Rosberg says race drivers did test for Pirelli’s benefit

2013 Canadian Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by

Nico Rosberg said the reason Mercedes used its race drivers during its disputed test for Pirelli was to provide better feedback for the tyre manufacturer.

Ferrari used Pedro de la Rosa instead of Fernando Alonso or Felipe Massa for their similar test which was conducted with a two-year-old car.

Asked why Mercedes did not turn to Sam Bird, who had performed other tests for them, instead of their race drivers, Rosberg said: “I don’t know, that was what the team decided.”

“I think also for Pirelli it’s better if we’re in the car because it’s more representative because Sam doesn’t drive much so for sure he won’t be able to go on our pace and bring the Pirellis through the laps exactly as we would without the experience of the Grand Prix that we car, also.”

“So definitely for Pirelli it’s an advantage to have us in the car I would say, yeah.”

However when asked why he and team mate Lewis Hamilton used “anonymous” helmets during the test Rosberg said “I don’t want to comment on it.”

The Monaco Grand Prix winner expects this weekend’s race to be strongly influenced by tyre performance again: “It will definitely be one of the key aspects of the weekend.”

“We have the super soft again here, degradation is going to be an issue and possible that’s going to be the decider to who wins the race – who has the best control over that.”

Mercedes and Ferrari Pirelli tyre test row

    Browse all Mercedes and Ferrari Pirelli tyre test row articles

    Image © Daimler/Hoch Zwei

    Author information

    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...

    Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

    47 comments on “Rosberg says race drivers did test for Pirelli’s benefit”

    1. Why Mercedes takes joke of us?

      1. @aandrewaa
        exactly my feelings

        If Rosberg would have answered that he had “no comments” for the tests…it would have been much more respectable…with this he is not only a liar, but also pretend that whoever is in the other part is stupid…

    2. However when asked why he and team mate Lewis Hamilton used “anonymous” helmets during the test Rosberg said “I don’t want to comment on it.”

      I didn’t know that yet. Any more details on this?

      1. That is indeed interesting. But I’m assuming that the Mercedes trucks and the cars were not painted beige and that Brawn was not wearing a rubber Margaret Thatcher Halloween mask. So it seems like a silly tidbit.

        But more to the point, this is why you don’t have your drivers, or your caterer, or anyone else not involved in the case yakking about it in the press. It’s time for every one of them to shut up because every one of these comments are going to be deployed at the tribunal. Bad crisis management.

        1. +1 @dmw
          Every business in a crisis situation should listen to their crisis management or PR team to be professional and of one voice in dealing with the situation. There are ways to respond to inevitable questions from the media without sounding like a coverup is going on. Rosberg’s response should have been something like – The team has requested all questions regarding this matter be referred to them. My focus right now is on the upcoming race weekend.

          The individuals of the Mercedes team are all over the place with their chatting now. Instead of coming off like they have nothing to hide, they sound guilty when the response turns to – “No comment.”

          Oh, and thanks a lot. It will be difficult to get that Ross Brawn in a Margaret Thatcher mask out of my head. LOL

      2. It was coming from a well-known Italian journalist. How the test went from the Spanish grand prix race day, etc.
        The story was quite bizarre to believe at face value. Now who knows how much truth is in that report.

        1. Using Google Translate, I may not get it fully, but this blogpost seems to be pure speculation rather than facts.

          1. I can help with the translation. After his intro the journalist asks how on earth the test could have taken place without anybody being aware. According to an off-the-record source, this is what happened:
            On the Sunday evening of the Spanish GP the team behaves like everybody else. They pack up and the trucks leave, supposedly for Brackley. Having left the circuit, however, the trucks change direction and head for the Costa Brava, about an hour away. The mechanics and engineers hang around there like tourists, as bringing the test team from the UK would arouse suspicion. Unfortunately track rules dictate that marshals, an ambulance and a helicopter need to be present at testing. However, the circuit receives an offer it cannot refuse from Stuttgart – triple rates for the hire of the circuit, the regular staff to go on paid holiday and Mercedes to provide and pay for the safety measures itself. With all this in place a truck without any markings arrives (he doesn’t say where), the 2013 F1 Merc is placed inside and only at that point do the official trucks return to the UK. Hamilton and Rosberg are summoned via mail (email, I presume) but told not to bring their race suits or their helmets. They will drive with zero identification, so any nosy observer might think it was (here the journalist speculates) an advertising shoot or something similar. According to some sources Michael Schumacher may have been invited to the test by Brawn, but there’s no information on whether he might have taken to the track. The penny dropped when Rosberg and Hamilton were asked in Montecarlo on what basis they felt Mercedes had sorted out the suspension problems which had eaten their tyres in Spain…
            …and the rest we know.

            Only a rough translation, but hope this helps!

            1. Was this off-the-record source not aware that test teams were scrapped four years ago when the ban on in-season testing was introduced?

              Smells a bit fishy to me.

        2. I think that @mike-dee has a good point. While its a bit of a dodgy translate job, but there are some points highly speculative and in direct conflict with what Pirelli claimed (and is easy to check on), as well as in conflict to what the guy who was there and shot pictures of it said of it.

          For example that the Montmelo staff were sent home, including medicals etc. and Merc. took over security. Eye witness reports that it was in fact Montmelo staff with extra hired hands from the security company they use regularly. Also there was not “white, unmarked bulletproof van” bringing the car, but instead the normal team trucks.

          Off course he does add some things he might have an inside line on (from Ferrari) about Di Montezemelo giving Todt hell about it and the part about Bernie supporting it could be close to truth too.

    3. Hm, yeah, sure Rosberg. But not just better for Pirelli, but also for both the Mercedes team, as well as for the drivers.

      On another note, it could just as well be that Ferrari used Pedro because it helps him with the development of their simulation package (but I guess that is allowed because they used an old car)

      1. @bascb I think the devil, as everybody is saying, is in the detail.

        Ferrari tested with a 2011 car, and Pedro de la Rosa. So even if they can use the information, they are technically within the rules. Sames would have been if RBR would have lend the RB7 and Buemi.

        But Mercedes try to be too Smart, by sending his 2013 car an both drivers under “disguise”. And Rosberg think of us too innocent (or stupid) to believe the argument he is making.

        1. Yes, and in F1 they look at the finest of details to try and eke out an advantage @celeste.

          If we though Red Bull was scraping the border of what the rules allowed them to do at times, it certainly seems Ross has topped both his own DDD moment and RBR here with looking for the extremes of what they can pull off.

    4. So definitely for Pirelli it’s an advantage to have us in the car I would say, yeah

      Apart from being a clear infringement of the rule, for me the “TestGate” doesn’t need Sherlock Holmes to figure out how big the advantage that Mercedes has gained when they used the 2013 car with their official drivers for 1000 km on a track like Barcelona
      I think this is an attempt to put all the blame on Pirelli ,it sounds like “Oh yes !!!! they are responsible for all this it is not our fault “

    5. He must be thinking we are all idiots?

      Well of course it’s better for Pirelli to have the current drivers. It would be even better for Pirelli if Alonso and Massa were pounding around Fiorano and Mugello 24/7 in 2013 Ferrari, but it’s not legal, isn’t it?
      And it’s not legal, because it would be huge advantage for Ferrari drivers, just like this was a huge advantage for Mercedes’ drivers, even though it was more than helpful for Pirelli too.

      And not to mention the other side of it that is even uglier, like tweeting a fake pics from Florida and wearing different helmets, because there’s nothing to hide, right?

      1. tweeting a fake pics from Florida

        @obviously … is that really true?

        1. Of course its not true, Lewis was in Florida and posting pics for a couple of days before this test took place, but obviously people love to chat ****.

          1. Yes, you might have meant it sarcastically N but actually Hamilton did fly to the US after the race, where he had a Blackberry press event that he attended, and probably he also spent some time with Nicole (that about the event came from W. Buxton).

            The picture thing was tauted by an Italian newspaper, ultimately owned by FIAT SpA. They did not show more evidence than that the picture was tweeded on tuesday (i think it was 16th). Make of that what you want @shimks

    6. I think the reason for the anonymous helmets would be that Pirelli knew that they weren’t doing this test in a bubble and that with so many people with cameras in their phones these days they just didn’t need rumours flying around and creating more controversy than is warranted. This was an FIA sanctioned Pirelli test using Mercedes cars and no matter how Pirelli did this it was going to have the potential to create a great stir, so the anonymous helmets were to try to minimize the stir so Pirelli could get their work done without spy shots throwing a wrench into it if at all possible.

      1. @robbie Hi Nico.

        Anyway… the point is FIA says it hasn´t allowed it, and you only hide what you know is wrong.

        1. @robbie

          This was an FIA sanctioned Pirelli test…

          To be clear, the FIA provided conditional approval for the test, as seen in the FIA’s May 27th statement ( ), with conditions being 1) the test be “…carried out by Pirelli…”, and 2) “…every team being given the same opportunity…”

          The FIA states they received no further communication from the parties. So it is not safe to say this was “sanctioned” by the FIA.

          @celeste The point that Mercedes and NR are making is that they believed they had clear indications from the FIA the test is legal, as Pirelli and Mercedes believed the conditions were met.

          Btw, Pirelli was clear in their webcast of May 31st ( ) that 1st tier drivers are preferred, as it makes the test more accurate.

          In addition Pirelli indicated that they were talking to another team for another 1000km test, and one could expect that Pirelli would request the team’s starting drivers for that test as well.

          1. @vortexmotio

            The FIA states they received no further communication from the parties. So it is not safe to say this was “sanctioned” by the FIA.

            Fair comment. I should have stated that as you just did to @celeste

            The point that Mercedes and NR are making is that they believed they had clear indications from the FIA the test is legal, as Pirelli and Mercedes believed the conditions were met.

        2. “Hi Nico” :D :D :D

      2. so the anonymous helmets were to try to minimize the stir so Pirelli could get their work done without spy shots throwing a wrench into it if at all possible.

        I find that extremely dubious. But even assuming it’s all true – why the secrecy after the test was over? They had already “got their work done” and there was no possibility of spy shots throwing wrenches etc at that point. Yet the cover-up continued, and continues to this day.

        But your premise seems way off. If everything was above board there would be no reason to worry about spy shots throwing wrenches into things. If everything was perfectly legal and above-board than neither Mercedes nor Pirelli would have behaved as they did at the time and as they have afterwards. They’re both acting as if they’re guilty of something.

        1. My thinking is this. FIA/Pirelli knew this test was crucial and had to be done quickly to resolve the tire problems, and knew that if they tried to get concensus from the teams it simply would not have happened. There would have been so much arguing and debating we’d (they’d) be dealing with the kind of racing we’ve had so far for the rest of the season. It’s no longer a cover up because it’s in the hands of a tribunal and now the likes of Mercedes and NR have spoken out about there being integrity intact and this being a tire test, not a Mercedes test.

          I do agree that on the face of it it looks sneaky and not above board and like they are guilty of something, but again I think this is a special situation that the FIA recognized needed some allowance for, and I predict the wording ‘safety of the drivers’ is going to be used when all the information and the tribunals findings come out.

          I think that some dubiousness was necessary to get this done, but ultimately the FIA will claim the provision Pirelli had in their contract, as well as the safety concerns which will be hard to argue against, and it will be deemed that Pirelli and Mercedes did something legal based on the FIA’s permission, based on safety concerns, and it had to be done this way for the ultimate betterment of everyone without it all getting caught up in a bunch of political mumbo jumbo that would have gotten them nowhere.

          Imho, if F1 hadn’t asked Pirelli to make these degrady tires and Pirelli on their own did, then F1 would have felt less desire to help them out of this jam by ok’ing a test with Merc (and Ferrari). But there’d still be a need for better tires and I’m sure Pirelli would pay a heavy fine. I think that if anyone should pay a penalty it should be Pirelli because they failed to make acceptable tires for this season, in spite of them making tires F1 and the teams agreed to.

          I am merely speculating about the anonymous helmets but my best guess is that FIA/Pirelli/Mercedes would be well aware of the sensitivities and potential controversies surrounding this test because of it’s obvious explosive nature. But it is that very potentially explosive nature of this test that has me convinced this cannot be anything but the FIA ok’ing an extraordinary Pirelli test using Mercedes 2013 cars and drivers as a one time only chance to get the tires that F1 themselves wanted right for the rest of the season.

          I’ll say for the umpteenth time, there’s no way imho Pirelli and Mercedes if they were acting on their own, would consider the risks of this test anywhere near worth it. It had to have been absolutely necessary in FIA and Pirelli’s eyes and legal when they invoke the clause in Pirelli’s contract and the reasons of safety for the drivers going forward.

          1. So long story short, your argument boils down to “They must be innocent, because otherwise they’re stupid”? What did you say during Spygate – that McLaren could not have done it because the risk dd not outweigh the rewards?

            Rich and powerful people and organizations do stupid things all the time. Sometimes they even have to pay for them.

            1. Not sure I get what you are saying. Who must be innocent?

              Anyway, McLaren didn’t do spygate…a few individuals did, and it cost Mac bigtime.

    7. The more they talk, the worse it looks.

      asked why he and team mate Lewis Hamilton used “anonymous” helmets during the test Rosberg said “I don’t want to comment on it.”

      That should’ve been teh answer to the first question. Answering that after saying all he said, makes it look even worse.

      1. Or it simply wasn’t Mercedes’ decision since it was Pirelli’s test, and NR would prefer to defer the answer to that question to the party that made that decision. For all we know NR may have thought it was silly to use an anonymous paint scheme, and he didn’t ask nor did they tell him why. Also, NR and LH are minor players in this whole thing. The big questions need to be directed to Pirelli and the FIA first and foremost, then Mercedes, and by then the drivers shouldn’t have anything more to add.

        1. Or it simply wasn’t Mercedes’ decision since it was Pirelli’s test, and NR would prefer to defer the answer to that question to the party that made that decision

          I think you should apply for a post on Merc’s panel of lawyers. Jokes apart, why couldn’t NR have deflected the question on why the current drivers had to drive also to the one who made the decision? It shows either he or whoever instructed him to give answers had not anticipated this particular question (who knows what else) being asked and so he has bucked.

          1. Or NR simply doesn’t feel he or Mercedes did anything wrong. I personally think his answer about primary drivers being used made sense and I argued it almost the same way yesterday before I knew NR was going to say it. Someone who has barely been in the car, lapping 2 seconds a lap slower than NR and LH can, would not provide Pirelli all the data they needed in terms of tire wear and delamination.

    8. This is how this saga ends: Because Pirelli is allowed to have 1000km per Team tests and this was a Pirelli test there are no rules that prohibit Mercedes running the test. It is a loophole and Mercedes will stick to it and FIA has nothing to do it. By rules you can’t punish Mercedes, you can’t punish Pirelli. You just have to fix the rules.

      1. That’s pretty much my take on things too. There are two contracts that contradict each other. The rules need fixing, at present it is a totally legal loophole. I’m absolutely sure there have been plenty of times when regulations have had loopholes in them before and the FIA has issued a clarification, more recently usually in relation to devices or bodywork on Red Bull cars. Nobody was punished when these clarifications were released.

        This isn’t black and white issue here and the rules need adjusting to make it into one. You either break the rules or you don’t, there is no in-between. At the moment – this says this and that says that – there is no way one can carry more weight than the other and therefore you are both right and wrong at the same time.

        Therefore, when this issue goes before the tribunal, I fully expect no sanctions against Mercedes or their drivers. The FIA will probably issue a clarification and we will move on. Teams in F1 are always trying to find these loopholes and always will. Every advantage you can get counts!

      2. Mercedes is bound by the terms of their contract with the FIA and the other teams. It makes no difference WHAT is in Pirelli’s contract.

        It is a loophole and Mercedes will stick to it and FIA has nothing to do it.

        Teams exploit loopholes (that is, do things which are legal) all the time, and they don’t get sent before the International Tribunal for it. If any such loophole existed Mercedes would not be in the dock.

      3. I agree. If anyone is to blame it is FIA. They have put this 1000 KM rule and 90% of the people and journalists were not aware of it until now. So it wasn’t very clear. We have to give benefit of the doubt to Mercedes that they didn’t fully understand it. And it is not their job to understand the rule, FIA before giving the OK should have made BOTH the parties clearly understand what is allowed and what is not. I think it was a lazy or slow effort by FIA and very quick response by Mercedes when they were offered the opportunity to test 1000 KM.

    9. Traverse (@)
      6th June 2013, 19:02

      This will probably have a negative affect on Rosberg’s squeaky clean image. If I were Hamilton I’d keep my mouth shut and plead ignorance (let Rosberg take the flak).

      1. Traverse (@)
        6th June 2013, 19:07

        It also comes down to who instigated the initial contact, Pirelli or Merc. If Pirelli approached Merc then they (Pirelli) surely shoulder more responsibility.

        1. I’m sorry, but that is rubbish.

          If I say to you “Hey lets go rob that bank, I have the plans, the getaway car, etc” … & we get caught … that makes it my fault & you get to go free? Not on the planet I live on.

          1. Traverse (@)
            6th June 2013, 21:48

            I said “they (Pirelli) surely shoulder more responsibility”, I didn’t say that Merc should get off scot free.

            If you planned a robbery and was the owner of the getaway car etc, you would probably receive a stiffer sentence than me…hell, if I’m smart enough I could plead coercion, grass you up (tell them where you got the gun etc) and get charged as an accessory and possibly avoid prison altogether.

        2. And for me it is virtually unthinkable that Mercedes would think they could or would try to instigate this and get away with something underhanded and that they have that little integrity as a globally massive iconic company, and thus risking everything for an incremental gain from a 3 day tire test, AND get Pirelli to supply them tires, AND nobody would notice.

          Of course this was Pirelli instigating this with the FIA to get their help to rectify problematic tires that F1 itself mandated and the teams signed off on. Nobody knew the tires were going to be this problematic until they raced in anger once the season began, and with so little testing nowadays, perhaps we should consider that this eventuality should have been no surprise.

          I agree Pirelli should shoulder the burden of responsibility for going a step too far with this year’s aggressive tires, but since they were for the most part doing as they were asked and it was signed off on by the teams, I don’t think Pirelli should be punished for hundreds of millions of dollars (as an example).

          They didn’t cheat because they went to the FIA. They wouldn’t have if they didn’t have a clause in their contract, although even without that clause they still likely would have had to go to the FIA for advice as to how they could tweak the tires for the betterment of F1 without affecting the Championship given that teams built their cars based on data Pirelli gave them last September.

          There is absolutely no need whatsoever this should or will have a negative affect on NR’s ‘squeaky clean image.’ As far as he’s concerned (and LH of course), all he did was do his job as a Mercedes F1 team employee and help all the teams have better safer tires and the fans better racing for the rest of the season.

    10. I’m a bit bemused by the people urging Rosberg to clam up and say nothing but “No comment”. That’s a reasonable position to take – if you’re a Mercedes lawyer. As fans we’d all like to know the full story, or as much of it as we can get.

      1. Ach…. Rosberg should have replied:

        On race weekends we are contractually bound to wear sponsors liveries on helmets.
        The test had no sponsors and so we didn’t have to wear the glitzy helmets — nothing
        to do with secrecy and everything to do with commercialism. Next question.

    11. Rosberg also said he knew which tyres he was testing.

      when then asked if he knew which tyres he was testing, in contrast to recent comments from Pirelli Rosberg replied:

      “Yes, for sure, of course.” Yeah, definitely, I was aware of what the ideas were and what they were testing because I need to know that to try and be able to pinpoint for them best what’s going on and what directions are likely to be best for them.”

      1. Would love to read more on his quotes. When and where did he say that, and do you have more quotes?

        Being aware of what the ideas were is not the same as knowing exactly what compound he was on, at what tire temperature they were performing a certain way, caster, camber etc etc. I’m sure he communicated to them when he was experiencing understeer, oversteer, good exit grip, worse exit grip etc etc, but he wouldn’t be privy to exact details. Just changes in how the car felt as they made changes to his tires or their air pressures etc without telling anybody what those changes were, or what the compounds were, or the construction of the tires. He would also not know if he was on the final product 2014 tires if those even exist yet, or just ideas they are doing R and D on for 2014.

    12. To the people who were quick to mock Hamilton and immediatly pointing fingers at him for ‘revealing’ the test in the Drivers meeting:

      “According to reports from Montreal, it was World Champion Sebastian Vettel who first became aware of the controversial test – the legality of which remains a matter of considerable dispute – during a conversation with compatriot Rosberg at a meeting of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association after qualifying in the Principality.”

    Comments are closed.