Mercedes banned from Young Drivers’ Test by FIA

2013 F1 season

Mercedes, Sepang, 2013An FIA Tribunal has banned Mercedes from participating in this year’s Young Drivers’ Test for conducting a three-day test ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix.

The Tribunal also reprimanded the team for its participation in the test along. Tyre supplier Pirelli were also reprimanded.

Following the Tribunal hearing yesterday Mercedes had suggested the punishment of exclusion from the Young Drivers’ Test.

The Tribunal ruled that Mercedes had “misconceived ‘qualified approval’ which was given on behalf of the FIA”. It decided the team broke article 22.4 (h) of the Sporting Regulations and articles 1 and 151 of the International Sporting Code.

The costs of the investigation and procedure were shared equally between Mercedes, Pirelli and the FIA.

In the first ever hearing of the FIA’s new International Tribunal the governing body’s prosecution denied Mercedes had been granted permission for the test and said they had failed to invite other teams to participate in it as they were instructed to. The FIA added there was no way of proving Mercedes could not have gained an advantage from the test.

Mercedes’ defence claimed they were not in breach of the rules as the test was run by and for Pirelli. They insisted approval had been sought and obtained from individuals within the FIA.

They added that if their test was considered in breach of the regulations the test conducted by Ferrari three weeks prior to it should also be as the 2011 car Ferrari used was, in Mercedes’ view, similar to those being raced at present.

Red Bull and Ferrari lodged a protest against their rival team during the Monaco Grand Prix weekend when it emerged they had used their 2013 car to cover over 1,000km in a tyre test for Pirelli.

The International Tribunal was presided over by Edwin Glasgow. The three members involved in the deliberations were Christy Harris, Patrick Raedersdorf and Anthony Scott Andrews.

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182 comments on Mercedes banned from Young Drivers’ Test by FIA

  1. James (@jaymz) said on 21st June 2013, 12:55

    All the other teams should now swap their young driver test for the same test as Mercedes did. Maybe at stay on at silverstone.

    Ross gets away with it again.

    • Timothy Katz (@timothykatz) said on 21st June 2013, 14:29

      Symbolic slapped wrist.

    • minnis (@minnis) said on 21st June 2013, 16:44

      Then the other teams would get a harsher punishment. Mercedes got off lightly because there was a massive grey area – they believed the test to be legal. Any team which now tests with their 2013 car and drivers will know that it is fact illegal.

      For example, if a young child was told by their mother that it is perfectly fine to kill someone, should this child be put in prison for life? Certainly not, as the child believed they were doing the right thing. However, as they still did break the law, they deserve some small punishment to reinforce the rules for the future.
      A fairly extreme example but I hope you understand the message behind it.

      If, however, the child is told not to do something and they subsequently do it, then that is a completely different matter.
      So any team who does test now should be severely punished, as they knowingly broke the rules.

  2. Brad Bircumshaw said on 21st June 2013, 12:56

    What the hell fia need to man up first they let vettel off with an illegal overtake last year now this, hang your heads in shame

  3. Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 21st June 2013, 12:57

    This is a disgrace.

    Obviously, by the letter of the regulations, Mercedes seems to have found a loophole. But they clearly breached the spirit of the regulations, somewhat ditching the whole purpose and principle of having rules.

    Now compare this with a recent incident in NASCAR: Penske used rear-end housings on its cars which incurred severe penalties (-25pts for drivers plus two-race suspension of key personnel), but NASCAR noted that it was not because the housing was illegal by the letter of the rulebook, but rather because NASCAR itself thought it was not in accordance with the spirit of the rules.

    Now, I take the side of the latter case and think of rules from the viewpoint of their purpose. I think if it does not serve its purpose, it somewhat loses its relevance and dignity; it becames merely a toy.

    • mantresx (@mantresx) said on 21st June 2013, 13:02

      Well the tribunal obviously thought Mercedes’ main purpose was not to gain an advantage, but to help Pirelli, so in that sense they were not against the “spirit” of the regulations.

    • Theoddkiwi (@theoddkiwi) said on 21st June 2013, 13:03

      In formula 1 “Spirit of the rules” has no basis for judgement. Just ask red bull about that

      • Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 21st June 2013, 13:52

        I know. But I cannot accept it – all that was needed was an FIA with balls to rule on a matter in its own backyard that the Mercedes test was not in accordance with the spirit of the rulebook, end of story.

        And this is entirely independent of the scale of the penalty received – I completely agree with the YDT ban as it could have, in my opinion, the same impact as the Mercedes test. 3 days, about 1,000km, even more liberty to access data, etc. However, contravening somewhat to this assumption is the fact that Mercedes literally advised the IT this sanction during the hearing – surely they would not have done so if they thought they were not in a net beneficiary position still.

    • James (@jaymz) said on 21st June 2013, 13:04

      I completely agree with that.

      I feel totally depressed now. I hope Mercedes never does well in formula 1 while under Brawn.

    • tvm (@tvm) said on 21st June 2013, 14:41

      @atticus-2

      Actually the spirit of the regulations is what they -didn’t- break, the authorization from FIA to go ahead takes that away.

    • Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 21st June 2013, 15:30

      Well, actually, I judged too early. My initial thought was that the eventual penalty was for some ‘lesser’ infringement, like violating article 1 or 151c, and they got away with the testing infringement because of that unclarified ‘undertaken by’ phrase and the FIA clearance.

      So it turned out that the IT actually ruled against Mercedes in the legal interpretation (“misconceived the ‘qualified approval”), which is exactly what I thought was the right step from the viewpoint of the rulebook’s purpose.

      Thanks for @tvm for the comment which had me review the issue.

  4. mantresx (@mantresx) said on 21st June 2013, 12:58

    I wasn’t expecting points deductions or race bans, but at least a financial punishment. They got a light penalty indeed.

  5. Enigma (@enigma) said on 21st June 2013, 13:00

    That’s not much of a penalty. It will hurt Mercedes to some extent, but it’s comparable to the advantage they’d gain from the Pirelli test. If they were guilty they should have got a much harsher penalty.

    It’s like being found guilty of robbing a bank with the only punishment being having to return the money.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 21st June 2013, 14:19

      To be honest, I can imagine a situation where a court would decide on such a verdict @enigma, if it would be clear that they were doing the robbery to give people who were conned out of their money by a bank fraudulent manager their money back or something.

  6. joeyzf1 (@jzformulaone) said on 21st June 2013, 13:00

    So much anger in the comments. LOL

    I would’ve expected a harsher punishment, but oh well. It’s not really that big a deal.

  7. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 21st June 2013, 13:01

    I don’t get all the negative comments so far. I have followed the tribunal since yesterday (kudos to Sky Sports for providing live updates and chat) and the general consensus was that Mercedes had delieverd a good defense. They successfully argued that:
    1. The test was undertaken by Pirelli, not Mercedes (so the sporting regulation does not apply),
    2. They had acted no differently than Ferrari about communicating about the test with the FIA or the rest of the world,
    3. Any knowledge gained from simply running a car (which at this point of the season was quite reliable), especially with unknown tyres, was of little use to them.

    I feel missing the YDT is still a punishment, as it is a proper test where you can put sensors and new parts on the car, but not a very heavy one. I’m grateful this whole saga is over without any damage to Mercedes’s campaign this year, and I hope the FIA won’t appeal the verdict.

    • Theoddkiwi (@theoddkiwi) said on 21st June 2013, 13:28

      +1. The only person here who understands what happened. The judgement was correct.

    • firstLapNutcaseGrosjean (@) said on 21st June 2013, 13:40

      So, gaining 1 sec in 2 weeks has nothing to do with the secret test??? In Spain they finished 7-8, and in Monaco they won. In Canada they were second…

      • Adam Hardwick (@fluxsource) said on 21st June 2013, 22:25

        @sorin

        So, gaining 1 sec in 2 weeks has nothing to do with the secret test??? In Spain they finished 7-8, and in Monaco they won. In Canada they were secondā€¦

        Unfortunately you’ve failed to understand how F1 works. Not all tracks are created equally. Lewis Hamiltons results have been 5-3-3-5-12-4-3, Nico Rosbergs DNF-4-DNF-9-6-1-5. There’s nothing in those numbers that suggest the test gave them any advantage. Though nor is there anything to suggest it didn’t…

        By your argument, STR should immediately be investigated for their obvious illegal test. JEVs results: 12-10-12-DNF-DNF-8-6. HOW HAS NO ONE SPOTTED THIS?!

    • fada said on 21st June 2013, 13:44

      Spot On!
      it seems to me that many who are commenting here, did not follow the tribunal.
      Mercedes argued their case pretty well and On those grounds, I am even surprised
      they got the YDT ban.
      Nevertheless, i was expecting this outcome. The FIA need to sort themselves out.

      • Jon Sandor (@jonsan) said on 21st June 2013, 14:10

        They successfully argued that:
        1. The test was undertaken by Pirelli, not Mercedes

        A) They did not successfully argue that. If they HAD successfully argued that then Mercedes would not have been found guilty of having broken the ban on in-season testing. Which they were.

        B) It was a Mercedes test, not a “Pirelli test”. See both the official ruling and a dictionary for the meanings of words.

        • AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 21st June 2013, 14:37

          @jonsan, you may be right about A, in that they didn’t fully exonerate themselves. On the other hand, the penalty was mild, so they must have been at least partially successful in their arguing.

          With regards to B, I did not see anything in the official ruling about it being a “Mercedes test” or a “Pirelli test”; I will try to look up “Pirelli test” in the dictionary but I doubt I’ll find much.

          And why are you so convinced it was a Mercedes test, and not a Pirelli test? We have both Mercedes’ and Pirelli’s statements that the test was undertaken by Pirelli, and even the legal department of the FIA (in the communications with Charlie Whiting) could accept that interpretation.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 21st June 2013, 14:24

      Given that Mercedes was in fact found to have broken the rules

      It decided the team broke article 22.4 (h) of the Sporting Regulations and articles 1 and 151 of the International Sporting Code.

      ist simply not true that the Tribunal accepted the reasoning that it was a test undertaken by someone who is not a competitor @adrianmorse
      Actually, the fact Pirelli received a reprimand as well, would point to the Tribunal accepting that Pirelli in its role as tyre supplier is in fact bound by the same rules as the competing teams, their associates, licence holders etc.

      But because the Tribunal does not see an intention on any of the parties to gain an unfair advantage, the penalty handed to the team is very lenient (missing a test which will be more of a burden than a help mid season, a reprimand and paying a 3rd of the cost of the procedures)

    • bull mello (@bullmello) said on 21st June 2013, 15:51

      +1 Good solid analysis. Besides the legal aspect, I think a lot of commenters are missing the boat on just how useful the test data gained is compared to how useful it could have been under a completely Mercedes controlled test.

      The point is, if it were completely a Mercedes test, Mercedes would have gained much more information than they did. Any team, Mercedes included, is intelligent enough to glean *some* information from a test with no knowledge of tire compounds and no adjustments made to the car during testing.

      Infinitely more useful information would be gained from a test with exact known tire compounds, making adjustments and changing car parts to correspond with different compounds, then further changing compounds and adjustments during testing to create a large, useful database of known qualified information to be studied at length post test. That is not what happened.

      Looking forward, hopefully the teams and FIA can agree on terms for much needed testing that will benefit all.

    • Victor. (@victor) said on 21st June 2013, 18:15

      +1

      I was on the other side of the fence when the whole thing became public, but the more evidence came to light the more it pointed towards Mercedes’ acting in good faith (anything else would have been stupid, really). As to whether they have not gained significant information is up to debate – the question is how much more useful was it than by running a two-year old car.

      The problem lies with Pirelli having a contract with the FIA, not Mercedes going ‘testing’ – they acted as asked while also exploiting a loophole. As one cannot (a) deem them from breaking the rules per se, (b) quantify the advantage gained, the Tribunal has decided to effectively cancel the test out by banning them from the YDT.

      I’m pretty sure most teams would prefer Mercedes’ test to the Young Driver’s Test, but given everything I think the whole thing boils down to Ross Brawn being savvy once again. There is no ‘spirit of the rules’ in a competitive environment as everybody’s definition will be different.

  8. Steve Ellis said on 21st June 2013, 13:02

    Weak. I guess the Mercedes’ board threat to leave the sport put the fear of God into the FIA. Punk card successfully pulled.

  9. Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 21st June 2013, 13:03

    On a sidenote, I wonder what the reason for this ‘penalty’ was. I mean, what rules did Mercedes breach after all. All cited earlier seemed to be significant; I would have thought they all deserved more serious penalties.

    And a more important one: is there any indication on the FIA modifying the rulebook instantly to prevent these type of tests to be carried out the near future, or not? Obviously, all teams – that can afford it, and that’s the key point of this whole thing – are not in a hurry to get this opportunity as well as per the status quo. This is ridiculous.

    • Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 21st June 2013, 13:06

      *now

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 21st June 2013, 14:25

      as mentioned in the article @atticus-2

      The Tribunal ruled that Mercedes had ā€œmisconceived ā€˜qualified approvalā€™ which was given on behalf of the FIAā€. It decided the team broke article 22.4 (h) of the Sporting Regulations and articles 1 and 151 of the International Sporting Code.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 21st June 2013, 14:28

      As for the second part of your post,

      a. Its inconceivable that another team would be able to argue that they believed it was legal to do such a test now
      b. Pirelli would be crazy to do another test like this, after being reprimanded for it
      c. the FIA would certainly make it more clear that it was NOT ok to do this, apart from very special circumstances, where the FIA WMSC would actually agree with such a test beforehand and would be carefully informed of all details of a planed test, etc.

      So its not going to happen again.

  10. Tenerifeman (@tenerifeman) said on 21st June 2013, 13:03

    A sensible solution to a very difficult problem (as suggested by Mercedes). In my opinion Mercedes will have gained less knowledge at the Pirelli test than they could gain at a “young” drivers test, the young drivers all have a lot of experience with driving, testing and setting up cars and are quite capable of driving to orders so that the engineers can evaluate various parts, set ups and scenarios. Let’s now forget the whole messy business and get back to racing.

  11. james2488 (@james2488) said on 21st June 2013, 13:05

    I think this punishment is fair, Mercedes got no data back from this test, which the teams will get at the young drivers test, plus i doubt very much that using next years tyres on this years car will make any difference as next year car will be completely different, I think Ross Brawn was naive to think that nothing might happen from doing that test, but some of the blame should be put on the FIA for this silly contract situation, lets just hope this doesn’t happen again

  12. W-K (@w-k) said on 21st June 2013, 13:06

    I think the bottom line says a lot, The costs will be shared equally between Mercedes, Pirelli and the FIA.

  13. PhilEReid (@philereid) said on 21st June 2013, 13:08

    So there was enough of a loop-hole to not receive a hefty penalty, but not loop-holed enough to get away with it entirely? Interesting. It seems it really is as grey an area as it can get.

    I feel this is incredibly harsh on Sam Bird. He has literally no part in any of this, and now he gets his track time in the YDT cut out. However, could the penalty really have been more, considering there was this loop-hole in the first place. I mean, I still don’t think that Mercedes would have done the test thinking it was illegal, so, it would have been harsh to issue even more. It’s a very tricky situation.

    One thing is for certain. The FIA need to clear something up, because if Mercedes found a loop-hole (albeit still technically illegal, but 1000km for a loss of the YDT? I’d take that), who’s to say other teams wont now do the same and just lose the YDT.

  14. Bleeps_and_Tweaks (@bleeps_and_tweaks) said on 21st June 2013, 13:09

    Lenient and all rather predictable really.

    I didn’t ever think there would be a heavy sanction because this was another example of the FIA providing a pretty healthy sized loophole for someone to leap through.
    The investment Mercedes have made to stay in F1 recently, to me guaranteed they would receive a minor penalty, as did the recent losses the FIA have suffered in appeal courts.

    Then there is Pirelli. Let’s be honest, if they were punished heavily they would have packed their bags and left the sport for good. The criticism they have received this year must have been as close to unbearable from a corporate point of view as is possible. This way they have been given a slap on the wrist, with the FIA sound in the knowledge that securing a different tyre supplier for the 2014 season at such late notice would be almost impossible.

  15. JUGNU (@jugnu) said on 21st June 2013, 13:12

    Fair and sensible decision in the end. You have to give benefit of the doubt to Mercedes. Also 3 parties are involved here. Mercedes, Pirelli and FIA so anything more than this would have been harsh on Mercedes.
    Mercedes did 3 days of testing and will lose 3 days now. So the advantage gained will be more or less neutralized.
    FIA should improve the procedures so that this kind of miss communication doesn’t happen again.

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