Mercedes accuse FIA of double standards at Paris tribunal

Ross Brawn with the Mercedes legal team during the FIA tribunal in Paris

Ross Brawn with the Mercedes legal team during the FIA tribunal in Paris

Mercedes accused Formula 1′s governing body of double standards on Thursday at a tribunal that could impose stiff sanctions on their team for allegedly breaking the rules with a ‘secret’ tyre test, the verdict is expected on Friday.

The team of 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton – preparing for his home British grand prix next week – and Germany’s Nico Rosberg – face anything from a reprimand to exclusion from the championship if found guilty.

Lawyer Paul Harris, representing Mercedes, suggested that the International Automobile Federation (FIA) had treated his team in a very different way to Ferrari – who face no action despite both having tested with tyre supplier Pirelli this year.

Mercedes are charged with breaking the rules by using their current car at a 1 000 km tyre test in Barcelona with Pirelli last month and gaining an unfair advantage from it, an accusation which they deny.

Ferrari, who have tested twice previously with Pirell1 including in April just before they won the Spanish Grand Prix at the same circuit, have not been summoned to the tribunal because they used a 2011 car.

“The key differences in treatment are plain,” said Harris, criticising a sporting body run by former Ferrari team boss Jean Todt.

“Ferrari were allowed to rely on a verbal confirmation from Pirelli that authorisation had been achieved but apparently we are condemned for this.

“Ferrari’s dealings with the FIA were non-specific as regards dates, location, names of drivers. They are not criticised but apparently we are,” he added.

“Ferrari was even more involved in the actual testing than we were, they booked and paid for the circuit. [Yet] they are not criticised.”

The lawyer went on to say that Ferrari’s test in 2013 was not just a Pirelli test.

“One can see from the run sheets…that in the middle of the day they were doing their own thing,” he said. “But they are not criticised. They also exceeded the 1 000 kilometres.”

The rules ban teams from testing with a current car, or one from the previous year, during the season but Pirelli is entitled to carry out a number of tyre tests.

Pirelli argue that they are not competitors in the championship and are therefore not subject to the same regulations as teams – which the FIA disputes.

“It was a test or track running by Pirelli,” said Harris. “It wasn’t undertaken by Mercedes, there’s no case.”

Mercedes say that they did not know what tyres were being tested and their drivers used unmarked helmets to avoid unwelcome attention from fans rather than to avoid discovery by rivals.

The FIA’s lawyer Mark Howard had earlier accused Mercedes of breaking the rules and gaining an unfair benefit, a charge made by champions Red Bull who protested with Ferrari when they found out about the test.

He told the four judges and tribunal president Edwin Glasgow that there was little factual dispute in the case.

“There is not much room for doubt that the Mercedes 2013 car was a car covered by the regulations and that the car was subjected to track running time in Barcelona,” he said.

“Track testing is deliberately defined as track running time,” Howard explained. “It is a term used deliberately because it is unambiguous…any running on the track is deemed to be testing.

“It is difficult to say that Mercedes gained no benefit from the test.”

The tribunal heard that Mercedes sporting director Ron Meadows and principal Ross Brawn, both at the hearing, spoke to FIA technical head Charlie Whiting on May 2 to ask whether testing with a 2013 car was permissible.

“What is very odd about all of this is that on the basis of the telephone calls, both Mercedes and Pirelli went ahead without getting back to Mr Whiting and making clear precisely ultimately what they were intending to do,” said Howard.

He added that any authorisation to test should in any case have been sought from the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council and secretary general Pierre de Coninck rather than Whiting – something Mercedes has said that Ferrari did not do either.

Red Bull principal Christian Horner, whose team made a protest against Mercedes at last month’s Monaco Grand Prix, was attending the hearing along with Red Bull chief engineer Paul Monaghan.

Ferrari sent two lawyers while Mercedes-powered McLaren and Williams also sent legal representatives.

The official F1 website has revealed that the verdict will be made on Friday. (Reuters)

Also on the sport’s official site they summarised the day’s proceedings:

  • The FIA reiterated its stance that it had not granted official permission for the test and argued that although FIA race director Charlie Whiting had informed Mercedes that such a test could in theory be possible if all teams were given similar opportunity, this did not constitute agreement. Furthermore, the FIA argued that Pirelli had not invited other teams to participate in the test.
  • In conducting the test “without the knowledge, consent and participation of other competitors,” the FIA argued that Pirelli and Mercedes could have contravened Article 151c of the International Sporting Code, which states that a breach is: “Any fraudulent conduct or any act prejudicial to the interests of any competition or to the interests of motorsport generally.”
  • The FIA clarified that there was no suggestion that Pirelli had breached their contract as Formula One racing’s sole tyre supplier.
  • Mercedes argued that the test had been undertaken by Pirelli and not the team, hence they had not breached Article 22.1 of the sporting regulations which states: “Track testing shall be considered any track running time not part of an Event undertaken by a competitor entered in the Championship…” Pirelli are not a competitor in the championship. Mercedes are.
  • Regarding the use of its 2013 car, Mercedes argued that if this is considered a breach of the regulations, then so should Ferrari’s test with Pirelli earlier this year using a 2011 car, claiming that the changes between a 2011 car and a 2013 car are “miniscule” in terms of performance. Article 22.1 precludes the use of cars “which conform substantially with the current Formula One Technical Regulations in addition to those from the previous or subsequent year.”
  • Similarly, Mercedes argued that if their test had breached the aforementioned Article 151c of the International Sporting Code, then so had Ferrari’s. They also claimed that Ferrari had conducted non-tyre specific work during their Barcelona test and that the Italian team had discussed tyre data from the test with Pirelli.
  • Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn claimed that they could not have benefitted from the test data. Although car telemetry was active during the test for safety reasons, the telemetry data had subsequently been archived on a secure server at the team’s factory to prevent future use. Brawn did concede that there was an unavoidable benefit in using a 2013 car, but said this was “a consideration taken into account when we had permission from the FIA to do the test” and that it needed “to be kept in proportion.”
  • Mercedes admitted that with hindsight it was regrettable that race drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton had used black crash helmets, conceding that it may have added to the air of suspicion surrounding the test. The helmets were used to help avoid security issues.
  • Pirelli argued that as a supplier/third party to the championship they do not fall under the FIA’s jurisdiction for such disciplinary matters, citing the governing body’s ban on former Renault team boss Flavio Briatore, which was overturned by the French courts on the same grounds.
  • In the closing submissions, Mercedes reiterated their assertion that they had not broken the regulations, adding that in contacting Whiting and gaining what they perceived to be FIA approval for the test, they had been careful to ensure they had not breached Article 22.1. Should the IT decide otherwise, Mercedes said that any punishment should be minor since the team had acted in good faith, suggesting that exclusion from some or all of this year’s young driver test could be a suitable sanction.

Subbed by AJN.

  • Shame Mercedes Shame

    Please exclude from the young drivers test because we already have all the data from the 1000KM illegal test we performed.

    Mercedes must be banned from the constructors and drivers championships.

    Mercedes and their drivers know the rules and they chose to break them.

    Shame Mercedes Shame.

    As for Ferrari, I do not like Ferrari but they used a 2011 car which complies with the rules.

  • KevinW

    The 2011 to 2013 car have “miniscule” differences? Are they klidding? 2011 cars used blown diffusers and driver activated rear wing DRS, flexible front wings, and completely different engine mapping for off-throttle behavior, among just a few of the changes. Mybe the junk Merc was building at the time was no different, but for all the others, it was most certainly a different car. Another paradox of this idiotic logic: The 2011 car was designed around tires that performed with no artificial fakery to degrade them – while the 2013 car is designed to work with the crap tires in question and at the core of this test issue. Mercedes cheated intentionally, and are throwing a muddy tantrum in an attempt to deflect blame and save their bacon.

  • Matthias O’keeffe

    @Shame Mercedes Shame

    I think you should be ban from this page..

  • grat

    @KevinW: However, with a quick nose change and new exhaust outlets, you could conceivably run the 2011 Ferrari car under the current regs.

    More importantly, you can’t claim Ferrari wouldn’t learn anything applicable to the current championship by running that car, since the aero rules are essentially unchanged.

    The fact that Ferrari apparently were “in charge” during their test means they broke different rules from Mercedes, but still broke rules (and the 1k km limit).

  • Robert belden

    I think the whole reason is underlying what really happened. Does Pirelli need a current car yes. But, here is my arguement.
    What is the objective of the I season test ban? To keep costs down? While I think that is admirable, I really think it’s about keeping the top teams on the top, middle teams mid pack etc.
    Think about it? Your have silver arrows, prancing horse and sports drink with an unlimited amount of data, and money resources. The best of the best including engineers, technical. So what if a smaller or private team bests them on the podium aka force India, Sauber, Williams? There would be an outrage.
    I don’t see what Mercedes has done wrong, all teams find a way to bend the rules? Remember flexi wings?

  • taz

    if u think mercedes have done no wrong, refer to rules and also all the articles, they clearly broke rule,
    hell if 2013 cars were legal for tests every one would do it,as there they are not mercs broke rule, regardles if they gaind or lost advantage.
    TO BALANCE THE PLAYING FIELD,
    1)allow all teams to use a 2013 spec car
    2)mercedes should get penalty by points or constructers/drivers
    but not a fine as a simple fine for rich teams is worthless

  • KevinW

    No way could you just rip the exhaust off a 2011 car and make it run like a 2013 car. As a refresher: the 2011 Ferrari ran push rod front AND rear suspension, which was changed to pull rod at both ends in 2012. So.. yeah, change the nose, the floor, the entire diffuser system, the exhaust, the rear body work, the side pods, the front and rear suspension and tub to connect them to, the rear wing, the driver initiated DRS, the tire/wheel widths… and you have a red car like 2013… and very little else. In other words Mercs accusation is completely BOGUS! Also, Fernando and Mass had nothing to do with the tests, nor was anyone from the 2013 crew involved… nothing like the Merc test.

  • Steve

    “It was a test or track running by Pirelli,” said Harris. “It wasn’t undertaken by Mercedes, there’s no case.”

    IT WAS undertaken by Mercedes. It was carried out by Mercedes drivers in Mercedes cars supported by Mercedes technical staff. Under what possible definition of “undertaken” was that not “undertaken” by Mercedes?

    Definition of “undertaken” – To take upon oneself; decide or agree to do: To set about; begin.

  • Butterfly 2.0

    Steve,
    if Pirelli were deciding what was to be tested, how many laps to do etc, then it was a Pirelli test. The tyres weren’t this year’s so the data is fairly useless for Mercedes.

    Mercedes provided the test car and technical services, but Pirelli were in charge of the car. I’m sorry you have difficulty accepting this.

  • Butterfly

    Who the hell is Butterfly 2.0?

  • Nicole Scherzinger

    “Who the hell is Butterfly 2.0?”

    Must be the new improved you.

  • realf1fan

    taz, is not the 2013 car an issue if the race was undertaken by Mercedes but if the test was undertaken by Pirelli then the 2013 car cant be an issue under article 22.

    It states that ‘Track testing shall be considered any track running time not part of an Event undertaken by a competitor entered in the Championship, using cars which conform substantially with the current Formula One Technical Regulations in addition to those from the previous or subsequent year.’

    The test was UNDERTAKEN by Pirelli not the F1 competitor Mercedes so i cant see where the 2013 car regs apply .

  • Butterfly

    This is a masterclass in anti-troll tactics. Works like a charm.

    Good job, whoever you are.