Last month an FIA International Tribunal banned Mercedes from participating in the forthcoming Young Drivers’ Test after they had been found to have illegally conducted a test using a current car with Pirelli.
Mercedes accepted their punishment at the time. But since then the FIA has altered the plans for the test which led Mercedes to enquire whether they might now be allowed to join in.
Their request was denied. But does the FIA’s change in plans for the test mean that Mercedes’ ban should be reconsidered?
Following the tyre failures seen at Silverstone Pirelli announced it will introduce new tyres at the Hungarian Grand Prix. The FIA decided to open the Young Drivers’ Test to more experienced drivers so teams could test them.
Mercedes then suggested that as the purpose of the test has been changed on safety grounds, they should have been allowed some degree of participation in it. They were one of the teams to experience a tyre failure at Silverstone.
“We’re going to go to Hungary when other people have run different ride heights and tested different pressures, and got their car ready for a long run. We won’t have any of that information, so we’re going to go into it blind.”
Hamilton added “in a sport everything should just be equal, you shouldn’t be going to races like that”.
Several of Mercedes’ rivals believed their original punishment of exclusion from the Young Drivers Test – before it had been opened up to race drivers – was too lenient.
Christian Horner pointed out that Mercedes’ Pirelli test involved their race drivers who originally would be ineligible to participate in the Young Drivers’ test: “It is always preferential to test with race drivers rather than test drivers.”
Mercedes’ original punishment as handed down by the FIA International Tribunal banned them participating in the “three day young driver training test”. The only means of getting around that would have been to extend the test to a fourth day, which may not have been feasible at short notice.
Regardless of whether it would have been possible to extend the test to a fourth day to help Mercedes, I don’t think it was necessary to do so.
There are two cases for letting them in: on grounds of safety and fairness for the competition. On the former, as Pirelli are using a product which is substantially similar to that which was used last year, I think the input of ten teams will be sufficient and an eleventh is not needed. Pirelli have said in the past they only need one car for tyre testing, providing it is of current specification.
On the question of fairness the change in purpose of the Young Drivers’ Test under which race drivers may now participate has ironically served to make Mercedes’ penalty a more fitting punishment than it was to begin with.
In principle it is clearly not ideal for the sports’ governing body to change an area of the rules under which a team has a pending punishment – that practice has an obvious potential for abuse. But in this case it was more important the FIA used the opportunity presented by the Young Drivers’ Test to give Pirelli the chance to evaluate their new tyres.
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