Mercedes, Pirelli AND FIA Share Blame
Mercedes and Pirelli have both been reprimanded over their private tyre test in Spain, with the former also having to miss the upcoming three-day Young Drivers’ Test to off-set any advantage gained. However, the twist to the findings is that the FIA have also been found partially culpable due to the communications with Charlie Whiting and the FIA’s legal department.
The International Tribunal made four key findings:
The track testing, which is the subject of these proceedings, was not carried out by Pirelli and/or Mercedes with the intention that Mercedes should obtain any unfair sporting advantage.
Neither Pirelli nor Mercedes acted in bad faith at any material time.
Both Pirelli and Mercedes disclosed to FIA at least the essence of what they intended to do in relation to the test and attempted to obtain permission for it; and Mercedes had no reason to believe that approval had not been given.
The actions taken on behalf of FIA by Charlie Whiting (having taken advice from the legal department of FIA) were taken in good faith and with the intention of assisting the parties and consistent with sporting fairness.
The Tribunal agreed that Mercedes did break the rules about running current cars. However, it also noted that the FIA expressed its qualified approval for the test, although pointed out that neither Mercedes or Pirelli took adequate steps to ensure those qualifications were met, with the onus being on Pirelli in particular to ensure that the other teams were consulted. Despite that, it is clear that Mercedes would not have conducted the test without the FIA’s indication that it was possible.
It was agreed that Mercedes did gain some advantage from the test and in order to offset that they will not be able to run in the Young Drivers’ Test at Silverstone on 17-19th July. In theory, Mercedes should lose out as the Barcelona test was focussed on tyre assessment, particularly tyres for 2014, whereas the Silverstone test will be entirely in Mercedes control. It may be billed as an opportunity for young and upcoming drivers but the reality is that the teams will be testing upgrades and new developments. However, a very wet three days could leave people thinking Mercedes got off very lightly.
It is the FIA’s role in the scandal that has come under closer scrutiny over the course of the meeting, however. Notably, the indication that testing with a current car was possible subject to certain provisos probably should never have ever been given. The Tribunal has thus acknowledged these failings by splitting the costs of the investigations equally between the three parties. Indeed, perhaps the only positive to have come out of the entire saga has been the International Tribunal itself which has come across as a fair minded organisation, which has looked at all the facts which proved to be far from black and white as Mercedes simply going testing when they shouldn’t have.
Whether the story ends here, though, remains to be seen: Mercedes’ accusations about Ferrari’s involvement in testing with Pirelli may need to be looked at, although only the lawyers will benefit from the FIA doing so. All-in-all, though, I wonder if Red Bull and Ferrari may now feel they should have kept quiet and dealt with it in-house.