Mercedes “had no reason to believe” test was illegal

2013 F1 season

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The FIA International Tribunal ruled Mercedes “had no reason to believe that approval had not been given” by the FIA for their three-day tyre test for Pirelli.

The Tribunal heard from 25 people prior to its deliberations including representatives from the FIA, Mercedes, Pirelli, Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull and Williams.

It ruled that: “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.”

It added that “neither Pirelli nor Mercedes acted in bad faith at any material time” and they “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.”

Significantly, the Tribunal agrred with Mercedes that they “had no reason to believe that approval had not been given” following their consultation with FIA race director Charlie Whiting.

The Tribunal added that “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.”

However the Tribunal said the test was a violation of the Sporting Regulations and that Mercedes benefitted from it:

“Mercedes did obtain some material advantage (even if only by way of confirmation of what had not gone wrong) as a result of the testing, which, at least potentially, gave it an unfair sporting advantage, to the knowledge and with the intention of Pirelli.

“In the light of the data which Pirelli did in fact pass to Mercedes by way of the confidential email referred to under paragraph 37.8 above, it is plain beyond sensible argument that Pirelli had intended confidentially to pass some data to Mercedes, which Pirelli expressly regarded as being of high importance even if, as we accept, it was in fact of limited value to Mercedes because it was unaware of the tyre(s) to which the report related.”

On the subject of Ferrari’s two tests for Pirelli in 2012 and 2013, the Tribunal said it was “unable to express any opinion as to whether or not the testing carried out by Ferrari in 2012 and 2013 was properly authorised.”

“But it would appear to be equally unsatisfactory that this consent was also given by Charlie Whiting, the Tribunal has no evidence before it which indicates that his opinion in that case had in
fact been wrong.”

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    26 comments on “Mercedes “had no reason to believe” test was illegal”

    1. Exactly. The slap on the wrist punishment is an admission that the FIA substantially contributed to the whole stuff-up.

    2. Haha. It’s hilarious really. The FIA are usually a toothless bunch, so I’m not too surprised.

      I’m just glad this nonsense can hopefully start to fade away. As fun and exciting as scandals in F1 are, they just completely take over race weekends, and make interviews and the commentary one dimensional and dull.

      Let’s get back to Vettel’s fourth WCC already…

      1. ” FIA are usually a toothless bunch”

        Really? Tell that to Ron Dennis and his $1B fine he had to pay for his spying scandal.

    3. I wonder what the “important data ” from Pirelli was and will Ferrari be asked more questions about their tests?

    4. Well this only furthers my opinion that the FIA are the people in the wrong here. Shock horror an F1 team will use any available sporting or technical avenue to improve their performance, which is exactly what Mercedes (and by the sounds of things Ferrari) have done. It is the FIA’s fault, along with Pirelli, that they have allowed these tests to slip through without properly enforcing any real control.

    5. neither Pirelli nor Mercedes acted in bad faith at any material time

      Is this The FIA International Tribunal or the Mercedes lawyer ??? this is ridiculous it is not about good faith or bad faith you break the rules you get punished it is as simple as that & now we get into another dimension when the teams will cheat & then say that it was with good faith
      BTW how did they no that Mercedes acted with good faith did they use a good faith detector or what ??

      1. Bad faith is not relevant to whether or not the rules were broken, correct. Which is why they were found to have breached the rules.

        However, intention can be relevant to the punishment, and the finding that there was no intention to break the rules is reflected in the mild sanction meted out.

        BTW, courts and tribunals infer intention from objective conduct every day of the week. For example, evidence as to a person’s demeanour (language, facial expression, earlier threats) might be relevant to a court determining whether an assault was intentional or accidental Nothing remarkable at all about the tribunal making a finding as to good faith, or bad faith, having heard all of the evidence.

      2. If you start by assuming bad faith @tifoso1989, you’d need something to convince you of it not being there; conversely, most courts start by assuming good-faith, and it needs to be shown to be absent (hence why teams can beat legality tests so often, I guess). Given the way FIA handled communication, the Merc. and Ferrari tests would be hard to punish in a real court of law.

        I see this as a sort of plea bargain allowed due to lack of proof situation (and other interests coming on to encourage leniency, like engines/tyres for next year). I suppose it is par for the course at FIA.

    6. As has been said before, Ross Brawn simply would have not undertaken this test if he thought it breached sporting regulations. He’s a very honest and supremely intelligent guy who’s been in this game a long time. Call me naive but I had faith from the beginning Mercedes weren’t intentionally trying to gain an unfair advantage over their rivals, because of who their team principal is.

      1. THat is not quite true @celicadion23. Ross Brawn would have undertaken this every time he was satisfied that there was enough grey area to wiggle out of a punishment. And its likely all and every team boss in the paddock would do that.

        1. True, team bosses do everything in their power to gain an advantage. I don’t think RB is any different in that respect, he’ll try and squeeze every last drop out of the rule book. But some team bosses don’t have as good an understanding and appreciation of the fine line between operating on the edge of the rules, and breaking the rules.

    7. It strikes me that the FIA need to (or will feel the need to) rein in Whiting- this isn’t the first time he’s given an opinion which was assumed to be fact and lead to problems.

      1. But the teams should know that Charlie’s view on sporting matters is simply an opinion, I’ve known that since 1997 when I began work for FOM & its something that Charlie himself (As well as the FIA) has stated many times.

        Charlie Whiting is the race director, Official starter, Technical/Safety delegate & Head of the technical department.
        As such anything relating to the technical regulations & you go to Charlie & his opinion can be taken as the final say.
        However goto Charlie with anything sporting related & he can only give an opinion.

        After 15-20 years, Any team (Or team personnel) that still goes to Charlie with a sporting matter & takes his word as the final say clearly doesn’t have the understanding of F1 that they should have.

        1. In which case, Charlie should refuse to say anything on the subject, and direct the questioner to the appropriate person/body.

        2. I am perfectly sure that Mercedes is fully aware of that GT_Racer, and that is why they stated that the procedure they followed was much the same as followed in previous accounts of Pirelli asking a team to run a test with them (the 2 Ferrari tests), and Whiting even consulted with the FIA legal council to give Brawn surer footing.

          Brawn had enough to feel secure he would be able to wriggle out of it, and this verdict proves it. But its pretty clear that for all intentions this test was not legal.

    8. The ruling also states that merc, Pirelli AND the FIA all have to pay a third each of the court costs which says it all really.

      All three thought they were doing the right thing, while all three made some incorrect assumptions.

      1. in other words, its murky!

    9. If Mercedes has not done anything wrong, why are they getting reprimanded and Punished ?

      So it looks Round 1 between Dieter Zetsche vs Luca di Montezemolo, Dieter has won this round.

      After Massa’s 2012 Test news broke out Ferrari is pretty much silent. I guess McLaren should protest against this because last year they lost the second place in the championship to Ferrari which is huge in terms of money. What if Ferrari had gained unfair advantage mid season which helped them score more points than McLaren ?

      1. I like the idea, however I think it’s best to let a sleeping dog lie. Merc wasn’t really punished here and therefore Ferrari can’t really be punished for what they did last year.

        1. Good point. Many people, including me, thought that Ferrari’s exoneration for the 2013 test was to set up Mercedes for a big punishment. But it would seem that the disclosure of the Ferrari tests tied the tribunal’s hands in a way, or at least took away much credibility of the “prosecution.” The broader lesson to the FIA is that when they do act as international assisstance for Ferrari, it has consequences.

    10. Reads like a judgement for the defense on the merits, with damages measured only to recreate status quo ante. Ex aequeo et bono, as they say. From reading this, it seems as though Horner, et al, need to pick their brickbats and redirect them at the FIA and Ferrari. Because the former made a mess of their oversight of testing and the latter has been apparently taking advantage of the lack of clarity more than Mercedes.

      And wht is this about:
      On the subject of Ferrari’s two tests for Pirelli in 2012 and 2013, the Tribunal said it was “unable to express any opinion as to whether or not the testing carried out by Ferrari in 2012 and 2013 was properly authorised.”

      Did we know about tire testing carried out by Ferrari in 2012? It seems like we need to a proper look into what Ferrari has been doing with Pirelli, with current tires, these past two years.

    11. Another case of the tail wagging the dog.

      If Mercedes “had no reason to believe that approval had not been given”, why did Niki Lauda secretly cook up a deal with Bernie (which Wolff and Brawn rejected) whereby the team would pay a fine to avoid the tribunal?

      I scoffed at the idea when Mad Max told us we would rue the day Jean Todt assumed his position, but damned if the old scoundrel wasn’t right.

    12. Somehow Mercedes got away with it and to be honest I think the FIA has a lot of loose ends to tie.

    13. Does anyone remember when Bridgestone built tyres for Ferrari / Schumi based on private tests????? What happened to RACING in F1? Now we just grouse about FIA (which are a pretty lame organization at best … even back in the day if you watched the Senna movie) and tyres. Let them race, I say!!! Also tired of reviewing after the race and tired of penalties for allegedly getting in someone’s way during qualifying, and so on and so on. LET THEM RACE. Thanks RnR

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