Pirelli could suggest safety case for moving 2017 tests to Bahrain

Pirelli could suggest to the FIA switching next year's Formula 1 pre-season tests to Bahrain can be done on the grounds of safety, Autosport understands

Pirelli could suggest safety case for moving 2017 tests to Bahrain

A row has brewed in the F1 paddock over where the two four-day tests should be conducted, with teams torn between Barcelona and Bahrain.

Tyre manufacturer Pirelli insists a test at the Sakhir circuit is vital if it is to understand the new-for-2017 wider tyres in warm-weather conditions.

Pirelli is supported by a number of teams, spearheaded by Mercedes, while in the opposite camp the pro-Barcelona group is led by Red Bull, which claims running in Spain represents a considerable cost saving.

The debate led to a meeting involving FIA Formula 1 race director Charlie Whiting, Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda, Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, along with Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery, in the paddock prior to qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix.

The discussion primarily centred on cost, as well as logistics given the additional expense and time lost on the shipping of parts to Bahrain compared to Barcelona.

Whiting has asked Pirelli to explain the reasons it wants to test in Bahrain in detail, with Hembery now looking at the potential safety implications of entering a new season without any warm-weather validation.

Article 1.2 of the sporting regulations states rules can only be amended after April 1 2016 on safety grounds, with testing outside of Europe only permissible with the unanimous agreement of the teams.

While the construction of the tyre will not be an problem given the exhaustive research using indoor rigs, Pirelli feels there may be a safety case related to the compounding.

Without the required warm-weather running, Pirelli may be unable to assess the rate of blistering and degradation as the compounds - the same hard to ultra-soft range as used now - will alter markedly with the wider tyres.

Without the correct temperatures to assess the compounds, there could then be safety ramifications for all teams and drivers going into the first grand prix in Australia in late March.

While costs are driving the debate- with a figure of around £400,000 being suggested as the difference between heading to Bahrain over Barcelona for a team - it is understood Pirelli is not ready to contribute financially.

Given the estimated £70million Pirelli contributes to F1, as it is also a significant advertiser at every grand prix, the suggestion is that it is not prepared to pump in more money for testing, even though the tests are for its benefit.

Asked by Autosport who should foot the bill for the extra costs of Bahrain testing, Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff said: "It [testing] is still a joint platform between the commercial rights holder, the FIA, the tyre supplier and the teams.

"We need to find a solution that is not detrimental to one party only, and to sit down at a table and say how can we divide those additional costs."

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