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. 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.

  2. 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)

      • AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 21st June 2013, 14:45

        @bascb, I didn’t spot that line initially, as I only saw the verdict that said they would be reprimanded and miss the young driver’s test. I now see there’s also a 20-page document on the FIA website, but something for the F1LegalFanatics to go over, I suppose.

    • 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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

    • Coanda (@ming-mong) said on 21st June 2013, 13:11

      No data. Your dreaming pal. F1 cars are sensor cities and Merc would got alot of data back. They may just have not got some of Pirellis data back.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. Mads (@mads) said on 21st June 2013, 13:14

    So Merc goes testing illegally, and the only one who is punished is Sam Bird?
    Merc has gained an advantage over the other teams after Spain, they are going to carry that advantage all the way to the YDT before it is evened out. Where is the punishment in that?
    This debacle has made F1 look properly stupid as a sport. And that no example has been set.
    I think F1 looks even worse now then it did before.
    To think that the offending party has been allowed to just choose their punishment. I can’t get my head around how stupid it sounds.

  12. Optimaximal (@optimaximal) said on 21st June 2013, 13:16

    Mercedes probably eeked the punishment on 2 factors, both of which are hefty grey areas –
    1) Pirelli’s testing contract was two open to interpretation
    2) The rule re: cars substantially conforming to the rules is also very grey – the argument by the defence of Ferrari benefiting quite well from it probably held some water (after all, apart from a different exhaust & front suspension geometry there’s not a whole lot of difference in the car concepts).

  13. GST (@gst) said on 21st June 2013, 13:21

    Seriously, how could they do anything to Mercedes? If this was some of the midfield or lower grid teams they would have had a stiffer penalty.

    Lewis Hamilton cannot be banned or disqualified in any way. That is never going to happen. Want proof? Just listen to the sport reporter on the BBC yesterday in Paris. He said: “With the British GP just around the corner, many don’t want anything to happen that will harm Lewis Hamiltons’ chances of winning at Silverstone.”

    It’s as though they already have Lewis winning the race! How can they take any action against the team when a British driver who is classed as a God by the BBC and other media outlets is going to drive at Silverstone in Britain?

    There was more chance of ABBA reforming than action taken against Mercedes.

  14. What a joke of a punishment! I hope all teams do a test together now without Mercedes knowledge to gain worthwhile data! Punishing them by young driver test ban is hilarious!

    I’d bet everything I’ve ever owned and everything I’ll ever own every team would take that punishment for a 3 day test on current hardware with their race drivers!

    What do people usually say? Ferrari International Assistance, well today it was MIA not FIA!

    • tmax (@tmax) said on 21st June 2013, 14:42

      @rgbsf Not exactly ? So what about Massa’s Test last year he was not supposed to do testing. It looks like Ferrari has more Skeletons hidden in the closet. so better close this with less noise without any further damages to them. FIA remains FIA.

      Ross Brawn is a smart Cookie, He knows what hurts FIA the most – Ferrari !!!!! Bring up a few facts about Ferrari and FIA is silent. Nobody understands Ferrari better than BRAWN :)

    • JimmyTheIllustratedBlindSolidSilverBeachStackapopolis III said on 21st June 2013, 20:07

      I’ll take that bet.

  15. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 21st June 2013, 13:31

    I’m sure Mercedes are bitterly regretting the way they will not be able to put Rodolfo Gonzalez in their car.

  16. caci99 (@caci99) said on 21st June 2013, 13:31

    Lets get the Test Fest started.

  17. Denis 68 said on 21st June 2013, 13:32

    HaHa what an absolute joke

    So the only punishment for Mercedes is that they miss the young driver test. They got to run both cars and race drivers (in plain coloured helmets) for three days of testing. Now the rest of the teams get three days of testing at the young driver test with only one car and the driver must be a rookie.

    The FIA are oxygen wasters.

  18. FlyingLobster27 said on 21st June 2013, 13:46

    I agree with the view that the tribunal has penalised the young drivers. I would have parked the Mercedes team for a day or two in pre-season testing next year, especially if they’ve been testing Pirelli’s project for 2014. It would have hit the culprits – the team and their drivers, who, if Mercedes were in the dark on data, had all the info on car feedback -, and hit them hard.

  19. Adam Hardwick (@fluxsource) said on 21st June 2013, 13:50

    In my opinion, this is the only logical outcome.

    Ignoring all the statements by people saying “I don’t believe this” or “we all it it was that” and actually looking at the evidence supplied, the FIA had no real choice but the be lenient. And not due to the threat of Mercedes and Pirelli walking out…

    The facts are that Mercedes asked a representative of the FIA – AND a lawyer for the FIA – if such a test would be legal. They both said yes (albeit with caveats). The test was then run by Pirelli, with steps taken to ensure that Mercedes didn’t benefit from the test. (Whether individuals believe that those steps were sufficient – or even COULD be sufficient are beyond the scope of my comment). The test was conducted, with the only notable attempt to hide details being the use of plain helmets.

    From that evidence, everything Mercedes have done is reasonable. Saintly? No, but certainly not a deliberate attempt to cheat, as some have implied. The primary fault with this saga lies with the FIA – a lack of clarity, and the left hand not talking to the right have led to this pseudo-not-authorised test.

    But the reason why the FIA had no choice? Because they’re already embarrassed by this. If the punishment was too severe, Mercedes would likely have appealed the decision, dragging them deeper into the mud.

    As for considering the sportsmanship of the topic, and how that affects any punishment, in 2010 Ferrari knowingly and deliberately broke the rule regarding team orders, attempted to hide the fact with a coded (however stupidly coded) message, which had a direct affect on the outcome of the race.. Their punishment? $100,000.

    If many of the suggested punishments I’ve read here were handed down, and it went to appeal, I cannot see how it could possibly have stood.

    All this is even before considering Ferrari and the ambiguous “conform substantially” rule.

    • Adam Hardwick (@fluxsource) said on 21st June 2013, 13:53

      RE: my view on Ferrari testing (copied from my tweets):

      Those saying testing with 2011 car is “within the rules” are wrong. Rules say nothing about the age of the car.

      “cars which conform substantially with the current F1 Technical Regulations in addition to those from the previous or subsequent year.” #F1

      Also difference between 2011 and 2013 car is not the only consideration. Has to be different to 2012 AND 2014 cars #F1

      Also, define “conform substantially” #F1

      Basically, FIA have rules which lack clarity, advice and information that lack consistency, whatever they decide will reek of hypocrisy #F1

      I stand by my comment on hypocrisy.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 21st June 2013, 14:22

        Basically, FIA have rules which lack clarity, advice and information that lack consistency

        Or they have written a rule that allows them to judge these things on a case-by-case basis. Since no two cars are the same, why should the rule that governs their legality assume that they are?

    • Luke Adams (@devious) said on 21st June 2013, 13:54

      Good points,

      The other thing to take on board, a lot of people are now claiming that all other teams go and do tests. Anyone doing the same thing would be in direct violation of “the spirit of the regulations”, and thus would receive a more serious penalty. They are now knowingly breaking the rules which is I think slightly different from this incident.

      • Joe Papp (@joepa) said on 21st June 2013, 21:01

        a lot of people are now claiming that all other teams go and do tests. Anyone doing the same thing would be in direct violation of ā€œthe spirit of the regulationsā€, and thus would receive a more serious penalty. They are now knowingly breaking the rules

        @devious – well said. i also find it impossible to take seriously anyone who claims to be upset by the verdict and sanction (or lack thereof), but then immediately cries that the other teams should respond by breaking the very same rules! talk about bitter, partisan hypocrisy!!

    • Deej92 (@deej92) said on 21st June 2013, 16:45

      I agree with all the points raised. More clarity is definitely required by the FIA in future.
      Now it’s time to put this whole saga to bed.

  20. Michael (@freelittlebirds) said on 21st June 2013, 13:57

    I personally am extremely happy with the decision and a suitable penalty. All teams can now go back to racing and clarity exists when it comes to tyre testing which was perhaps the main objective of the Tribunal to quote Horner from his interviews at Montreal. A team simply cannot test even if Pirelli invites you and the FIA gives you a signed letter that you are allowed to test.

    I still would like to see Ferrari be brought before the tribunal for keeping their test a secret for a whole season and for being the first to break the rules and also engaging in a 2nd test, and then blaming Mercedes like some lowlife criminal. Furthermore, as Mercedes’s counsel pointed out Ferrari’s test looked like a combination of Pirelli and Ferrari testing as Ferrari booked the track, exceeded the 1,000 kms and also were allowed to do their own testing for many hours.

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