Is the FIA’s test ban for Mercedes a fair penalty?

Debates and Polls

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013The FIA International Tribunal has banned Mercedes from participating in this year’s Young Drivers Test after deciding they broke the rules by testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in May.

Does the punishment fit the transgression? Is it too harsh or too soft? Compare both sides of the argument and cast your vote below.

For

In its verdict the FIA’s Tribunal made it clear Mercedes did not intend to gain an unfair advantage and said they did not act in “bad faith”.

What’s more the FIA concurred that Mercedes had grounds to believe they had been given permission to do the test.

The FIA also acknowledged it contributed to a misunderstanding on Mercedes’ part about whether they were allowed to test. Reflecting that, the governing body will jointly foot the bill for their investigation, sharing it with Mercedes and Pirelli.

This serves to demonstrate Mercedes were not entirely to blame and did not attempt to cynically exploit the testing rules, and therefore deserve a lenient punishment.

Against

The FIA made it clear Mercedes had gained an advantage from the test, “which, at least potentially, gave it an unfair sporting advantage”.

It also pointed out that the instruction it gave to Mercedes and Pirelli to ensure other teams were informed of the test was not carried out.

Mercedes were found in breach of article 22.4 (h) of the Sporting Regulations which prevents teams from testing with a car that substantially conforms to the current regulations. The benefit of being able to do so with their regular race drivers as opposed to a much less experienced driver appears to have been overlooked by the FIA in choosing to strip Mercedes of their Young Driver Test privileges.

The penalty chosen does not go far enough to rebalance the playing field following the revelation of Mercedes’ clandestine test.

I say

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013The most unsatisfactory detail to have emerged during the deliberations is that a total of three (formerly) secret tests have been conducted by F1 teams for Pirelli since the beginning of last season: two by Ferrari and one by Mercedes, though apparently only the latter involved a current specification car. The lack of transparency surrounding these tests is a cause for concern.

Regarding the Mercedes case it’s clear the FIA recognised their own fault in the communication between themselves, Mercedes and Pirelli which led to the test going ahead. That was clearly used in mitigation of any potential punishment for Mercedes.

One could blame the FIA’s equivocal interpretation of its own rules or Mercedes’ eagerness to covertly log an extra 1,000km with its current cars and race drivers. But the person hardest hit by the verdict is totally blameless: the aspiring F1 racer who’s just lost a chance to get behind the wheel of a W04 at the forthcoming Young Drivers’ Test (in recent years this has been Sam Bird).

What’s more, the effectiveness of Mercedes’ punishment is now contingent on the other teams being able to conduct worthwhile running at the Young Drivers’ Test. If it is disrupted by rain Mercedes’ punishment would be rendered meaningless.

The penalty also leaves Mercedes’ two race drivers, both of which participated in the illegal test, completely untouched. Does the FIA not expect them to understand and adhere to the Sporting Regulations?

Earlier this month Lewis Hamilton described the difficulties he’s experienced getting the W04 to behave the way he wants it to under braking. It’s hard to believe an extra day-and-a-half’s running in the car didn’t help him make progress with that.

I understand why the FIA felt they couldn’t go too far in punishing Mercedes. But at minimum they needed to cancel out what advantage Mercedes gained from the test, and they have fallen well short of that.

It was Mercedes themselves who proposed a ban from the Young Drivers’ Test as a punishment for their transgression. By giving them what they want the FIA have handed down a penalty that is too lenient.

You say

Do you think the FIA’s punishment for Mercedes is fair? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.

The FIA's penalty for Mercedes is...

  • Far too harsh (3%)
  • Slightly too harsh (5%)
  • Fair (18%)
  • Slightly too soft (29%)
  • Far too soft (44%)
  • No opinion (1%)

Total Voters: 587

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210 comments on Is the FIA’s test ban for Mercedes a fair penalty?

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  1. matt88 (@matt88) said on 22nd June 2013, 12:49

    If I were Jeremy Clarkson, I’d say that now FIA should mean “Fuehrer’s International Assistance”. 1000 km of secret testing with the current car, and what? A slap on the hands…

    • JimmyTheIllustratedBlindSolidSilverBeachStackapopolis III said on 22nd June 2013, 13:14

      If you were jeremy clarkson 1)he loves mercedes and probably always will infact topgear is probably responsible for far more sales of mercedes cars than f1 is.

      2)jeremey clarkson loves underhand tactics in f1 which this isn’t but if for some reason clarkson had a reading and comprehension age as low as you and so thought the same way you do. He would still like what’s happened.

  2. Pau2013 said on 22nd June 2013, 13:01

    FIA’s decisions, the best jokes. They always find a way to ashame themselves.

  3. James (@jamesf1) said on 22nd June 2013, 13:21

    The penalty was probably about right for the team, but the people that really suffer in this debacle are the drivers who would have taken part in the young drivers test. They’ve suffered at the expense of the devious nature of the team and their race day drivers. Are those young drivers going to be given Friday running to compensate from this? Are they hell. In that respect, the penalty is too harsh.

    However, the team have had their 1,000km testing which they would have probably done in the young driver test, so it’s probably about right.

  4. Cyclops_PL (@cyclops_pl) said on 22nd June 2013, 13:23

    Let me say this: I find the punishment appropriate not because I think nothing really happened, but because all of this mess can be tracked down to FIA’s not being clear enough and strict enough with their own rules. Had FIA told Ross Brawn and Pirelli they CAN’T, on no condition, do test with 2013 car – they wouldn’t have done it. But FIA instead told them “yes, but…”. So I can understand Merc’s position here. They could have been under the impression they are clear to do the test. Any other team, being in the same position would have done exactly the same. I also think Pirelli is the victim here. The only thing they wanted was a relevant car to make good tires. The rules regarding testing hurt them and affect the tires. The only thing they have done wrong here was not going all formal and clear about using 2013 car while talking to other teams.

    How this should have been handled? Simple. Additional 2 or 3 days of tire-only testing for all teams, on non-grand prix circuit. Officially handled by FIA and Pirelli. No secrecy, everyone participating.

  5. smudgersmith1 (@smudgersmith1) said on 22nd June 2013, 13:25

    Yet another Ross Brawn example of working on the edge of legality, I quite like him, but I would trust him as far as I can throw him.

  6. dot_com (@dot_com) said on 22nd June 2013, 14:18

    They should have been ordered to give Nico Rosberg back to Williams :)

  7. Patrickl (@patrickl) said on 23rd June 2013, 15:52

    The party which should get punished over this mess is the FIA.

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