Mercedes rivals considering protest over ‘tyre test’

2013 Monaco Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Cataunya, Barcelona, 2013The team which occupies the front row of the grid for today’s Monaco Grand Prix is at the centre of a technical row ahead of the race.

Mercedes’ rivals believe they infringed Formula One’s testing rules by covering 1,000km in a three-day test at the Circuit de Catalunya following the Spanish Grand Prix.

Autosport claim Mercedes believe the test was legal as Formula One’s official tyre supplier Pirelli is allowed to conduct a test with one of the teams if it deems it necessary.

Pirelli has been under pressure to change its tyre compounds due to the high degradation seen at some races as well as a spate of tyre delaminations. Mercedes have been trying to understand why their car’s race performance is much worse than it’s one-lap pace in qualifying.

Formula One teams are banned from conducting testing during the racing season. But Mercedes’s non-executive chairman Niki Lauda says the team obtained permission from the sport’s governing body:

“It is very simple. We were asked by Pirelli, Mercedes. We asked the FIA are we allowed to do this. The FIA confirmed it and said ‘yes’ so therefore we did the test. I think other teams have been asked too.”

“There was one team that tested earlier. These tests can always come in cases of emergency. So Mercedes did absolutely nothing wrong. We asked the right people for permission and we got it.”

Article 22.4h of the Sporting Regulations states no track testing may take place “between the start of a ten day period which precedes the start of the first event of the championship and 31 December of the same year”.

The rule gives two exception to that limit:

“One three day young driver training test carried out on a date and site approved by the FIA following consultation with all teams. No driver who has competed in more than two F1 world championship races may take part in this test and all drivers must be in possession of an International A Licence.

“Four one day aerodynamic tests carried out on FIA approved straight line or constant radius sites between 1 February of the current year and the start of the last event of the championship. Any of these days may be substituted for four hours of wind-on full scale wind tunnel testing to be carried out in a single twenty four hour period.”

Last year’s Monaco Grand Prix pole sitter was also involved in a technical row ahead of the race. Red Bull were accused of infringing the rules with the design of their car’s floor.

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    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    82 comments on “Mercedes rivals considering protest over ‘tyre test’”

    1. Now we know why Mercedes did not make noise about the tyres :D

        1. I have to say, on the whole, if Pirelli needed a team to test , Merc isn’ t the worst choice if they need a competitive car, as they are one of the, if not, the fastest, yet aren’t featuring much in either the WDC or the WCC.

          After all, they are clearly behind Red Bull, Ferrari and Lotus there – taking one of those teams would seriously impact the WDC directly; any midfield team (McLaren getting back on top due to a test??) wouldn’t be much better in terms of turmoil, but would not provide as much information, I think.

          Now we know this happened before, what team is a) not making noise about this, or b) just being a bit of a hypocrite?

          1. I do think that the way this went isn’t the best way, doing it in secret etc, but that’s F1, I suppose: if you talk about it, the test wouldn’t have happened before Canada, most likely ;)

          2. @bosyber Apparently the other team which got to test was Ferrari after Bahrain.

            1. But if Ferrari was the other team doing the testing, why are they protesting against Mercerdes’s case almost as much as Red Bull? It sounds strange.

            2. Wow if that is true @keithcollantine, and I just heard that also on skyf1, I can’t see Ferrari having a leg to stand on; with Lotus not willing to get loud about it, it would only be Red Bull, and they have been protesting tyre related things a bit much despite leading WDC and WCC. Nice little row inF1!

            3. @dragon88 @bosyber

              The article doesn’t mention Ferrari, it just says rival teams, meaning others.

            4. @ivano, SkyF1 just mentioned Ferrari as apparently being the “other team” though.

            5. @Ivano – The last link Keith posted talks about rumours saying that Ferrari conducted a similar test after the Bahrain GP. Sky F1 UK have also mentioned it.
              But it is only a rumour at the moment.

              What I find strange if the rumour is found to be true is that Ferrari is protesting against Mercedes; why would they do that if they did the very same thing a couple of months ago?

            6. It’s official – Red Bull are protesting:

              Red Bull protest Mercedes over Barcelona tyre test

          3. Red Bull and Ferrari are protesting.

            It has been confirmed that Ferrari did take part into a similar testing session after Bahrain, but they used their 2010 car, whilst Mercedes used their 2013 car. And that’s exactly what Red Bull and Ferrari think goes against the in-season testing ban.

            1. The information I gave comes from here, by the way.
              Red Bull and Ferrari protest over secret F1 tyre test

        2. firstLapNutcaseGrosjean (@)
          26th May 2013, 11:50

          Why Pirelli need a test, if they can’t change the tyres during the season?! Do the test after the season is finished, and change tyres for next year. And you can’t say it’s for safety, because nobody will belive that. You can’t say that nothing happened after only Merc will do 1000KM test! Who is behind all this?? Who’s trying Pirelly to satisfy, for a signatue on a contract? Change tyres, to advantage other teams, do tests only for one team….this is ********!

          1. firstLapNutcaseGrosjean (@)
            26th May 2013, 12:00

            Ohh..they already did. Now I see. For this, I think Pirelli should not continue for next year, because no F1 fan will trust them anymore. So what will happen if Merc will do a 1-2 in Monaco, after they finished 6, 12 last race, but with a little test of..I don’t know…1000KM, between the two races?

            1. It’s not Pirelli’s fault, though. Their contract says they are allowed to do private testing.

    2. So if this test happened, it’s technically not against the regulations as it was deemed to be, in effect, an emergency test to evaluate tyres?

      If that’s the case, why did Pirelli run the test with one of the competing teams? Why wouldn’t they use one of their very own chassis available to them? Why wouldn’t they have been transparent about running the test if they really felt it was critical to test out these potential new compounds?

      A lot of questions arising from this.

      1. In an interview at Barcelona, Paul Hembery said they didn’t have a car to test the tyres on, a car that is not as old as theirs, this could have been the reason for that test probably

        1. The controversy is why Mercedes and why not a Marussia/Catreham?? and as now Helmut Marko will say: “This is not racing”

          1. Probably because Mercedes sucks more at preserving tyres

            1. Nah, with Niki Lauda’s plentiful tears were simply the cheapest way to wet the track for testing inters. ;-)

      2. @magnificent-geoffrey

        it’s technically not against the regulations as it was deemed to be, in effect, an emergency test to evaluate tyres?

        That’s what they say, although I’m not clear where that allowance is made in the rules.

        1. If either party is found to be at fault, What sort of punishments will be handed out??

          1. @sonkky I don’t believe any team has broken the testing restriction before, so this is new territory as far as any sanction is concerned. It would have to be pretty tough for it to be meaningful.

            1. @keithcollantine I read on Autosport that they believe its within their contract, so not a rule.

        2. @keithcollantine According to an interview with Horner, there’s a conflict – The contractual agreement with Pirelli says they can call upon a team to conduct one test in exceptional circumstances, while the sporting regulations explicitly prohibit teams from taking part in such a test. So if that’s accurate, Mercedes have breached the sporting regulations – it’s just a case of working out whether the Pirelli contract can take precedence over the sporting regs. How that’ll pan out is anyone’s guess, but you can’t imagine many teams coming down on the side of Mercedes. Especially in light of the fact it was clearly kept secret rather than being conducted transparently and in full knowledge of all other teams.

          1. Although it’s worth pointing out that there’s no way the test could have happened without the FIA knowing about it. If they were complicit then you would have thought they would already have made the judgement that the test was acceptable in their eyes.

        3. I dont think anything has to be written on paper to see that this gives unfair advantage to a team, which is in my opinion, against the sports interest.

          Imagine that 400m sprint race, where one runner is alloved to use dope because his running shoes are not really good.

          1. A better analogy would be –

            Imagine a 100m sprint race, where one runner is alloved to use fake spring legs because his own legs were not any good. Oh wait…..that happened already.

            1. Anele (@anele-mbethe)
              26th May 2013, 13:04

              that’s a disgusting comment and analogy.Oscar lost his legs before his second birthday

            2. Anele (@anele-mbethe)
              26th May 2013, 15:49

              @kbdavies. we went to the same high school also

          2. That’s a rather weak analogy. You’ve basically just said ‘this is cheating, and to prove it, imagine another situation where someone cheated’. There is no direct parallel between this situation and one you tie it to.

            If you really wanted to use athletics, then this is like a world where training is banned in the last 3 months before the Olympics, but 1 runner tests out some new shoes with the official clothing provider, after checking with the governing body that this is OK.

      3. “Why wouldn’t they use one of their very own chassis available to them?”
        Probably because the car they usually use is 3 years old and the problems the teams are experiencing today don’t show up with that car. It makes perfect sense to use a “modern” car to test if the fixes work. And it makes perfect sense to test with a car that chews tyres up more quickly than others.

        I’m not saying that it is morally correct just saying it makes sense from Pirelli’s perspective.

        1. I think that’s a fair point.

    3. Well, they will win Monaco easily then……

    4. This is the Funniest thing I have ever heard:

      A Formula 1 car ran for three days in Barcelona and No one came to know about it… Not even a single Media person was literate to this situation.. Extraordinary/Unheard of in 21st Century

      1. It is peculiar, the whole logistics, the Mercedes trucks, the people wearing team shirts and staying at a hotel they should have vacated, potentially a well known driver and a very noisy silver car pounding round a circuit. How on earth did this go unnoticed? Aside from the running of the car, it is not particularly surprising that if Pirelli wanted to some running that Mercedes did the running, given that it was probable that the most politically aligned with the FIA and FOMs ideology would get the job: Mercedes or Ferrari.

      2. It’s all PR and publicity, they were waiting for the Monaco GP the probably most watched race of the year, with the media and all at the race to get this information out to the public and their protest to be heard

    5. ***? I hope they, Mercedes & Pirelli, get dinged big time.

      And if the rules allow for this, one can only hope for Pirelli to leave the sport by this years end, cause they have clearly shown a lack of judgement that baffles the mind.

    6. Surely for something like this you let all the teams test or none. I’m sick of this tyre nonsense already and we’re only a quarter of the way through the season.

    7. If it’s perfectly legal, why was it kept secret? And why was a competitive team chosen for the test, potentially giving them an unfair advantage over other teams?

      Not sure where this rule is allowing Pirelli to conduct in-season tests with current cars. The regulations banning in-season testing are pretty clear.

    8. Well, so long Pirelli.

    9. Sounds dodgy as

      1. Do you know what also sounds dodgy? The claims of “this is dodgy!”.

        The other teams are naturally going to try and make this out to be some kind of shady illegal test, no doubt to try and get their own private test to understand the tyres. But there is no way this test could have taken place without the FIA’s knowledge, and the Autosport article makes it pretty clear that this extraordinary test was legal.

        1. @prisoner-monkeys

          Pirelli and Mercedes have already done a great job of making it look dodgy, by trying to keep it secret. If it’s all above board and within the rules then why was it not done transparently and in full knowledge of all the other teams? If I was a rival team principle I’d want to understand why that was the case, and by what criteria Pirelli judged that Mercedes were the most appropriate team to conduct the test.

          This is what seems dodgy – even if it’s within the rules, there are lots of questions over how this was conducted, and why it was done in the way it was. I can totally understand why the other teams are angry about it, irrespective of any questions of trying to gain an advantage by protesting anything that looks even remotely questionable. There are clearly very strong grounds for a grievance.

          1. If there is nothing in the rules that says Pirelli are obligated to inform the other teams if and when they choose to use their extraordinary test, then they do not have to tell the other teams. It is likely that whatever data they gathered would have been passed onto the other teams when the revised compounds that were planned for Canada were to be introduced. However, the FIA shot that down before the data could be used – which is what the likes of Red Bull are conveniently choosing to forget. How did they think Pirelli were going to get data for their revised compounds? The point has been raised that Pirelli’s tyres are being developed on a chassis three years out of date. With teams introducing extensive upgrades five races into the 2013 season, it stands to reason that Pirelli wanted the data from the most up-to-date version of a 2013 car. Red Bull are just upset that they didn’t get to have the test themselves.

            1. @prisoner-monkeys

              Again though, it’s just another example of F1 shooting itself in the foot with its complete lack of clarity. Maybe Pirelli aren’t obligated to inform the other teams, but even if they’re not you can surely see why not informing other teams would cause problems.

              And I’m completely and utterly sick of the total non-argument that teams only ever complain because they’re jealous that they’re not the ones who got an advantage. Teams spend hundreds of millions on developing competitive cars, making sponsorship deals where income is dependent on performance. Based on the assumption that they are competing in a fair environment – a test which gives one team an exclusive advantage over its rivals (and only a fool would try to suggest that a team could do 1000km of testing and not gain an advantage from it..) runs utterly contrary to the idea of fair competition. In the interests of preserving the sporting integrity of F1, these things must surely be transparent. Otherwise it brings the competition into disrepute.

              Regardless whether it’s within the rules or not, the fact is this sort of thing IS highly questionable, and I’d say that any team is well within its rights to raise concerns about it. Just because Red Bull are the ones whose championship efforts are being harmed by this, doesn’t automatically invalidate their argument that it’s an unfair situation.

    10. Gotta love F1. Never a day without controversy.

    11. This really is a consequence of the teams’ continued reluctance to agree to an in-season test. How are Pirelli expected to develop tyres and and address problems on a test car that’s three years out of date and doesn’t behave in the same way as a current F1 car?

      I can totally understand the frustration on the part of Pirelli – they’re not able to test on current machinery, so when they develop tyres it’s based on a ‘best guess’ of how the cars are going to perform. And the teams then moan that the tyres are no good and don’t work on their cars. The answer seems very clear – have at least one in-season test involving all teams, where current and next year’s tyres can be evaluated and developed properly. Testing certainly shouldn’t be limited to four hours on a GP weekend where the teams will be evaluating a raft of update parts, alongside trying to get the car set up for the track.

      And while this remains the case, it doesn’t matter who supplies the tyres, this problem won’t go away.

      1. This really is a consequence of the teams’ continued reluctance to agree to an in-season test. How are Pirelli expected to develop tyres and and address problems on a test car that’s three years out of date and doesn’t behave in the same way as a current F1 car?

        Exactly that @mazdachris

    12. So why was this not mentioned the second someone found out, rather than hours before a race?

    13. As Keith pointed out, Autosport also say that Pirelli are allowed to conduct emergency tests with one of the teams if they feel it is necessary. However, no one can point to this rule in the sporting regulations it seems.

      The key issue for me here is transparency: If Pirelli are allowed to do it, why didn’t they say they were doing it, tell everyone how it went and how they settled on doing the test wuth Mercedes.

    14. Lauda says test was discussed with a lawyer. They didn’t know they drove the Canada spec


    15. In a funnier note, I thought it would be better that we would found it out if Hamilton would have tweeted it…

        1. If it was just a tyre test, why would they need to run it with Hamilton and Rosberg driving? Surely Pirelli and Mercedes could have come to some agreement to run a driver with recent experience who isn’t aligned to any particular team to make the test more neutral.

          Another question that needs to be answered is was Mercede’s engineers logging data from the test?

          The fact it seemed secret until now, certainly raises eyebrows.

    16. This is outrageous, if Pirelli really has a special rule that allows it to conduct an ’emergency’ test with one of the teams, this is not in the good spirit on the ban of in-season testing. Does anyone now what kind of tyres where tested? Pre or post Canada tyres?

      1. @force-maikel seems like the Canada-spec tyres…

      2. That makes the situation even more outrageous!!!

      3. I agree thoroughly.

      4. Apparently they were testing mostly different options that may or may not be used in their 2014 tyres (if Pirelli get a contract for next year, that is).
        Pirelli claim only 10% of the testing was dedicated to the tweaks to be introduced in Canada.

        They also claim that Mercedes did not know what kind of tyres they were testing and, as they tried different things, they would have got no advantage through the testing session.

        I do think that, since they didn’t know what sort of tyre they were actually testing, they wouldn’t have got a MASSIVE advantage. But they are still Pirelli tyres, so I think Mercedes would have gathered important information about how to treat them.

        1. Any advantage is still competition forgery in my view

          1. I definitely agree there.

    17. who was driving? that’s what I’d like to know…

      1. If not the drivers, I reckon Sam Bird or Brendon Hartley

    18. It doesn’t matter who team concerned is – or whether there have been other teams before.
      This is just silly.

      The FIA sets a rule that in-season testing is banned (except straight line testing) and then gives Pirelli the chance to ask teams for private testing. Can’t they see that the two rules completely clash with each other?

    19. The least you can call this (legal or not) is competition forgery!

    20. If Mercedez improves a lot today we know they gained an unfair advantage due to the test

      1. Not necessarily. Monaco is always quite kind on the tyres, so it’s normal that Mercedes will be able to hand their tyres better (much better) than they did in Barcelona.

      2. *handle their tyres.

    21. So why didn’t Red Bull think of this?

    22. Gets me as to why everyone is moaning at Mercedes for doing it.. Mercedes were asked by Pirelli. You telling me that if they had asked any of the other teams they’d have said ‘no’

      I didn’t think so.

    23. So a Penalty in the making???

      1. Unlikely, given the FIA approved the testing.

    24. It seems clear that having the test been allowed by FIA, no penalty will be given. Why was it kept secret and only offered to Merc?
      If the Mercs perform well today then the championship has clearly and artificially been altered, there will be big protests from other teams, media and fans and the FIA will have to book Montmeló again for the rest of the geams to test

    25. Redbull have confirmed they have officially launched a protest.

    26. The other interesting point about this is that while Pirelli are saying publically that the FIA is running out of time to give them a contract for next year, they’ve clearly started developing tyres for next year. Which doesn’t seem like the actions of a company who are imminently about to announce their retirement from the sport, does it..

    27. PIRELLI, making tyres designed to team specs since 2011!!

      Really disgusting. People can criticize Bridgestone for producing “boring” races but every team knew the product and Bridgestone didn´t behave like Pirelli has. This is utterly frustrating!!

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