Mercedes test row: rules not details key to Paris hearing

Ever since news of the Mercedes secret tyre test first emerged on the morning of the Monaco Grand Prix, Formula 1 has been obsessed with the details of the case

Mercedes test row: rules not details key to Paris hearing

But debate about whether it was private or secret, just how many kilometres the team did on 2013 rubber, and why its drivers ran in unbranded helmets will become largely irrelevant on Thursday.

Instead, when the FIA's International Tribunal opens for session at 9:30 local time in Paris, Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn and Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery will be cross-examined to find out simply whether or not the rules have been breached.

WHAT THE RULES SAY

The Mercedes test case revolves around a three-day 1000 kilometre tyre test that the team did for Pirelli with its 2013 car in the week after the Spanish Grand Prix.

F1's Sporting Regulations appears to be fairly clear in defining that such running of a current design is not allowed.

Article 22.1 states: "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."

It furthermore clarifies that no track testing can take place in a period that spans 10 days before the start of the first race of the season and December 31.

The only exception is the young driver test, four one-day aerodynamic tests at straight line or constant radius sites, or in cases where a replacement driver needs some emergency mileage to get up to speed.

While it appears that Mercedes' running of its W04 is a straightforward breach of the rules, the matter is complicated by clauses in the supplier contract that Pirelli has with the FIA.

In it, Pirelli is allowed to conduct 1000 kilometre tests with current teams using a 'representative' car.

Although it is believed that there is no strict definition of what a representative car is, equally there is nothing that states a representative car cannot be from the current campaign.

The crux of Mercedes' defence will therefore revolve around whether or not Pirelli's right to run a representative car in its three-year old contract supersedes what is stated in the current Sporting Regulations.

Mercedes will certainly have sought permission from the FIA about running a 2013 car - and would not have been brazen enough to take a chance on such an obvious breach of the rules if it did not believe it was allowed to do so.

But believing you are within the rules, and actually being within them, are two completely separate things. For even if you do not intend to break the rules, that does not stop you being punished if you are found guilty of breaking them.

WHAT WILL THE TRIBUNAL LOOK FOR

The International Tribunal has already received written submissions from Mercedes, Pirelli and the FIA over the matter.

Its mandate to work out whether or not the rules were broken will revolve around the correspondence between the three interested parties - and questioning of the main parties in the Paris hearing.

What took place at the test is of little consequence, for it is the simple use of the 2013 car itself - not what it did - that really matters.

Predicting how deep the investigation needs to delve into the lines of communication between Mercedes, Pirelli and the FIA will ultimately depend on just how much debate there was about using a 2013 car, and how clear each party was about the others' intentions.

Was, for example, any FIA approval on the basis that every other team had been offered such a test, so in theory unanimous support was forthcoming for a future rule change?

Or was it explicit that the FIA's legal interpretation was Pirelli's contract supersedes the rules, so there was no question that running a 2013 car was allowed?

Then, once the FIA's stance has been clarified, the IT will need to look at whether Mercedes' use of a 2013 was a blatant bid to cheat - as some of its rivals have all but suggested - or simply an unwilling transgression made in good faith.

Only then can a ruling be made on what - if any - punishment should be handed down.

shares
comments
Gonzalez: Ferrari's first F1 winner
Previous article

Gonzalez: Ferrari's first F1 winner

Next article

Mercedes test row: how the International Tribunal works

Mercedes test row: how the International Tribunal works
The five factors that won Sainz a British GP he’d twice lost Plus

The five factors that won Sainz a British GP he’d twice lost

Formula 1 has a newest race winner, in a grand prix the victor appeared to have lost twice, only to charge back to headline a sensational and dramatic British Grand Prix. From a massive start crash to a late sprint finish, here’s how five factors saw Carlos Sainz take his maiden grand prix win

Why there was no case to answer in Aston’s latest F1 copycat saga Plus

Why there was no case to answer in Aston’s latest F1 copycat saga

The appearance of a revised Aston Martin in Spain caused controversy but PAT SYMONDS explains why the FIA investigation found the Silverstone team had no case to answer

Formula 1
Jul 3, 2022
Why it's Red Bull that really leads a three-way fight so far at Silverstone Plus

Why it's Red Bull that really leads a three-way fight so far at Silverstone

After a slow start to Friday at Silverstone, all the Formula 1 teams had to effectively cram in a day’s worth of practice into one hour. But there was still plenty to learn and while Ferrari topped the times, a three-way battle is brewing ahead of the British Grand Prix

Formula 1
Jul 2, 2022
Why the future is bright for the British GP Plus

Why the future is bright for the British GP

It wasn’t so long ago the situation looked bleak at Silverstone with the future of the British Grand Prix under threat. But a transformation has seen it restored to one of the most important races on the Formula 1 calendar, with bigger and better to come

Formula 1
Jul 1, 2022
Could mixed fortunes for F1's leading Brits turn around at Silverstone? Plus

Could mixed fortunes for F1's leading Brits turn around at Silverstone?

For the first time in many years, none of the local racers starts among the favourites for the British Grand Prix. But George Russell, Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris could have reasons for optimism

Formula 1
Jun 30, 2022
Verstappen exclusive: Why F1’s champion isn’t fazed by Silverstone return Plus

Verstappen exclusive: Why F1’s champion isn’t fazed by Silverstone return

Max Verstappen is the world’s number one racing driver… and he’s determined to keep it that way. Speaking exclusively to GP Racing's OLEG KARPOV, the Red Bull driver explains why he’s relishing the 2022 championship battle with Charles Leclerc – and why he’s not worried about returning to Silverstone, the scene of the biggest accident of his career last year

Formula 1
Jun 30, 2022
Why Red Bull’s RB17 hypercar can help its F1 team Plus

Why Red Bull’s RB17 hypercar can help its F1 team

On Tuesday, Red Bull laid out its plans to develop and build a new hypercar - the RB17 - penned by Adrian Newey. As the project itself sates Newey as a creative outlet, it also offers Red Bull's Formula 1 team a number of new and exciting avenues to pursue

Formula 1
Jun 29, 2022
What to expect from Mercedes as F1 returns to Silverstone Plus

What to expect from Mercedes as F1 returns to Silverstone

OPINION: The British Grand Prix is a home event for Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, with their Mercedes team based just a few miles away too. But there’s another reason why the Silver Arrows squad is eager to arrive at Silverstone this weekend, which may help it fix its remaining problems with its 2022 Formula 1 challenger

Formula 1
Jun 29, 2022