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

2013 F1 season

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.

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

  1. Tinakori Road (@tinakori-road) said on 4th June 2013, 15:37

    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.
    http://adamcooperf1.com/2013/06/02/pirelli-test-secrecy-james-bond-or-johnny-english/

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th June 2013, 15:50

      @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?

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 4th June 2013, 16:26

        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)

      • Tinakori Road (@tinakori-road) said on 4th June 2013, 17:04

        @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.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th June 2013, 18:10

          @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.

      • Traverse (@) said on 4th June 2013, 17:22

        I hear Kamui Kobayashi has some spare cash…

      • Mads (@mads) said on 4th June 2013, 18:00

        @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.

    • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 5th June 2013, 11:59

      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.

  2. Victor. (@victor) said on 4th June 2013, 15:46

    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.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 4th June 2013, 16:27

      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)

    • Pigmer (@pigmer) said on 4th June 2013, 16:33

      +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.

    • bull mello (@bullmello) said on 4th June 2013, 16:51

      @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.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th June 2013, 18:19

      @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.

  3. Traverse (@) said on 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.

    • Manished said on 4th June 2013, 16:53

      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.

  4. Daniel2 said on 4th June 2013, 17:11

    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.

  5. Robbie (@robbie) said on 4th June 2013, 17:55

    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.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th June 2013, 18:14

      @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’.

      • Robbie (@robbie) said on 4th June 2013, 18:43

        @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.

  6. HiPn0tIc (@hipn0tic) said on 4th June 2013, 18:17

    This is a really akward situation.
    Pirelli – lost their credibility (if you assume they had one), because one tyre supplier cannot be able to bend the rules like Pirelli did, cannot be on the spotlight in evry race like pirelli is.

    Mercedes – Lost their credibility by accepting this test, their situation to the F1 fans is not the best, this is cheating and taking an advantage of somtehing. Brawn stays really bad in the picture.

    FIA – If they knew about this, it’s really bad, because they knew about this and did not talked or informed the other teams.
    If they didn’t knew about that, i don’t know what’s worst because it means they don’t have control and they don’t have autorithy anyomore.

    Either way things are looking pretty bad for them, and for the f1.
    Pirelli should have their contract terminated, and Mercedes should get a huge fine an points penalisations.

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 4th June 2013, 19:58

      For sure it is an awkward situation. But…if all Pirelli did was ‘bend’ a rule, well all teams do that all the time and get away with it as long as they aren’t ‘breaking’ the rules. And Pirelli had it in their contract that they could test with a team so it is bending at most, imho.

      Pirelli CAN be on the spotlight in every race because F1 asked them to be, by ensuring that their tires shake things up and make for a certain kind of racing.

      Mercedes were a perfect choice to use because using a current top 3 team would have been far far more controversial, and using a bottom 3 team would likely have been less useful for Pirelli to glean information from.

      FIA/F1 knew about this because they are the ones that have mandated Pirelli make degrady tires, and so when Pirelli went a notch too far FIA/F1 has to be there to help bail them out and improve the product on the track and try to get away from 4 stop races, delaminations, and delta time running all Sunday long.

      Pirelli should be slapped on the wrist for taking last year’s tires a notch too far under conditions in F1 where very little testing goes on, and Mercedes should be thanked for helping Pirelli out of a jam and providing the teams with slightly better tires and the fans for slightly better racing for the rest of the season.

      • HiPn0tIc (@hipn0tic) said on 5th June 2013, 7:51

        So you don’t see anything wrong here. Pirelli beeing on the spotlight it’s not their fault so they can appear anytime they can.
        Since they have more media then several teams, they should be able to get away with almost anything under other teams and FIA noses.
        Mercedes did the best thing for them and a favour to other teams such as RedBull that struggle with the tyre wear is that it?
        As or FIA it’s there fault, once the rules has specificly dates for training and their conditions once Pirelli didn’t aproove and in you’re opinion not enough, instead of turning in the ones that change the rules and do whatever it comes in their head, you turn to FIA, because the RULES (they can be good or not but they are there) don’t fit for Pirelli and Mercedes, so they can change them…

        We have different POV but, in one thiing we agree, FIA situation get’s extra damaged about this, but Pirelli cannot have the same treatment that a team has…

        • Robbie (@robbie) said on 5th June 2013, 15:31

          No of course there is something wrong…and it starts with F1 trying to meddle with gadgety racing by contracting Pirelli to make degrady tires, and that ‘worked’ last year, even though I personally don’t like seeing drivers so limited by the tires, and it didn’t work this year because Pirelli took it a step too far and that wasn’t discovered by ANYBODY until they raced in anger at some hotter venues.

          It’s not a matter of anybody trying to get away with anything here, imho. It is a matter that in the current state of F1 with so little testing, and having mandated these tires, they ultimatelly blew it, and F1 and Pirelli imho have to share responsibility to get it right, and so they used Mercedes, a non-top-3 team, to do a Pirelli tire test and try to rescue the rest of the season.

          If you want to talk about breaking rules, I don’t think it applies here. I think Pirelli had a provision to test in their contract, they used that provision with F1′s blessing because it was crucial, Mercedes will not have benefitted to nearly the degree the conspiracy theorist like to suggest, and ultimately all the FIA has to say is that in the name of safety there is provision in the rules to take a different tact than what the black and white rules say.

          Imho the only reason this appears to be ‘under peoples noses’ is because there was no time for gathering concensus such was the immediate need to get this test done and get everyone on better tires.

          • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 5th June 2013, 16:17

            Sorry @robbie but I really disagree with you on this one. One thing I do agree on is that the current situation with testing banned is absolutely ridiculous. There is a large technical change coming next year, and currently there’s no way for Pirelli to develop tyres. That’s ridiculous. BUT. It’s the situation Pirelli signed up for when they took the contract.

            With regard to there being a need for the test, this is what I disagree on – the FIA made it clear a few weeks ago that it was not prepared to accept changes made to the nature of the tyres for anything other than safety issues. Whatever your personal feeling over the high degredation issues, the only thing Pirelli were allowed to address were the construction issues which were leading to incidents of delamination. IN order to do this, they needed to change the tyre construction from the steel belt introduced this year, back to the kevlar belt used last year. On the rear tyres only. This would not have a significant impact on the nature of the tyres – the needed only to see whether or not they worked. This is something which could very easily be achieved on a Friday. In fact, Friday testing with all teams is a far more useful test, when it comes to testing safety, as it tests how the tyre reacts on ALL of the cars, and not just one.

            So, the issues with tyres this year did not constitute extenuation circumstances, since the changes needed were fairly minor and could be tested in the normal way. This is evidenced by the fact that Pirelli claim to have done very little testing on 2013 construction, and focused almost entirely on 2014 construction. Indeed, we’ll both agree here that it would be impossible for them to develop an effective tyre without racking up significant mileage on a representative car, so in that respect it may seem justified. But within the regulations it’s not permitted, no matter how sensible or logical it may be to have a test of this type.

            Secondly, you claim that this test was carried out with the FIA’s blessing. Currently we can’t say that this is the case. In fact, the FIA themselves say otherwise – their statement was that they were approached by Pirelli to ask if they could run such tests, and the FIA laid out some conditions which would need to be met in order for such a test to be run. This included giving all teams equal opportunity to participate in the test. This didn’t happen. We know this didn’t happen because, firstly, nobody else in the paddock seemed to know the test had gone ahead, and secondly that other teams have come forward to say that they had not been asked to be involved in the test. Therefore, if the statement from the FIA is accurate, then neither Mercedes nor Pirelli had permission to conduct a test. Indeed, not only were these conditions not met, the FIA were apparently not even informed that the test was happening, so we have no way of knowing whether any other regulations were breached at the same time.

            In my opinion the only reason why the guilty parties haven’t already been nailed to the wall over this is that the FIA needs both of them to be onside. There are no viable alternatives to using Pirelli tyres next year. If they don’t get that contract sorted, then F1 has no rubber for 2014, and it’s too late for anyone else to step in at this point. But if Pirelli have basically breached their contract, caused one of the competitors to break the sporting regulations so seriously that exclusion from the championship is a genuine possibility, while simultaneously bringing the sport into disrepute by undermining the authority of the governing body, then it’s hard to see how their position could possibly be tenable. Indeed, their ongoing position as tyre supplier relies on all teams agreeing to the contract. Would a team agree to a contract with a supplier who had acted in such an underhanded sort of way? Can faith really be restored in how they conduct themselves? And that’s without even mentioning all the negative press that F1 has suffered as a result of the products they’ve brought to races this year, and will (we expect) continue to bring for the rest of the season. Well, the FIA had better hope so, because if they can’t reconcile this situation then F1 as a sport is facing a massive crisis. But by so plainly laying their cards on the table and saying that Pirelli and Mercedes have acted without their blessing, the only way to make it look like Pirelli and Mercedes were in the right is by going back on what they said. By making themselves look like the party in the wrong. In doing so, undermining their own authority, making scapegoats of themselves in order to rescue the tyre contract situation for next year.

            Yes, it’s a heck of a mess.

          • Robbie (@robbie) said on 5th June 2013, 18:37

            I’ve got to go so I just quickly scanned your post for now, but initially I would say then that if the testing could have been done so easily on Fridays as you say, then I doubt Pirelli and Merc would have risked the controversy of doing this test. If the consequences to P and M were as dire as you spell out in your last paragraph I just don’t think they would have done this. There had to have been more urgency to nail down better tires via a test with a 2013 car. It all is just too blatant and too controversial and too risky for P and M imho for it to be worth it without some sort of fairly solid green flag from FIA, imho, and as I say some urgency to do it this way.

  7. pH (@ph) said on 4th June 2013, 18:21

    It seems like I am the only one who actually read this article. Pretty much every part in the article starts with a big and crucial IF: If Mercedes bolted on new parts, if Mercedes bolted on sensors, if Mercedes got thermal images…. Well did they? Nobody knows. So in fact the information contents of this article related to the Mercedes case – right now – is zero. Of course, it is very informative as a general information concerning testing, but until we know what really happened during those tests, we have no idea what part of this article actually applies. For all we know, Mercedes might have gained less than Ferrari did with their older car, it all depends on how the tests were ran. If there was an information firewall between Pirelli technicians and the Mercedes people during the test, then indeed, Mercedes might have gained very little. And if there was not such a firewall, then Mercedes not only deserves to be punished, but its managers should be sentenced to wear an “I’m a moron” sign for the rest for the season.

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 4th June 2013, 19:24

      If you read my post above you will see that I agree with you.

    • Daniel2 said on 4th June 2013, 19:59

      I don’t think one 3-day test makes a team into Championship contenders

      If Mercedes wouldn’t have had their huge tire problems pre-Monaco, they would certainly be higher than 4th and 6th in the driver’s championship. They clearly got a fast car, that is able to be right up there with the Ferraris, Red Bull and Lotus.

      The way I see it, Mercedes had a solidly built car already and has now, after this controversial test was done, managed to iron out their most critical weakness in this season. Is it only coincidence, that the test itself was wholly about Pirelli’s tires?

      • Robbie (@robbie) said on 4th June 2013, 20:42

        If is the biggest word in the dictionary. The fact is Mercedes has huge rear tire issues, and prior to Monaco everyone agreed they would be very strong there because that venue would be the most gentle on these tires, they’ve been qualifying high, and Monaco is historically hard to make passes at meaning qualifying high is extra important there, so many felt they would be strong but I think Merc themselves even opined that Monaco might be their one best chance for a win, and even at that the teams were running to delta times, that’s how degrady these tires are.

        I simply do not believe that Mercedes has ironed out their critical weakness from one Pirelli tire test (again, I don’t believe this was a ful blown normal 3 day Mercedes F1 team test but it was a Pirelli tire test with no data sharing).

        Another point…Pirelli has said that they cannot and do not want to be perceived as affecting the Championship toward any one specific team, and that they cannot come up with drastically new tires that aren’t relateable to the data they gave the teams last September and around which the teams designed their cars. So assuming that the upgraded tires for Canada’s practice and starting at Britian’s race are only slightly less aggressive, to ensure no delaminations, and no more 4 stop races, then I really don’t see how Mercedes rear tire issue is going to have suddenly gone away.

        If Mercedes is suddenly a top contender and suddenly has no rear tire wear issues, then I’ll eat my words and expect huge sanctions like most others because that will be evidence that something very fishy went on. I will just have to see it to believe it. I think it would be a very very rare think in F1 to see such a massive turnaround in a cars performance over one 3 day tire test of no data sharing. Mercedes suffered from this last year. They couldn’t even get rid of it with a car redesign, and the matter is only worse for them as we watch them fall back down the grid from their great single lap performances of qualifying because these tires are even more aggressive than last year’s.

        • Makana (@makana) said on 4th June 2013, 22:04

          @robbie So we now have to take Mercedes’ word on Trust. Then, all other teams get to “test”, behind closed doors – with their current car and drivers, and come out and say: we didn’t take any advantage – scout’s honour. Matter closed.

          • Robbie (@robbie) said on 5th June 2013, 0:45

            @makana No I suggest we take Pirelli’s word because it was their test, and it was unique in it’s need, thanks to F1 meddling with gadgety degrady tires that are not cutting it this season so far. There is no need to suggest other teams are going to risk breaking the in-season testing ban rule and simply slough it off, because this was a one-off test that I believe F1 recognized was needed for Pirelli to do. Other teams would not get permission from the FIA to do an in-season test. This was about getting the tires right, or at least acceptable, for the rest of this season, for everyone, because right now they are unacceptable.

            And I’ll ask you, since you seem to be convinced Mercedes are not to be trusted and did gain advantage, what Pirelli would have to gain in helping Mercedes? I suggest they would only stand to lose hugely, and therefore I find it highly likely that they can be trusted that they did not share data with Mercedes. There is simply no logical reason in my mind why Pirelli would try to affect the outcome of the Championship by ‘massively advantaging’ one team. If you’ve got an answer, I’d love to debate it.

          • Robbie (@robbie) said on 5th June 2013, 0:46

            Sorry…not quite a one-off test, as Ferrari did one too, albeit less controversial it seems.

        • fangio85 (@fangio85) said on 5th June 2013, 1:20

          @Robbie “if is the biggest word in the dictionary”
          Actually, its antidisestablishmentarianism ;p

          • PaulT (@pault) said on 5th June 2013, 3:27

            @fangio85 Nope, that not it. Try pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis :p

          • Makana (@makana) said on 5th June 2013, 8:07

            @robbie We indeed do not know what Pirelli’s motive is, but this is not a murder trial, this is a sporting issue – Lance Armstrong can argue till eternity that he took drugs because he wanted to help his cancer cause; but having a noble goal does not mean that in order to achieve it – in sports fairness has to be as close to perfect as possible – you can break the rules. I do not care what Pirelli wanted and if they messed up controlling Mercedes, at the end of the day Mercedes broke the rules and that’s not fair to the other teams, that IS a fact and that’s all I care about.
            I think Mercedes knew they were doing it, and I believe as I mentioned in an older comment, they wanted to put FIA on the spot because FIA put them on the spot with mediocre tyres. But it should be the same for everyone not a Merc-FIA game.

          • Robbie (@robbie) said on 5th June 2013, 15:09

            I strongly disagree that this was Mercedes trying to put the FIA on the spot as you put it. I think the FIA had a hand in helping Pirelli do a tire test that they knew was badly needed such are the problematic tires of today. And why would the FIA be in agreement? Because they are the ones that mandated Pirelli to make their tires a big part of the story of F1 in their tenure…they just took it a step too far which nobody discovered until the season was on and racing were being run in hotter climates which nobody predicted would be this hard on the tires. If all the races were as gentle on the tires as Monaco, there would not have been an issue. This imho is not an issue of Pirelli against FIA or Mercedes against FIA, this is an issue of all three of them agreeing that a one-time one-chance test was crucial to ensure Pirelli comes up with tires that will be acceptable for the rest of the season at all tracks.

  8. TMF (@tmf42) said on 4th June 2013, 19:02

    No matter how you turn it Mercedes and Pirelli tainted the season. Whatever comes next will stir further controversy and what-ifs.

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 4th June 2013, 19:41

      For sure I think Pirelli has tainted the season by coming out with more aggressive tires than last year…tires that F1 wanted them to make. But Mercedes? I think that they are ultimately only guilty of helping Pirelli out of a jam, and helping all of the teams have better tires than they have had so far this year, and helping the drivers and fans to better racing that will hopefully be less about delaminations and delta time running and more about real racing.

      • TMF (@tmf42) said on 4th June 2013, 21:35

        @robbie – I hate this years tires just as much but Mercedes breached the sporting regulations. No one made them do it – they did it intentionally and gained an unfair advantage – or not, we don’t know what they tested since they kept it under wraps. with this they invalidated their results for the rest of the season. If not by the FIA at least on my books.

        • Robbie (@robbie) said on 4th June 2013, 21:47

          Ok fair enough. Even if they continue to eat rear tires and finish a distant 4th in the Constructors, which is what I predict?

          • HiPn0tIc (@hipn0tic) said on 5th June 2013, 7:55

            Yes.
            I can take an advantage of onething, and with a good professional team, using it and developed and get results. Or not showing any resuts because i was miles away from the other teams, it does not invalidate that i took an advantage, and if so, like in MErcedes case they should be punished.

  9. NestoJR said on 4th June 2013, 19:23

    Honestly, the only real fair way to treat this is to let the other teams test as well. Mercedes can not UNLEARN what they got in their test. Only problem is I don’t feel it can be replicated. They were able to test at Barcelona, of all places, immediately after a GP and were the sole team there, so had all of Pirelli’s input and attention and no FIA rep to restrict what was going on. Unbelieveable !

    I like Brawn and Hembrey but they’re statements of no advantage being gained is ridiculous. So given 3 days of unrestrticted testing, F1 engineers can’t gain any knowledge ? ****~! Mercedes truly are setting up to dominate the next generation of regulations.

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 4th June 2013, 20:48

      So you think Pirelli is lying about not sharing data, and I’d like you to tell me then what Pirelli would have to gain by helping Mercedes. I suggest this was much more about Mercedes helping Pirelli and F1 out of a jam. What exactly makes you so sure this was 3 days of unrestricted testing?

      • NestoJR said on 5th June 2013, 0:28

        Pirelli needed the test for next year. but its not them i’m so concerned with.

        Mercedes did get unrestricted testing more or less. In what way was it restricted? The FIA and no other teams were there. They had the track to themselves and remember, this is not all about the tires. They can improve everything, aero, reliability, test new parts, etc.

        Point is, none of us know exactly what they did and arguing over IFs isn’t worth the time. We know the official facts that have been released and its clear, Mercedes did a no-no and if you really think they did this out of the kindness of their hearts with no thought of “hey! free test! too bad for the others!”, you are seriously delusional. Don’t take it personally, its just theres no doubt in my mind Mercedes did their best to keep it secret and of course, use it to their advantage. I’m not saying they won Monaco because of it or they will have solved their problems this year but the test could ONLY help them. Also, for next year since they tested possible tires.

        This is F1, employing the best engineers and minds in the world. You can not tell me they didn’t gain from this.

        • Robbie (@robbie) said on 5th June 2013, 1:35

          No nothing personal for sure. I think the reason for the secrecy was because FIA and Pirelli knew this was going to be controversial, but it was that necessary that I believe Pirelli had to act quickly, and I believe they couldn’t have waited around for meeting after meeting to achieve concensus on a team to use. I believe they (FIA and Pirelli) likely agreed that it was best not to use a top 3 team. I believe Pirelli did not share data and would not meddle in the Championship that way. They’d have nothing to gain unless you can suggest what that would be, and only massive headaches and even lawsuits if they did try to help Mercedes.

          I believe also that the best engineers and minds in the world can only apply their knowledge if they have data. And I believe that they don’t have the data. They may have some data, but they don’t know how to match it to any specific compound or construction of tire. And on top of that, they don’t know what tires they will have for 2014, and the teams have not even started building their 2014 cars, so the possibility that Mercedes will have gained something for next year is so miniscule it’s not even worth a mention. Again, they don’t even know what tires that they had on their car for the test that will be used for 2014…or in fact I think it is likely they didn’t even have actual 2014 tires…just tires that have some characteristics heading toward the direction Pirelli will go for next year. I doubt this far away from next seasons testing Pirelli already has the final 2014 product settled on and produced.

          I just think that Pirelli and Mercedes have way more integrity than most people are giving them credit for. If it weren’t for these problematic tires, this test wouldn’t have even been needed. We didn’t hear a word about secret tests, or clauses in Pirelli’s contract last year when the tires were less of a problem albeit still not the drivers’ preference. This, I believe, has been an emergency situation.

          I also believe that if this was such blatant illegal underhanded favourtism toward Mercedes by Pirelli, or by Mercedes, FIA would not be needing the time they are taking to decide on their reaction. It would be swift and heavy-handed. I think FIA are biding their time because they agreed from the getgo this test was necessary and simply have to handle it with kid gloves to keep the politics and the emotions at a minimum. On the one hand they have to appear in control and concerned about inappropriate behaviour which Pirelli will assure them there wasn’t, while at the same time knowing that this test was necessary for the betterment of F1 for the rest of the season.

  10. Jason (@jason12) said on 4th June 2013, 20:24

    If Merc is found NOT guilty of actually contravening the regulations (as this was no normal test), it wouldn’t be the first time a team has bent the rules to their benefit.

  11. John H (@john-h) said on 4th June 2013, 20:55

    Did the FiA know about this or not? We still do not know and this to me is the key question. It’s obvious that Mercedes gained a massive advantage, but if the FiA sanctioned it, how can they inflict punishment without appearing like the incompetent souls that they are.

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 4th June 2013, 21:19

      Sorry to keep rambling on with post after post but I kind of feel like I’m in a minority here, and I find it kind of fun that way.

      How again is it ‘obvious that Mercedes gained a massive advantage?’ Don’t tell me because of their Monaco win because most were giving them the nod for that before any of us knew of this test, and because they’ve traditionally been qualifying high and that is key at Monaco. And nobody has said since Monaco that that win MUST have been because of the tire test.

      I suggest that if Merecedes indeed had a chance to gain a massive advantage from a Pirelli tire test, then Pirelli would not have done the test because they would not want to be perceived as trying to favour one team and affect the Championship outcome for one specific team. And I’ll ask you too, as I’ve asked everyone for an answer to this…What would Pirelli gain from helping Mercedes massively? And how often does any 3 day test, even a full on team test which this wasn’t, create massive advantages for a team…massive gains? Usually gains are more incremental than that and this is a team that still couldn’t get rid of their rear tire woes with a new car for 2013.

    • NestoJR said on 5th June 2013, 0:38

      From what I can glean, Pirelli informed the FIA but did not follow-up with official details. One of the things the FIA required was that all teams be allowed to take part. Pirelli says they asked teams some time before but had no takers. Hembrey states they would be horrible spies for various reasons and is adamant they tried to hide nothing.

      We’re not being whole truth here. Hiding something and being open and upfront are completely different things. He may have asked teams about a test but after making a decision to hold the test, did he invite them again ? It took place right after the Spanish GP, did he go around the paddock and say “hey, we’re having a test after, would you like to take part? Mercedes is and they’ll be using this year’s car and Hamilton and Rosberg will be driving.” HAH, caught. Do we know for a fact if he asked them ? NO. But seriously… if he had, would we be having this discussion? Would teams be in an uproar about ? You think they said “thanks but no thanks.”

      I’ve also read (not fact, just read) on adam cooper’s blog about a guy who lives near the track and found things very different (read as difficult) to attend the test unlike at Ferrari/Pirelli’s test. Also read that Rosberg and Hamilton were wearing different helmets so as to not let it be obviously known they were driving/testing.

      The whole thing stinks if you ask me and I can’t help but think as this drags along waiting for the FIA to come to a conclusion that Mercedes now has an extra 3 GPs worth of miles racked up with knowledge gained from it that all the other teams don’t. No advantage? OMG, I’m gonna go GoT fans’ outrage over Ep. 9 – The Rains of Castamere in here !!

  12. jre_f1 (@jre_f1) said on 4th June 2013, 22:53

    There seems some confusion over what tyres they were testing and relevance to this year, however regardless as the article states they would have gained a huge amount of mileage and data on current parts and given the two race drivers a chance to hone their setup, admittedly the tyres would be a variable in this but given the mess Pirelli have made of it this year its unlikely the tested tyres would be worse right?

    Whether they had permission or not, tyre testing cannot be conducted with a current car. That is the bottom line for me.

    They need to either as suggested, ban them from a couple of races (most likely for me), several practice sessions, or put on another test for the other teams at their expense.

    They must be punished, its not a level playing field and they can’t unlearn what they learned, clearly it helped them as they were better in Monaco, although the acid test will be this weekend in the tyre busting Montreal!

  13. Alexis Ryan (@wench) said on 5th June 2013, 0:57

    This sort of article doesn’t really help, if anything its throwing fuel onto the fire. It makes the assumption that Mercedes thought they’d get away with doing it. If they (Mercedes) thought this test was allowed by the FIA, they’d have to assume that possibility that there would be FIA observers. As such attempting to do any modifications would get them in trouble.

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 5th June 2013, 2:45

      Yes. The crux of my vehemence on this topic is that I just think Mercedes and Pirelli have far too much integrity to think they could actually get away with something so underhanded. Without some sort of permission from the FIA this test simply would not have been anywhere near worth any advantages they may have gained, even if this was a Mercedes full normal test as opposed to a Pirelli tire test. There just simply is no way imho this test was going to turn Mercedes into Championship contenders, no way Pirelli and Mercedes would risk everything for what would be at best incremental gains of the type that even full team tests provide. The math simply doesn’t add up for me. And in spite of all the different controversies there have been in F1, I simply cannot believe that Mercedes would want to win this way, or more accurately want to risk everything for so little in the end. Nor have I yet heard one good reason why Pirelli would allow Mercedes advantages out of this, thus affecting the Championship race. There is simply nothing for Pirelli to gain from that and only everything to lose if this was blatant, in your face, cheating.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 5th June 2013, 7:03

        There is simply nothing for Pirelli to gain from that and only everything to lose if this was blatant, in your face, cheating.

        From what Keith posted was Priestley’s reaction to why would Pirelli allow Merc to get more data from the test than they otherwise would, I take it that what Pirelli gained was the simple fact that they were able to test with a current car @robbie.
        Pirelli has made it pretty clear that they were desperate for testing with current cars in representative tracks and temperatures. If Mercedes was the only one willing to provide that, but in return asked to get more from it then Pirelli would otherwise even consider, that can be how it came about.

        As for affecting the championship – its not only about who wins it, but also about the rest of the points. McLaren, Lotus and Force India also stand to lose a lot from Mercedes possibly being in front of them more then they otherwise would.

        • Robbie (@robbie) said on 5th June 2013, 15:43

          I just don’t think Mercedes would try to hold a gun to Pirelli’s head as well as risk appearing to make it their own test, not a Pirelli tire test. I believe this test was on Pirelli’s dime because they are ultimately the one’s who blew it, albeit with a mandate from F1 to make these types of tires, so I don’t believe Mercedes would have said we’ll do it if this and if that.

          Another thing…this test was done after a race weekend. I don’t think it is feasible that anything other than a 2013 car was going to be there for the test anyway. It was a Pirelli test, not an opportunity for Mercedes to truck in a previous car and a bunch of gear and parts for said car. And I believe Pirelli will easily be able to convince F1 that they needed to do this test on a current car and since F1 needs to see the tire situation corrected they will go along with a current car being used in the name of safety. So again, everyone gains from a 2013 car being used so that everyone will end up on better tires for the rest of the season. Nothing underhanded. No data shared with Mercedes. And Mercedes I believe will not suddenly therefore have solved their rear tire wear issue such that they will now be robbing points from Mac, Lotus, and Force India as you suggest.

  14. electrolite (@electrolite) said on 5th June 2013, 1:14

    …This is really messy.

  15. BJ (@beejis60) said on 5th June 2013, 1:22

    The biggest question I have is that the Merc now has about 3 extra Grands Prix on their motor and gearbox…. So, is that incorporated into the 8 engine allotment? Or are they allowed to swap out the old motor and gearbox for a new motor and gearbox for this test, then go BACK to the previous motor? I’m just not sure how it was handled.

    • Daniel2 said on 5th June 2013, 10:36

      The 8 engines per season deal only counts for the 19 race weekends. The teams obviously have access to more than that for several reasons. Each additional engine results in a 10-place grid penalty at the event at which it is used, but there are also a number of other pre-, in- and post-season events (like testing, young driver days, etc) where you’ll find engines from outside of that contingent.

      The use of one additional engine for this test shouldn’t be an issue, especially for a factory team like Mercedes.

      Furthermore, the swapping of engines and gearboxes is not as stringent as you may believe. Teams are free to switch from any one part to another in between the race weekends. Only an engine/gearbox-change on the Saturday before a race (I believe after the start of P3) will result in a grid penalty on Sunday. It means, that teams are free to drive practices one and two on Friday with one (old) engine and then change to a new one for Saturday and Sunday without any penalty.

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