Mercedes boss Ross Brawn confirmed on Friday that he made the decision for his team to be part of a controversial Pirelli tyre test in Spain which is being investigated as a possible breach of the sport’s rules.
But Brawn reaffirmed his belief that the team had done nothing wrong and is confident that Mercedes will be cleared of any wrongdoing when it goes before the International Automobile Federation (FIA) tribunal.
“I think there’s been some rumours before and nothing’s happened,” Brawn told a news conference after the first day of practice for Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix.
“I think we should say; “let’s wait and see what the tribunal find”, and then we can take it from there. It was my decision to do the test so that’s a fact.”
Brawn also shot back at suggestions the tests were conducted secretly.
“It was a private test,” he said. “It wasn’t a secret test. Anyone who believes you can go to Barcelona and do three days of testing, or 1 000 kilometres of testing, and not have anyone [else] become aware, is very naive.”
“Sporting integrity is very, very important to us, very important to Mercedes. And, I think when the facts become apparent, people can make a better judgment of the situation,” added the team boss.
While Brawn defended himself at a packed news conference, Pirelli boss Paul Hembery, who was also scheduled to appear at the conference, pulled out after legal advice.
“We’re going to a tribunal,” he explained to reporters. “If ever you’re going to a tribunal any lawyer will tell you at that point you have a formal process to follow, which we’re happy to follow.”
Under Formula 1 rules, teams are not allowed to conduct any tests outside of regular race weekends, because it would give them an unfair advantage over their rivals.
But both Mercedes and Pirelli, the sole tyre supplier to the 11 teams in the championship, insist that it was a Pirelli test that Mercedes got no benefit from being a part of.
“I wouldn’t say it is very pleasant at the moment but again I am comfortable and confident that once when we get to the tribunal the facts will become apparent and people can make a better judgment,” said Brawn.
“I think we would not have done the Pirelli test unless we believed we could do the Pirelli test. When we get to the tribunal you will have your answers.”
Christian Horner, principal of the Red Bull team that is one of two teams that launched a formal protest against Mercedes, revealed that he was also approached by Pirelli to do a similar test but he turned down the offer.
“Obviously, Pirelli have asked several teams to test, ourselves included, but we have declined to do so as we felt it wasn’t in line with the regulations, certainly with the current car,” Horner said.
“The important thing is that there needs to be absolute clarity in what you can do and what you can’t do, what is testing and what isn’t testing and I think that that is more crucial than anything to be fully resolved.”
Horner, speaking at the same conference as Brawn, disputed Brawn’s insistence that Mercedes did not benefit from being part of the test.
“With the amount of technology and with the amount of date analysis there is, you’re always learning.” Horner said.
“So of course, even if you are testing a component for another supplier you are learning.
“Formula one has moved an awfully long way over the last few years to ensure fairness and equality to all of the entrants and I think if a team does carry out an extra 1000 km with a current car then you are going to learn something.”
The FIA announced on Wednesday that it would carry out a full enquiry into the three-day test, in which Mercedes used their current race car and their race drivers, Britain’s 2008 world champion Hamilton and Germany’s Nico Rosberg.
Ferrari conducted a similar 1 000 km test at the same Barcelona circuit in April but were cleared of any wrongdoing because they used an old car, which did not contravene the regulations.
No time was set for the tribunal, which could impose stiff sanctions against Mercedes if they are found to have acted illegally.
Mercedes will have at least 15 days to submit their own observations once they have been notified of charges.
The prosecuting body then has a further 15 days to respond, with another 15 days elapsing before any hearing, although the tribunal president can reduce or extend the time limits.
Already under fire for their quick-wearing 2013 tyres, Pirelli have been pressing to be allowed to test with more up-to-date cars to that they can prepare for the significant challenge of a new V6 turbo engine next year.
The Italian company has yet to agree a contract with the FIA for 2014, however, which has added to their frustration. (Reuters)
Subbed by AJN.