using their race drivers alone is already am advantage as between them they have 1000 more miles (km??) than the rest of the field.

    Something’s must have been learned!

    What I am finding difficult to understand is with the brain-trust available to Mercedes, how would they have attempted a test under these conditions without knowing they wouldn’t get get away with it. That is why I am wondering if they did, indeed, receive permission from the FIA. As we all know, half the time, the FIA’s left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. Is it possible someone did give permission without reading the fine print?

    My 2-5 cents worth.

  16. One partial solution would be to have a 3 day or 1000 km test session soon for all the teams who want to – except Mercedes. Plus Mercedes should get another penalty in the form of loss of constructors championship points, either for the Monaco race, several races or the season. After reading about Pius Gasso’s experience with this secret test and Ferrari’s, I would say Mercedes has been lying and needs some kind of team penalty. The drivers, Nico and Lewis, I am sad to say, may need some penalty also because they should have known that they were not allowed to test the race cars during tire tests.

    1. @tinakori-road

      One partial solution would be to have a 3 day or 1000 km test session soon for all the teams who want to – except Mercedes.

      Paid for by who?

      1. Maybe we can make Mercedes field the bill – working as a monetary penalty as well :-o (warning that was a cheeky comment, not a serious one)

      2. @keithcollantine
        Paid for by the each individual team or by Mercedes, I really don’t care. All the other teams have now been saddled with a competitive disadvantage that only track testing time will alleviate. I am sure Mclaren would pay their own way to get a chance at a 1000 kn mid-season test right now.

        1. @tinakori-road

          Paid for by the each individual team or by Mercedes

          The reason I asked is because it would be completely unfair to pass the cost on to the innocent teams. The testing ban is in there as a cost containment measure, the other teams will have budgeted accordingly, some may not have the spare cash to go testing with and they shouldn’t be disadvantaged by the fact Mercedes broke the rules (assuming they did).

          If part of the solution to this involves putting on another test to allow the others to ‘catch up’ it would only be fair to make the transgressor/s pay. Assuming Mercedes paid for their test I would suggest the FIA fine them an amount which allows them to cover the expenses of a test for the other teams.

          That’s complicated enough without addressing the question of how much Ferrari learned from their test, and whether they should be treated as a culprit like Mercedes or a victim like everyone else, or a bit of both.

      3. Traverse (@)
        4th June 2013, 17:22

        I hear Kamui Kobayashi has some spare cash…

      4. @keithcollantine
        Merc pays 50%, Pirelli takes the last 50%. I don’t think that it’s unfair, since they are the ones who created the need for such a test to be carried out. How they find they money, I couldn’t care less. They created this mess. They need to clean it up.

    2. The trouble is that it’s impossible to successfully redress the balance, when it’s impossible to determine how things were unbalanced in the first place. Maybe Mercedes really did act in the public interest, running no development parts, just bolting on tyres and doing laps while Pirelli collected data. Maybe they did that, maybe they didn’t. If they didn’t gain much/any advantage, then giving other teams a free test session would massively disadvantage Mercedes beyond any scope of the original test.

      It’s a nice idea but it’s just impossible to effectively work out in a way which would be fair to all parties. This is why I think it’s pointless trying to work out whether or not an advantage was gained – the only important issue is whether Mercedes were given permission to break article 22. If they weren’t, and they took part in a test anyway, then they should be punished for it in the normal way. If you want to nullify any advantage they may have gained, then it seems logical simply to exclude them from the WCC. Exactly the reasoning which went into the decision about how to deal with McLaren when they used stolen technical data.

  17. All things considered it seems pretty obvious to me that Mercedes will, and should, be punished. Even considering the fact that Pirelli has a right to invite a team to a test, it’s pretty black and white that the contract states that (a) all the teams have to have the oppotunity; and (b) that it should be a Pirelli, rather than Team X test.

    The fomer seems like the fault of Pirelli for not having asked all the teams, but given the amount of secrecy around this test (whatever Ross Brawn argues) suggests that Mercedes seemed quite happy without the other teams knowing. The latter carries even more weight than the former – even if a test is permitted by the other teams, it should be run by the tyre supplier rather than the team providing the car. This, quite clearly, was not the case, with pretty much everything about the test (bar the tyres) being about Mercedes.

    On the face of it these are hardly punishablable offence by Mercedes as such, though. Since the contract is between the FIA and Pirelli, Pirelli is to blame for not having made sure all the conditions for a test are met. Nonetheless, such a contract required the participation of a third party which is also subject to FIA jurisdiction. In other words Mercedes is a implicitly part of the contract and, together with Pirelli, breached it.

    Even if one assumes that the party to blame here is Pirelli (which I think is perfectly valid given that they are the main party of the contract), there still remains the question of testing with the 2013 car. Does it – in the contract or somewhere else – state, that given certain conditions, Pirelli is allowed to test with a current F1 car? From what I know it does not, and hence, even if Pirelli required a current car, it is, as Horner rightfully argues, the team’s responsibility to ensure that they do not breach the regulations. While it is Pirelli’s responsibility to ensure the test is carried out properly (and thus Mercedes is not, or not as much, to blame for the above breaches) it seems pretty clear to me that it is Mercedes’ responsibility to act in accordance with the rules of the FIA, to which it is a party.

    Regarding punishment, it is a pretty severe breach of the regulations, and unless Mercedes is properly punished teams will just go testing as they please. On the other hand, from a ‘show’ perspective, you really do not want to ban possibly the most interesting team performance-wise in F1 at the moment. I guess it would make sense to annull Mercedes’ constructor’s points for the three (or maybe four) races following the test (3,4 x 305km – 40km or something in Monaco, which is the closest you’ll get to a 1000km), which includes Monaco. I guess, it can be said, that the drivers are merely contracted to the team, and hence are not at fault as such, and more importantly, it would keep Mercedes at the table. The problem here, of course, is that a team in the future may decide to ignore the WCC and throw all their weight behind the WDC, in which case the precedence would be quite damaging.

    1. The FIA could also decide to clear the rules for the future and hand out a nominal penalty (wouldn’t be the first time – see Hockenheim 2010 and its aftermath)

    2. +1 i’m in no doubt that Mercedes know that they can’t use their current car for in season testing, they are just acting like kids caught by their parents: hidding behind Pirelli’s contract with FIA to run their 2013 car and playing innocent “really? It was forbidden? But Pirelli told us it was OK with you?”.

      It really reminds me of Brawn in 2009 with double deck diffuser: very tricky and smart but not within the spirit of the regulation to limit and simplify the effect of diffusers. They knew they were playing it tight when testing with a 2013 car and this time they got caught.

      I’m less sure about what penalty to give them. A ban for the season seems harsh, i’d rather ban them from fridays for the rest of the season or at least the next 4/5 races, so that it matches their 1000km in secret testing.

    3. @victor – Your post really hits the crux of the matter as to where the majority of any blame lies, with Mercedes or Pirelli. It is obvious that Mercedes had a lot to gain from this test and the article @keithcollantine posted makes some excellent points as to what they, and Ferrari, had to gain with such tests.

      The tipping point becomes how could the Mercedes brain trust justify taking such a gamble unless they truly felt they had the blessing of the FIA or that it would be Pirelli taking the fall if there were any violations. Niki Lauda says they had permission from the FIA. Ross Brawn and Toto Wolff would have to sign off on this too. Does anybody think between the three of them that they would be stupid enough to risk being excluded from the championships among other possible penalties? Or, did they really think that nobody would find out? Or did Pirelli tell them it was legal under their contract? Any which way, those in charge at Mercedes must have had sound advice or reasoning to go through with such a risky test. After all, it could mean all of their jobs should Mercedes receive heavy penalties such as a ban or exclusion.

      No doubt that the FIA will be severely criticized no matter what kind of decisions they come to regarding these tests.

    4. @victor As the race drivers participated in the test and are exactly as capable of reading Article 22.1 of the Sporting Regulations as the rest of us, I see no reason why the team should be punished but not the drivers.

      1. @keithcollantine
        I’d hope that the precedent set by Spygate would mean Lewis and Nico would not be punished as long as they co-operated with the investigation.

  18. Traverse (@)
    4th June 2013, 16:26

    The question shouldn’t be what punishment should Mercedes receive, but what punishment Pirelli should be slammed with. After all, Pirelli has an obligation to provide all teams with the same data and treatment so as to not give a specific team an advantage.
    If any team had an opportunity to have a private test session with Pirelli they’d jump at the chance, so it’s also hypocritical of other teams to blast Mercedes when they would do the same thing themselves if given half a chance.

    Pirelli are to blame not Mercedes.

    1. Pirelli claim it was Merc that decided which car to run, not them.

      Merc is not innocent. They simply push their luck by pushing the blame to Pirelli as the test was conducted by them.

  19. Regardless what the Pirelli contract with the FIA says, that document can hardly create exceptions to the sporting regulations, that ALL teams have to follow. That’s my opinion.

    The if/how/when/why of it don’t matter all that much. Fact is, that Mercedes did a three day 1,000 km tire test with their current car and their two championship drivers during the season. Disregarding the second party to that test (Pirelli), what’s left is a clear violation of the rules. That’s what they should be punished for and the penalty should first render Mercedes’ (alleged) advantage null and void and add more on top of it, to show not only Mercedes but also all other teams, that they can’t just think of ignoring the preexisting rules.

    Now, the Pirelli participation in the test is a whole other matter. Maybe they had a general understanding with the FIA, that tire tests during the season could be possible under certain conditions. But all I’ve read so far suggests, that these were non-specific inquiries from 2012 and the tire supplier did certainly not ask any of the other teams for a post-Barcelona test. It seems clear, that not all teams had the opportunity to respond positively to that certain test.

  20. Well I’m still not convinced that I should change my stance on this. Marc Priestley is assuming this was a normal F1 test with his informative wording as to how normal F1 tests go. But I would suggest that this was not a normal F1 team test. This was a Pirelli tire test. So I have several doubts surrounding what this article implies.

    1. There’s a very good chance that Pirelli can be taken at their word and legitimately knew that they could not help Merc make this a Merc test. They are likely highly sensitive to the fact that they could not be perceived as helping one team be advantaged from this test. They said so when they suggested in the first place that they may have to change the tires somewhat mid-season which started this whole uproar to begin with, with Ferrari and Lotus not wanting changes and RBR being the most vocal for changes. Pirelli’s aim was to try with every possible means to not advantage one team over another for the Championship. And it would never be in their best interest or any interest at all to do so because they are the only maker in F1. It would be different if they had a competing tire maker.

    2. I appreciate that both drivers have different driving styles, but if data was not shared and both drivers never knew what they were driving on or told exactly what changes had been made then I think that is less relevant…but mainly, to me both drivers were eating rear tires on Sundays so their driving style differences I think are not that relevant for Pirelli to make the slight modifications to the tires they need to that don’t stray too far from what data the teams were given last September.

    3. If Ferrari’s test with a 2011 car would have gleaned them far less ‘advantage’ then that tells me a Merc 2011 car would not have provided Pirelli with the data they needed either.

    4. Since I doubt this was a Merc test, and actually was legitimately a Pirelli tire test, then I doubt that Merc had the time, money or ability for all their departments to get together all their equipment for bolting on all these wonderful upgrades for this test. I doubt that Pirelli would have wanted that type of activity skewing their data, I doubt Pirelli would want them trying to make it a Merc test, and I doubt Merc would have been able to have all that extra stuff there on the race weekend so that it was handy for the test after that race weekend. Aren’t teams limited as to the amount of tonnage of equipment they can bring to a race? We sure haven’t heard anything to the effect that Merc brought in a bunch of extra new testing parts and sensors and equipment for this secretive test, nor that all departments were there trying to make this a Merc test.

    So to me while I appreciate the informative article about how a normal F1 team test works, I think it presumes that Merc was given the opportunity to make this a normal F1 team test, and I don’t think Pirelli would have risked everything to let that happen.

    I’m still convinced that this was a necessary test, sanctioned by F1, because the tires suck and need a quick solution, and that Merc was a perfect team to use.

    1. @robbie

      I doubt that Pirelli would have wanted that type of activity skewing their data

      I put much the same point to Marc during the interview. I didn’t put his response in the article but as you brought it up here’s what he said:

      Mercedes are effectively doing Pirelli a favour here because I very much doubt that Pirelli will have stumped up enormous sums to pay for the whole thing. I suspect that a big part of both sides had bargaining, if you like, throughout the course of this test. Mercedes, I very much doubt they would have allowed that car to run without having all sorts of things bolted onto the side of it. Pirelli I don’t imagine will have been in much of a position to say ‘no, you’re not having that’.

      1. @keithcollantine Thank you for that. With all due respect, and of course Marc and you are far far more engrained in F1 than I, he is using speculation, and it is still my belief that F1 knew about this test and knew it was necessary and that in fact Pirelli would have been made to pony up for this since they are the ones that didn’t provide the right tires for the entire season.

        I truly am not trying to sound like I know more, but I’m just still stuck on the concept that I think Mercedes and Pirelli would both have too much to lose by not keeping this as much on the straight and narrow as possible. Of course F1 has been rife with controversial issues always, so I do allow completely that I am off the mark and that in fact something more underhanded has gone on, which Marc suggests, but I guess I just need to see or hear it to believe it because as I say I think Mercedes and Pirelli simply would not risk so much.

        Even if this was a full Mercedes test as Marc describes ‘could’ have happened, I don’t think one 3-day test makes a team into Championship contenders, so I still don’t see the risk/reward equation and it’s why I am convinced there was enough permission from the FIA for this test because better tires simply had become a must.

        Respectfully I stand ready to be corrected at any point that solid facts come to light about what went on at this test, and I will expect heavy sanctions as do many if it is found out that Mercedes gained anything other than a nominal amount of benefit similar to that which any team would have inevitably gained from a tire test with no data sharing which is what Pirelli says it was.

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