Will Mercedes escape sanction at FIA Tribunal?

2013 F1 season

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013The FIA International Tribunal will convene in two days’ time to decide whether Mercedes broke the rules on testing.

The team ran one of its W04s for three days at the Circuit de Catalunya between the Spanish and Monaco Grands Prix.

They face potentially serious sanctions if they are found to have transgressed.

Did Mercedes break the rules?

Here are the facts of the matter as confirmed so far.

The test

The FIA confirmed Mercedes “conducted with Pirelli a three day tyre testing using a 2013 car on [the] 15th, 16th and 17th [of] May in Barcelona”. Mercedes said Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg did the driving.

The details of the test, which began three days after the Spanish Grand Prix, did not come to light until May 25th during the Monaco Grand Prix weekend. The following morning Red Bull and Ferrari lodged a protest with the stewards over the test, which was later referred to the FIA’s International Tribunal. The stewards gave the following details of the protest:

The stewards of the Monaco Grand Prix received protests from Infinity Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Ferrari concerning an alleged breach of article 22.4h (track and wind tunnel testing) of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations by Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team.

The stewards summoned representatives of the protesting teams, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team and Pirelli.

After hearing and collecting information the stewards will write a report to the FIA who may bring the matter before the International Tribunal.
FIA stewards’ document number 49, 2013 Monaco Grand Prix

The rules

Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, 2013Article 22.4h is one of several clauses which define the circumstances under which track testing may take place. It forbids testing “between the start of a ten day period which precedes the start of the first event of the championship and 31 December of the same year”.

Obviously the dates of Mercedes test fall within the time when testing is not permitted. And the test did not meet any of the exceptions to the rule defined in article 22.4h:

(i) One three day young driver training test carried out on a date and site approved by the FIA following consultation with all teams. [...]

ii) Four one day aerodynamic tests carried out on FIA approved straight line or constant radius sites between 1 February of the current year and the start of the last event of the championship. Any of these days may be substituted for four hours of wind-on full scale wind tunnel testing to be carried out in a single twenty four hour period.

iii) If a team declares that one of its current race drivers is to be substituted by a driver who has not participated in an F1 race in the two previous calendar years, one day of track testing will be permitted between the start of a ten day period which precedes the start of the second event and the last event of the championship.
FIA Sporting Regulations

Ferrari’s exoneration

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Barcelona, 2011The FIA initially expanded their investigation to include Ferrari. It emerged they had also conducted a test for Pirelli at the same circuit on the 23rd and 24th of April, between the Bahrain and Spanish Grands Prix, using a 150??? Italia chassis which last raced in 2011.

However the case against Ferrari was dropped when the FIA ruled that “for this purpose a 2011 car is not deemed to contravene the applicable FIA rules”. Article 22.1 of the Sporting Regulations forbids testing “using cars which conform substantially with the current Formula One Technical Regulations”.

How the case will be heard

The International Tribunal was introduced as part of a revised FIA judicial process at the beginning of the 2011 season. It is where stewards refer cases that are not resolved during race weekends.

Evidence will be presented to the tribunal by witnesses, knowledgeable parties, experts and third parties. Interested parties, such as rival teams, may also make representations to the tribunal. Once that is done the tribunal will deliberate in secret without the FIA president.

The judging panel will be composed of three members of the tribunal. These will be selected by the tribunal president, Edwin Glasgow, and none of them may be “of the same nationality as one of the main parties of the case”. Brief biographies of the 12 members of the tribunal can be found on the FIA’s website (PDF).

Prosecution and defence

The Tribunal will no doubt bring new facts to light. However several of the major points of contention have already been commented on in public by those involved in the case.

Use of a current car

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013Ferrari’s exoneration is significant because it shows one of the issues at stake is how much knowledge Mercedes were able to gain about their current car.

Significantly Pirelli, who requested that the test take place, stated they did not ask Mercedes to bring their 2013 machine:

Pirelli did not ask in any way that a 2013 car be used: not of Mercedes nor FIA nor the teams which, during the year, were offered the opportunity of participating in tests for the development of tyres for 2014.
Pirelli statement

Permission

There has been much speculation about what evidence Mercedes might have that may indicate they were given permission by an FIA representative to participate in the test and do so using the W04. It was brought up during the Friday press conference at the Canadian Grand Prix:

One of the rumours that we have heard going round is that you?re in position of an e-mail from Charlie Whiting confirming that you did have permission to do the test. Could you confirm whether or not that e-mail exists?
Kate Walker

The email, I don?t want to comment on any matters of that sort that relate to what?s going to come through in the Tribunal.
Ross Brawn

But as other teams have learned to their cost, a nod of consent from Whiting is not a guarantee they have complied with the rules.

During the 2008 Belgian Grand Prix Lewis Hamilton was forced off the track by Kimi Raikkonen while the pair were disputing the lead of the race. Hamilton rejoined the track ahead of Raikkonen, ceded the position back to him as the rules require, then overtook him at the next corner. Hamilton’s McLaren team sought Whiting’s opinion whether the move was legal and were told it was. But the stewards disagreed and confiscated Hamilton’s subsequent victory.

However Mercedes may believe the fact F1′s official tyre supplier was involved in the test counts in their favour:

Obviously we felt we were in a position to be able to do the Pirelli test ?ǣ it was a Pirelli test, it?s very important to note that ?ǣ and so the Tribunal will be the time at which all the information will become available.
Ross Brawn

Gaining an advantage

Start, 2013 Monaco Grand Prix, Monte-Carlo,Mercedes covered around 1,000km during the three-day test. To put that into perspective, at the end of pre-season testing the team which had covered the most ground, Sauber, had logged 5,306km.

This test allowed Mercedes to increase the ground they had covered with their 2013 car in testing by nearly 20%, excluding any straight-line aerodynamic tests.

They will be at pains to stress that no advantage was gained from the extra running. Pirelli gave the following information about the test:

This test, as always, carried out with a single compound never used in a championship, regarded structures not in use in the current season and not destined to be used later during the 2013 season.

The tyre tests were conducted “in the dark”, which means that the teams had no information on which specifications were being tested or about the goal of the testing; nor did they receive any type of information afterwards.
Pirelli statement

The first sentence suggests Mercedes would not have gained knowledge about this year’s tyres. But it doesn’t rule out the possibility Mercedes gained knowledge or influenced the development direction of next year’s tyres, assuming Pirelli extends its F1 contract beyond this year.

That claim was seemingly contradicted by comments made by Nico Rosberg during the Canadian Grand Prix weekend which Mercedes later sought to play down:

Yes, for sure, yeah of course. Definitely I was aware of what the ideas were and what they were testing because I need to know that to try and be able to pinpoint for them best what?s going on and what directions are likely to be best for them.
Nico Rosberg

There is also the possibility Mercedes were able to advance their understanding of their 2013 car in other areas. Former McLaren mechanic Marc Priestley explained the potential benefits of such a test to F1 Fanatic earlier this month.

Not surprisingly, Mercedes’ rivals firmly believe the test was a valuable opportunity:

Whenever you run the car, when you?re not allowed to test, when you have limited mileage, when the rules are written as they are, when you run a current car of course, for the way that Formula One is, with the way that the amount of technology and with the amount of data analysis there is, you?re always learning. Whether it be reliability, whether it be endurance, whether it be performance. So, of course… even if you?re testing a component for a supplier, you?re learning.

I think Formula One has moved an awfully long way over the last few years to ensure fairness and equality to all of the entrants. I think that if a team does carry out 1000km of additional testing with a current car, you?re going to learn something.
Christian Horner

Note that the FIA International Sporting Code states (in article 58) that not having gained an advantage will not be accepted as a defence if a car is found not to comply with the Technical Regulations. However Mercedes are being investigated for a potential breach of the Sporting Regulations, so that does not apply.

Secrecy

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013Neither Mercedes nor Pirelli volunteered information about the test until the rest of the paddock became aware of it – apparently following a meeting between the GPDA and the FIA.

However it is common for both the sport’s official tyre supplier and the teams to keep quiet about their testing plans. Pirelli do not advertise when their tyre tests with their own car are about to take place and top teams are secretive about the timing of their one-day aerodynamic tests during the season.

Brawn has repeatedly attacked the characterisation of the test as ‘secret’

There has been an unfortunate branding of the ‘secret’ test. It was a private test. It wasn?t a secret test. I think anyone who believes you can got to Barcelona and do three days of testing, or 1000km of testing, and not have anyone become aware of it is naive.

It was a private test, not a secret test and sporting integrity is very, very important to us. Very important to Mercedes. And as I say I think when the facts become apparent then people can make a better judgment of the situation.
Ross Brawn

One might argue that had more of the facts been made apparent at an earlier stage Mercedes would not find themselves refuting claims of a ‘secret’ test. That is the view of their rivals:

I think the lack of transparency is disappointing. That you get to learn these things second hand. I think it is important that there is transparency, of course.

If a supplier has issues then it needs to obviously deal with them but when all entrants are supposedly equal, it?s only right and proper that information is made transparently clear.
Christian Horner

Whether the test was kept secret from rival teams is less important than whether the test was kept secret from the FIA. This brings us back to the question of whether Mercedes have a ‘smoking gun’ proof that someone gave them permission to go testing.

The statement issued by the FIA after the matter was referred to the stewards indicates they did not receive final confirmation the test was going ahead:

Pirelli and Mercedes AMG were advised by the FIA that such a development test could be possible if carried out by Pirelli, as opposed to the team that would provide the car and driver, and that such tests would be conditional upon every team being given the same opportunity to test in order to ensure full sporting equity.

Following this information, the FIA received no further information about a possible test from Pirelli or Mercedes AMG. Furthermore, the FIA received no confirmation that all teams had been given an opportunity to take part in the test.
FIA statement

Potential outcomes

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, 2013A simple majority of the tribunal’s judging panel will decide the verdict. The addressee of their decision (i.e. Mercedes) and the FIA, under the authority of the president, may appeal against it. This would take the matter to the FIA’s International Court of Appeal.

If Mercedes are found guilty the tribunal may impose the penalties defined by article 153 of the International Sporting Code: a reprimand, fines, obligation to perform work of public service, a time penalty, exclusion, suspension, disqualification or confiscation of championship points.

The FIA has previously punished teamd while exempting their drivers from a penalty, as with McLaren’s championship exclusion in 2007. As both Mercedes drivers participated in the test and stood to benefit from it, it is hard to see how the FIA could make a case for doing the same here.

What the key players are saying

I think we wouldn?t have done the Pirelli test unless we believed we could do the Pirelli test and I think when we get to the Tribunal, you?ll have your answers.
Ross Brawn

We believe that it is the responsibility of the entrant to comply with the regulations, so when it came to light that a test with a current car had taken place, our interpretation of the regulations is that that was in clear breach of them and therefore we raised a protest prior to the race for it to be dealt with as an issues by the FIA. It?s really an issue between the team and the FIA.

Obviously Pirelli have asked several teams to test, ourselves included but we have declined to do so because we felt that it wasn?t in line with the regulations, certainly with a current car. That?s the situation. It?s gone to the Tribunal and we trust in the FIA to make the appropriate decisions regarding it.

I think the important thing is that there needs to be absolute clarity moving forward in terms of what you can do and what you can?t do going forward, you know, what is testing and what isn?t testing. I think that?s more crucial than anything, it is to be fully resolved.
Christian Horner

Let?s hope Formula One can maintain its professionalism and we have faith that those who attempt to circumvent the regulations are pursued and prosecuted, or rather more prosecuted than pursued.
Luca di Montezemolo

Over to you

What do you think will be the outcome of Thursday’s Tribunal? Will Mercedes escape punishment?

Have your say in the comments.

Mercedes and Ferrari Pirelli tyre test row


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147 comments on Will Mercedes escape sanction at FIA Tribunal?

  1. BarryBigEars said on 18th June 2013, 14:46

    Well, the speculation builds…
    Great article, and a really thorough summary, as much of the information elsewhere is quite piecemeal.
    If Mercedes have an email from Charlie saying, ‘Yeah, sure, use your 2013 car and drivers” I’d be really surprised. Charlie seems very good at his job, and his famous ‘nod’ is usually based well within the rules.
    The really strange thing seems to be that Charlie and Ross have both been involved in the sport for so long, it seems out of character for either of them to make a monumentally bad decision. So I assume there will be a lot of new information presented at the tribunal.
    However, my gut feeling is that whatever new evidence transpires, the FIA will not see any of it as justification for breaching the sporting regulations.
    As for penalty, I would have thought the most similar precedent for breaking regulations and potentially gaining an advantage was the 2005 BAR dual fuel tank setup which resulted in a 2 race ban and a 6 month suspended sentence. At the time Max Moseley saw this as lenient. Nick Fry was at the helm at the time I recall, prior to the team evolving into Honda/Brawn/Mercedes team.. Oh hang on a minute.
    So, if Mercedes are found to have broken the sporting regulations, and gained a 1000km testing advantage over the other teams, I think the penalties could be eye watering. That is of course, if they are found guilty.
    They are innocent until it is proven.
    If found guilty, I think for Ross Brawn to be sacked when he was planning to leave soon anyway, and a fine which will be trifling in relation to the funds available to Daimler, will not be considered sufficient penance.
    I envisage, if Mercedes are found guilty (and as yet they are not), they might face a three race ban, a 6 month suspended sentence, and points deduction or exclusion from the constructors championship.
    The three race ban equates to around 1000km per car, but the cost to the Mercedes brand will be far higher.
    All of the folks who say, “they should give the other teams 1000km testing to redress the balance” are missing the point of a penalty. If you break a rule and gain an advantage, the penalty does not consist of giving back that advantage. It consists of giving back that advantage and then receiving a penalty for transgressing the rules, over and above losing the rewards of the crime. A bank robber is not asked to give the money back, and then sent on his way. He is asked to give the money back than then incarcerated.
    It’s getting almost as exciting as Monaco qualifying. Not quite as glamourous, but edge of the seat time for all in Brackley.

  2. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 18th June 2013, 14:58

    As I understand it, there are three reasons why Pirelli and Mercedes could be punished:

    1. They broke article 22.4h, running a car 2013 car when it wasn’t allowed.

    and from the FIA’s reaction directly following the Monaco Grand Prix:

    2. A tyre test must be conducted by Pirelli, not Mercedes.
    3. All other teams should have been offered the opportunity to test.

    On the basis of points 2 and 3, I don’t think Mercedes should get a significant penalty. For point 2, it is debatable to what extent the test was carried out by Pirelli, and to what extent by Mercedes, and for point 3, that is Pirelli’s job (which they didn’t do properly, in my opinion).

    However, the fact that the FIA would allow testing under certain conditions seems to contradict their own sporting regulations, so Mercedes might well be found guilty on the basis of point 1.

    As for the penalty they will receive, I think Charlie’s email will constitute mitigating circumstances, but I doubt it will let them off the hook. If I were to hazard a guess, I would agree with @wsrgo: a fine and a suspended ban. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be the first time the FIA has shocked me with the severity of their penalties, so it could be a lot worse.

    If they do get a very harsh fine, making a dramatic gesture like pulling out of F1 and leaving it up **** creek has some appeal, but as Keith pointed out, they have contracts with other teams so that’s not going to happen. The only thing they could, and might do is to walk away from their own team, and see if Ross Brawn has the money to buy his team for the second time in four years time…

    • elf341 (@elf341) said on 18th June 2013, 17:19

      Too many assumptions are being made by most commentators on this: “Mercedes tested a 2013 car” – it is not that simple.
      It helps to stop thinking about the appearance of what happened and start thinking like a lawyer.
      F1 rules are notorious for being vague and thus being scrutinised heavily by teams who effectively break the spirit of the rules but not the letter.

      Ross Brawn already highlighted their kill argument in the Canada press conference “it was a Pirelli test”. From a business/legal point of view, Pirelli cares about its commercial agreement and liabilities with the FIA. While Pirelli is a private company and should be able to test what on earth they like to test with whatever, it’s understandable that the FIA might want to restrict some of their business freedom given their role in F1 – this is the role of the FIA-Pirelli commercial contract and could easily have contained things such as “Pirelli must have no private dealings with any company, linked subsidiary, or parent company of any F1 team” the breaking of which might incur financial liability under contract law and perhaps voiding of the Pirelli-FIA contract altogether – a business disincentive. Instead, it appears that Pirelli has a clause in their contract with FIA that specifically exempts them from any contract violation for testing with “representative” cars.

      What does this mean? Well, for one, they could approach Red Bull Technology and buy an F1 car which (ho hum) eerily looks a lot like the RB9 and do a load of testing with their new toy.
      Or perhaps instead, Pirelli could enter a contract with Audi where they pay for the use of a representative F1 car to be used for their own private testing purposes, oh, and pay for qualified technical personnel to aid in the testing. Replace Audi with Mercedes – both are private companies with capabilities to build an F1 car.
      The fact that the car “looks” a lot like the 2013 Mercedes is neither here nor there, as this is a Pirelli transaction. From a legal perspective it is very very different to “mercedes tests the W04″.

      I think this will be Brawn’s approach.

  3. Sherlock said on 18th June 2013, 15:01

    If the “Charlie Whiting e-mail” is true and exist than his (Whiting’s) loss will be of a much more impact than any race-bans, fines or “lets pull out of F1″ stuff for Mercedes/Pirelli.

  4. d3v0 (@d3v0) said on 18th June 2013, 15:16

    I woke up this morning and hoped to find an article relating to the tribunal on the 20th and Keith, as always, you deliver. What a fantastic website.

  5. katederby (@katederby) said on 18th June 2013, 15:24

    I feeling is Mercedes will get away without any punishment. Ross Brawn has been in these type of situations before and he just seems so confident that he will be cleared.

  6. katederby (@katederby) said on 18th June 2013, 15:25

    *My feeling…

  7. BJ (@beejis60) said on 18th June 2013, 15:27

    I really don’t think anything serious will come of this, especially if there is an FIA-approved stamp on this whole situation. Maybe a few million dollar fine. Maybe a points loss from Canada and Monaco being the maximum here.

  8. DaveW (@dmw) said on 18th June 2013, 15:59

    I think they will get a fine and get excluded from some Friday sessions—law and equity. That’s the only reasonable thing to do.

    The FIA will need to clean up after itself afterward. It’s Ferrari ruling still smells pretty foul, as it basically hangs on the finding that a 2011 car is not like a 2013 car developed on the same formula, and ignored the fact that the Ferrari test used current tires. Of course that helped Ferrari. In the future, if we have “secret” tests that are only adjudicated compliant after the fact, then this is an insane situation.

    • wsrgo (@wsrgo) said on 19th June 2013, 10:13

      So the 2013 car has been “developed on the same formula” as the 2011 car?? Please tell me more about it. All you budding Neweys should immediately apply for the TD posts in various teams. Even Keith kept on blabbering about how downforce levels in 2011 and 2013 are similar, yet he very conveniently forgot to mention that the 2011 car didnt have the 2013(and 2012) car’s pullrod suspension. There’s a reason why a test session with a 2 years old car is legit. And the relevant rules have been framed by people who know a lot about motorsport engineering. Why do you think that Horner dismissed the idle claims of Ferrari having benefited from the test which they carried out with their 2011 car?? If anything, Ferrari’s an even more potent threat to RB’s hegemony than Mercedes, so he should surely have gone after them as well?? Or perhaps you think that he is a Ferrari spy in disguise??

  9. WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 18th June 2013, 16:01

    Wow, that is one of your very best articles, Keith, and that is saying something!

    Regarding “testgate”, I think there is rather more going on than a simple recital of the regs would conclude. OK, Mercedes have broken the regulations, fact, but no team intends to break the regulation especially regarding something like a test; something that cannot be concealed. Would Mercedes enter a test in direct breach of the regulations, thus jeopardizing their 2013 campaign, if they did not have a thoroughly detailed and competent case arguing their stance? No. On the other hand, is it really 2013 that matters to Mercedes? No. Would they really mind penalizing their 2013 campaign if they could get some kind of guarantee of performance in 2014 when the effects of being a “works team” come into play? Of course not. They are a lot more moving parts to this particular case than is apparent from the surface, and I think Mercedes are possibly looking at the long term, using the test to prepare for 2014. And remember, Mercedes have at no point said the words, “we can win the 2013 championship” despite having the probably the fastest car, in terms of raw performance, on the grid. In fact I would suggest that Hamilton was recently advised to dilute this ethos of 2013 disregard when he said that the title win was “possible”. Mercedes definitely have a plan, these are highly intelligent people, and they do not attempt to hide 1,000km test by putting blank crash helmets on their drivers and then look surprised when they are punished. Whether they are looking at the long term, or simply have a case justifying their position I really don’t know, but I would be very surprised if Mercedes don’t ultimately end up benefiting from the test in the long run, regardless of any potential sanctions, or why would Mercedes have done it?

    • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 18th June 2013, 17:40

      @william-brierty
      Just playing devil’s advocate here but this:

      OK, Mercedes have broken the regulations, fact

      ..has not actually been established. One point which @keithcollantine hasn’t mentioned in his excellent article above is that the first point which needs to be addressed is whether this was a “test” as defined in article 22.1 of the sporting regulations

      22.1 Track testing shall be considered any track running time not part of an Event undertaken by a competitor entered in the Championship, using cars which conform substantially with the current Formula One Technical Regulations in addition to those from the previous or subsequent year.

      This is the definition of a test within the rules. If the time spent by Mercedes on the track does not fall under this definition, then it’s not technically a “test” and so wouldn’t be against the rules. To clarify, in order for it to be considered a test, it must fulfil the following criteria:

      1 – track running time not part of an Event
      2 – undertaken by a competitor entered in the Championship
      3 – using cars which conform substantially with the current Formula One Technical Regulations in addition to those from the previous or subsequent year.

      The Ferrari track running did not fulfil points 2 and 3, and so was not a “test” and not prohibited under Article 22. We know that the Mercedes track running wasn’t part of a championship event, and we know they used a car conforming to current regulations, meaning that points 1 and 3 are satisfied. However on point 2 there appears to be some wriggle room.

      Was the test undertaken by a competitor? If you look at the Ross Brawn quotes above, you’ll see he was stressing the fact this was a Pirelli test, not a Mercedes test. This suggests that at least part of their defense will be to say that the test was undertaken by Pirelli, who aren’t a competitor.

      One point of note – two words are used, seemingly interchangeably, in the sporting regulations: Competitor and Constructor. It seems odd that we would use two words for the same thing, so seeking a little clarification on the matter, we should look to the Appendices for a definition, where we find the following:

      APPENDIX 6

      4. Any reference to any competitor shall include any associate of such competitor.

      This is an interesting point. The word ‘competitor’ therefore does not exclusively mean the team entered into the championship, and it can also include associates. What’s an associate? Again we turn to Appendix 6 for clarification:

      5. An “associate” means :

      d) Any person (including any corporate or unincorporated body) which is set up or used by a competitor to circumvent the definition of a constructor or defeat the restrictions on being a constructor in this Appendix 6.

      Now, clearly I’ve removed some of the other definitions there, but unlike the definition of a Test, an ‘Associate’ does not need to meet all of the criteria, just one or more. So while Mercedes may have the defense that Pirelli aren’t a competitor, which would mean that the track running would not count as a test, in this instance it could be interpreted that Pirelli themselves would fall under the umbrella term of ‘competitor’ since they would be an associate of a competitor being “used by a competitor to circumvent the definition of a constructor”

      So, there’s clearly a small amount of ambiguity here, and some room for interpretation. But the point remains; the first thing the tribunal will need to do is establish whether or not the track running in question actually counts as a “test” going by the definition laid out in Article 22.1. If it concludes that it doesn’t count as a test, then there is literally no case to answer.

      • Hughesy said on 18th June 2013, 20:10

        I really appreciated your brilliant dissection of the rules, and would just comment on the area where you think they may be exposed. Appendix 6.5.d. “Any person (including any corporate or unincorporated body) which is set up or used by a competitor to circumvent the definition of a constructor or defeat the restrictions on being a constructor in this Appendix 6.”. This comes down to English grammar…subject and object type stuff. 1. Clearly Pirelli was not set up so that Mercedes could circumvent the definition of a constructor, so that is a non-starter. 2. If it is the case that Pirelli requested and managed the test then it seems implausable that Mercedes could be considered to have ‘used’ Pirelli for that purpose either. As such Mercedes are home free and so they should be – I am not a big fan of the Mercedes brand or the team, but I am tired of Red Bull using every thousandths of an inch of the technical regs to gain advantage and never be penalised. What is good for the goose…………

        • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 19th June 2013, 9:38

          It’s a shame you mention Red Bull because it sort of makes it sound very much like because you don’t like them, you’ve made a biased judgement about this case without knowing the facts.

          Yes, there is some further ambiguity, and it is by no means clear cut. We know that Pirelli have said very clearly that it was Mercedes’ idea to use a 2013 car, so in that respect even though the test was proposed by Pirelli, it could be concluded that Mercedes used the fact it was a “Pirelli test” to engineer an opportunity to conduct a test which would otherwise have been prevented by the rules. The point obviously being that we can’t, at this point, say for definite whether or not they will be found to be in breach of Article 22. My only argument is that claiming that it was a Pirelli test doesn’t automatically absolve them of any responsibility.

          On your final point I will say this – no team has ever won a championship, including the 2009 championship won by the team now known by Mercedes, without “using every thousandths of an inch of the technical regs to gain advantage”. Mercedes do it, McLaren do it, Ferrari do it, Lotus do it, all the way down the grid to the very slowest teams. All of them will be looking for any little loophole in the technical regulations in order to build a car which will be faster than its rivals. The most successful teams will always be the ones which are best at doing this. This is one of the fundamental principles of Formula 1, and it’s ludicrous to try and single out one team as being bad guys for doing it.

          • Hughesy said on 19th June 2013, 19:26

            I agree that most teams might try to do the same thing with respect to pushing the interpretation of the rules to the limit, although it is an absolute certainty that some must push more than others. I simply feel that if a team has found a loophole that enables it to breach the spirit of a regulation without actually breaching the letter of the regulation, then they should be treated in the same way as other teams who have done similar things i.e. no penalty and a cleaning up of the regulations. Unless you are living in a different world to the rest of us, it is clear that Red Bull are the masters of this art in recent seasons. They have largely evaded any kind of punishment, and yet they appear to be the team bleating the most about Mercedes…hence the reference to them in particular.
            On the matter of ludicrous comments, it is ludicrous to suggest that the most successful teams are “always” the ones that best utilise loopholes…sometimes technology breakthroughs, design, reliability, drivers, tactics, etc. make a difference, and if you don’t think that is the case then you should possibly rethink why you are interested in the sport…regs. are interesting, but they are not everything.
            Still a great dissection of the rules though…thanks!

  10. GT_Racer said on 18th June 2013, 16:43

    Just something regarding Charlie Whiting.
    He’s the race director, Official starter, Technical/Safety delegate & Head of the technical department.

    Anything relating to the sporting regulations (Test restrictions are all part of sporting & not technical regs) falls outside of his remit.
    When it comes to sporting matters Charlie can only give opinions, He can’t make the decision.

    Also unless its changed since I was last around F1, No document is considered an official FIA correspondence unless its sent to all competitors & made freely available to the media.

    If Mercedes or Pirelli have an E-mail from Charlie, Im not sure that will necessarily help them since he doesn’t hold the power to OK a test given that testing is a sporting matter rather than a technical one.
    The only way I see any E-mail from Charlie been relevant is if he was given permission from somebody higher up to inform them they could run the test & was passing this message along.

    The top guys at both Pirelli & Mercedes should know the limitations Charlie has regarding sporting matters, To get an opinion from Charlie & then treat it as the final say (If thats what they did) is absurd.

    • wsrgo (@wsrgo) said on 18th June 2013, 17:17

      +1….

    • DaveW (@dmw) said on 18th June 2013, 17:21

      I agree that any emal from Whiting falls into the “mistake of law” category of excuses for a violation of a rule, otherwise known as the last refuge of the desperate. I would have thought they have more than this. It could be that what Whiting is saying is reporting what the FIA has said. But parol evidence is not much better as a defense. The only thing that mitigates the situation for MB, and what must mitigate it, is the open participation of Pirelli as part of an open project to do this test. We know that Pirelli approach other teams and their intentin to do this test was no secret. The FIA, if they were not directly apprised, it a appears to have been willfully ignorant or grossly in dereliction of its role.

  11. John H (@john-h) said on 18th June 2013, 16:52

    Simple question. If I run an F1 team, and I test a 2011 car but with a 2013 rear wing on it, is that now allowed because the car as a whole does not “conform substantially with the current Formula One Technical Regulations”.

    To put it another way, can Ferrari conduct a private test with their 2011 car but with for example 2013 spec Kers or similar? Who would know about this.

    All tests should be atteneded by an FIA scrutineer IMO. I don’t understand the sporting code, but then again, neither do the FiA on many occasions in the past.

    • Nick (@npf1) said on 18th June 2013, 22:22

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but at straight line tests, FIA officials are present.

      Also, if Ferrari were to run a 2011 car in Corse Clienti, with 2013 parts, it would be a juridical minefield to navigate, both for Ferrari and the FIA. I’m pretty sure if Ferrari (or any other team for that matter) could legally gain a ton of data using a 2 year old car with new parts, they would have started doing so a long, long time ago.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 20th June 2013, 6:57

        Well, yes, @npf1, at straight line tests a FIA representative is indeed present. But at the test Ferrari conducted for Pirelli no one was, as they were as much uninformed about details of it as they were of the one done with Mercedes.

        So my understanding (also taking from the great interview with Marc Priestley) is, that its indeed well possible that what @john-h mentions has happened and its considered to be legal and no one apart from Pirelli or Ferrari was there to monitor it.
        Off course its possible that the FIA was satisfied with information presented after their inquiry to Ferrari that the team did not use any such parts, but so far we do not know that for certain.

  12. bull mello (@bullmello) said on 18th June 2013, 17:26

    How long will it take before the decision is announced? I’ve heard mentioned several times that we’ll know on Thursday (the 20th) what the result is. Will the tribunal announce their decision that quickly or will their be an announcement at a later date?

  13. Jon Sandor (@jonsan) said on 18th June 2013, 17:31

    “I think when the facts become apparent then people can make a better judgment of the situation.”
    Ross Brawn

    There is nothing preventing Brawn and Mercedes from making “the facts” public right now. Given that they are already getting a black eye in the court of public opinion you’d think they would be eager to do so. The only logical conclusion is that “the facts” are already out there and there are no additional exculpatory facts for Brawn to present.

    I think Brawn made the calculation that any penalty would be outweighed by the advantages gained – both this season, and even more importantly in the 2014 season.

    • beneboy (@beneboy) said on 18th June 2013, 18:02

      How do you know that Mercedes haven’t been told by the FIA or their lawyers not to publish their evidence before they present it to the tribunal ?

      I’m not an expert on legal matters but the one time I went to court to defend myself my lawyer told me not to disclose any of the evidence in public before it had been presented in court – maybe Mercedes have been given the same advice/instructions.

      • Jon Sandor (@jonsan) said on 18th June 2013, 18:13

        If you have evidence that you are innocent of a crime you have been accused of, what do you gain by keeping it secret until your trial?

        You don’t gain anything. In fact by producing that evidence up front you may not even have to go to trial.

        • MONEYR (@moneyr) said on 18th June 2013, 18:33

          Maybe to make sure the counterparty can’t prepare themselves on the provided evidence?

        • beneboy (@beneboy) said on 19th June 2013, 0:41

          There’s a difference between keeping something secret and not making it generally available to the public. In my case the evidence had been given to the authorities before the trial and while they didn’t consider it to be important the judge did. I’d expect that that would be the case for everyone who has been acquitted in court, the CPS prosecute if they have reasonable grounds to suspect you committed a crime but that doesn’t mean you’ve actually committed a crime and judges and juries regularly acquit people based on the same evidence that the CPS have considered strong enough to pursue the case.

          Mercedes may have given the evidence to the FIA, yet do not want to give the full details to the public before it is formally presented to the tribunal – although this is just speculation and as I said, I’m not an expert on legal matters.

  14. verstappen (@verstappen) said on 18th June 2013, 18:37

    “between the start of a ten day period which precedes the start of the first event of the championship and 31 December of the same year”.

    So you can’t test from the 10 days before the first race and also not between 21st december and 31?

    Have to read the whole article, but this strikes me as multi-interpretable.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 20th June 2013, 6:59

      Its exactly that. So for next year, when the first race will be 2. march, it means the last test day has to be 20. Februari and then they cannot test until the next year.

  15. Michael (@freelittlebirds) said on 18th June 2013, 19:08

    I think the only reasonable fine is a free leather upgrade for every new Mercedes car being sold out there. Who’s with me on that?

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