Mercedes and Pirelli set for FIA International Tribunal
Mercedes and Pirelli will appear before the FIA’s International Tribunal (IT) in Paris on Thursday morning to answer charges relating to their three-day private tyre test in Barcelona last month.
Mercedes were the subject of a protest from rivals Red Bull and Ferrari at the Monaco Grand Prix after it emerged that the 1000-kilometre test had been run using a 2013 car.
Pirelli’s contract with the FIA as Formula One racing’s official tyre supplier allows for development tests, but use of a current car for in-season testing is illegal under F1 regulations, with the exception of one young driver test and limited straight-line running.
The FIA has already cleared Ferrari of any wrongdoing for the test it participated in with Pirelli in April, as it was conducted using a 2011 car, and now the IT must decide whether Mercedes’ test did indeed breach the regulations.
The FIA has stated that following initial enquiries from Pirelli and Mercedes, it advised that a test with a current car could be possible if all teams were offered the same opportunity. However, it received no subsequent confirmation that such an offer had been made or that the Mercedes test was going ahead.
According to Pirelli, all teams were offered the chance of a test and the use of a 2013 car was the subject of direct discussions between the FIA and Mercedes, whose non-executive chairman Niki Lauda has publically stated that they had permission from the governing body.
Team principal Ross Brawn is expected to be Mercedes’ lead representative at Thursday’s hearing, where they have said they will “welcome the opportunity to explain the full facts of the Pirelli Test in an open and transparent manner”.
Pirelli, whose motorsport director Paul Hembery will attend the hearing, have made it clear that the test focussed exclusively on development of 2014, rather than 2013 tyres and that Mercedes had no knowledge of the specifications used.
However, the IT’s primary concern will be whether the test contravened the F1 sporting regulations, rather than whether Mercedes could have gained any performance benefit from it.
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."
The IT is part of a new judicial system established by the FIA in 2010. Comprising a 12-man panel, its remit includes ruling on cases that cannot be dealt with by race stewards.
Should it find that the regulations have been breached, the IT has various punishments at its disposal: reprimand, fines, obligation to accomplish some work of public interest, time penalty, exclusion, suspension or disqualification. In extreme cases its powers also include the withdrawal of championship points for the season, or a ban on taking part in the championship.
The IT’s decision on the case will be published as soon as possible after the hearing. Any decision can then be appealed at the International Court of Appeal.