Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were given the all-clear for next week’s British Grand Prix on Friday after their Mercedes Formula One team escaped heavy sanctions for a ‘secret’ tyre test with Pirelli.
An international tribunal reprimanded Mercedes and Pirelli for breaking the rules on testing and ordered the British-based team to miss a three-day young driver test scheduled for Silverstone in July.
The verdict, announced by the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) in a statement after a seven-hour hearing in Paris on Thursday, will come as a relief for the team led by Formula One veteran Ross Brawn.
The tribunal had the power to impose a heavy fine, dock points or even ban Mercedes from the world championship – although that was never a likely option for one of the sport’s major players.
Champions Red Bull, who had protested to the FIA at last month’s Monaco Grand Prix when they found out Mercedes had used their current car in the test, had indicated they wanted to see a tough response.
“Usually if you commit a sporting offence there’s a sporting penalty that goes with it,” team principal Christian Horner said after the hearing.
The tribunal ruled in its detailed written verdict that Mercedes had not intended to obtain any unfair sporting advantage by taking part in a tyre test at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya after the Spanish Grand Prix.
Teams are banned from testing during the season but Pirelli, who are sole tyre suppliers and not competitors, are allowed to do so with a representative car.
“Neither Pirelli nor Mercedes acted in bad faith at any material time,” the tribunal said, declaring that both parties had disclosed to the FIA ‘at least the essence’ of what they intended to do and had sought permission.
“Mercedes had no reason to believe that approval had not been given,” it said, finding that FIA technical head Charlie Whiting had acted in good faith after taking advice from the FIA’s own legal department.
Despite that, Mercedes were found to have acted in breach of the rules with the tribunal saying they did gain some material advantage as a result of their test with both 2008 champion Hamilton and subsequent Monaco winner Rosberg on track.
Mercedes, Pirelli and the FIA were ordered to pay a third each of the costs of the investigation and procedure with the FIA paying all their own legal costs.
“We are satisfied with the outcome because it shows the court recognised Pirelli has always acted in good faith,” said a Pirelli F1 spokeswoman.
The young driver test ban was suggested by the team themselves on Thursday as a possible means of redress if the tribunal felt a sanction needed to be imposed.
While it will mean losing out on three useful days of track testing, which is otherwise banned during the season, it will fall hardest on British reserve driver Sam Bird who would otherwise have expected some rare time in the car.
The FIA said in a separate statement that it hoped lessons would be learnt from a case that was the first to be sent to the tribunal, which was set up in 2010 to deal with issues that race stewards were unable to rule on.
“To this end, the FIA will make sure, in association with all F1 teams, that its control of the testings is strengthened,” it added.
Mercedes and Pirelli were reminded of their right to appeal. (Reuters)
International Tribunal Verdict
(Released by FIA on Friday, 21 June 2013)
The following hearing of the International Tribunal took place in Paris on Thursday 20 June 2013. Disciplinary procedure against Mercedes and Pirelli (2013 FIA Formula One World Championship)
Reminder of the facts
On 5 June 2013, further to protests lodged during the 2013 Monaco GP by Red Bull Racing and Ferrari Scuderia Team against cars n°9 and 10 (Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team) for having conducted with Pirelli a three day tyre testing using a 2013 car on 15, 16 and 17 May in Barcelona, the President of the FIA, acting as the FIA Prosecuting Body, sent to the President of the International Tribunal a notification of charges against Pirelli and a notification of charges against Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team.
On 5 June 2013, Pirelli and Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team have been convened by the President of the International Tribunal to appear before a judging panel of the International Tribunal.
Decision of the International Tribunal
The Tribunal, after having heard the parties and examined their submissions, decided that:
- Mercedes be reprimanded;
- Mercedes be suspended from participating in the forthcoming “three day young driver training test”;
- Pirelli be reprimanded.
- and rejected all other and further conclusions.
The International Tribunal was presided over by Mr Edwin GLASGOW QC (Great Britain), and included Mr Christy HARRIS (United States), Mr Patrick RAEDERSDORF (Switzerland) and Mr Anthony SCOTT ANDREWS (Great Britain).
FIA press release after the tribunal released Friday in the wake of the verdict:
The FIA duly notes the decision handed down today by the FIA International Tribunal against Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team and Pirelli Tyres.
This decision follows (i) the disciplinary proceedings instigated by the FIA, on the basis in particular of the report by the Stewards of the Monaco Grand Prix, forwarded to the FIA following the two protests made by Scuderia Ferrari Team and Red Bull Racing respectively, and (ii) the hearing that took place yesterday before the International Tribunal with the participation of all the parties concerned.
The FIA wishes that lessons are learnt from this case and from the decision handed down. To this end, the FIA will make sure, in association with all F1 teams, that its control of the testings is strengthened.
It is recalled that the notification of the FIA International Tribunal’s decision opens to each of the parties concerned the possibility of bringing an appeal against this decision before the FIA International Court of Appeal within 7 days.