Mercedes could have gained an advantage in the design of next year's car by being able to get a first taste of Pirelli's 2014 tyres, reckons Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn.
Ahead of an FIA International Tribunal hearing into whether or not Mercedes breached the rules in running its 2013 car for a recent Pirelli test, Kaltenborn suggests that the benefits for the Brackley-based outfit could go beyond this year.
"From the facts that we have heard in the media, they were testing 2014 tyres," said Kaltenborn.
"So if you get an idea of 2014 tyres, even if they are maybe developed later on, you at least have some basic knowledge which the others don't have.
"And if you have experts with all those sensors, then you cannot exclude at least that you will not gain some benefit from there and know at least what you shouldn't be doing - which is also a benefit.
"None of us can assess how much and how big the advantage is for next year's car, because we are all at a very critical time of developing our car.
"A lot of decisions have to be made now in to what direction you want to go, and you have to define certain layouts and concepts of the car. And we all can simply not assess it, but nobody can deny that there could be an advantage."
Kaltenborn suggests that it will be important for the FIA to define what advantage Mercedes did gain from the test, as it may not be immediately obvious as to what exactly what learned.
"It is often so difficult to prove how much is a performance gain really linked to one specific test," she said. "Sometimes you see something and you come to another idea of that, and you can never prove these things really.
"But the other point which is equally if not more important: could they have any advantage for the future because this is such a decisive time of where you are with your new car?
"You maybe get some direction from testing new tyres for next year and you know in which direction you should be going. None of us can assess sitting here, what advantage you might have or not."