As the 2013 Formula One season has progressed, all eyes have been drawn to off track developments. Tyre controversy has been at the forefront of every race as the Pirelli compound has been discussed extensively by most teams.
Photo: F1 Fansite
Pirelli, then, considered it highly important to conduct tests with the teams in order to resolve the problems with tyre degradation and delamination that have been plaguing the sport this year.
This led to Pirelli and Mercedes facing an international tribunal with the FIA after partaking in a test deemed illegal by both Red Bull and Ferrari, who protested after the supposedly secret test was revealed.
Mercedes took part in the test after the Spanish Grand Prix using their current 2013 car and their current drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Despite Mercedes protesting that it was Pirelli’s test and not their own, other teams saw it as a clear breach of sporting regulations.
Formula One rules allow teams to test their cars, but only before the first grand prix takes place. Otherwise, in-season testing is banned for current cars and drivers. The exception to this rule is young driver tests, where drivers who have partaken in less than two grand prix events, can take part in testing. Therefore, with Mercedes using their current car at this ‘secret test’, their current drivers will have gained extra data and would have provided them with more testing time than their competitors. Was it really just a pure coincidence that Rosberg won the Monaco Grand Prix, the race that directly followed their test?
Mercedes have repeatedly stated that as the test was not conducted by the team, and Pirelli requested them to take part. They argued they should face no penalty, particularly as they were apparently given permission from FIA race director Charlie Whiting to use their current car. Despite them breaking article 22.4 of the FIA sporting regulations the tribunal confirmed that no ‘unfair sporting advantage’ was gained by Mercedes.
Both Mercedes and Pirelli clearly got off very lightly – both were reprimanded by the FIA and Mercedes have been banned from the young driver tests this season. As Mercedes and Pirelli both stand as huge financially successful companies, and with talk of suing floating around, maybe the FIA decided a lighter punishment was the best course of action.
The matter remains now whether Mercedes have learnt enough from the test to excel this season. With the tribunal over, maybe the focus can come back to the racing on track rather than the allegations surrounding it.