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Verdict awaited after Mercedes hearing

The International Tribunal hearing into the Mercedes testing case has concluded in Paris after a day of testimony, and it remains to be seen whether a verdict emerges later today or is postponed until tomorrow.

Proceedings began this morning with Mark Howard QC presenting the FIA’s case. Intriguingly, in addition to outlining the breach of Article 22, related to testing a current car, he also mentioned Article 151c, which involves bringing the sport into disrepute, or more specifically bans ‘fraudulent conduct or any act prejudicial to the interests of any competition or to the interests of motorsport generally.’

f1  Verdict awaited after Mercedes hearing

Howard argued that “without the knowledge, consent and participation of other competitors, Mercedes and Pirelli may have engaged in activity that was prejudicial to the competition.”

In essence he repeated what the FIA said in a media statement on Sunday evening in Monaco, essentially that conversations took place between Mercedes and Charlie Whiting in early May, but Whiting did not formally sanction the Barcelona test with the current car. Howard stressed the FIA’s requirement that other teams be informed and invited.

He said: “Whiting was asked a general and non-specific question – the general question on the permissibility of using a 2013 car. His preliminary response was that such a test would comply with Article 22 providing the purpose was for Pirelli to test its tyre and he would check.”

He added that even though Pirelli has a contract with the FIA which allows for 1000kms tests to be conducted by teams, the Sporting Regulations should take precedence.

Howard also argued that Mercedes had gained some knowledge from the test, saying: “We would suggest that it is difficult to say Mercedes obtained no benefit from the test.”

f1  Verdict awaited after Mercedes hearing

Speaking on behalf of Mercedes, Paul Harris QC claimed that the team did not break the rules, in essence because the test was arranged and run by Pirelli, and not by Mercedes in its role as a competitor.

The rules state: ‘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.’

Indeed after talking to both Mercedes team manager Ron Meadows and Ross Brawn on May 3 Whiting had checked with FIA lawyer Sebastian Bernard on the relevance of the phrase ‘undertaken by the competitor’, and was told that if the test was deemed to be undertaken by Pirelli, it could be permissible.

Harris even claimed that Mercedes didn’t have to check with the FIA, given that it was a Pirelli test, claiming that Brawn took a cautious approach.

Harris also argued that if Mercedes is deemed to be in the wrong then the pre-Spanish GP Ferrari test should be considered a breach in that, despite the fact it was done with a two-year-old car, the car did ‘conform substantially with the current Formula 1 technical regulations’, which is what the rules forbid.

f1  Verdict awaited after Mercedes hearing

Harris also pointed out that the Ferrari test was booked and paid for by the Italian team, and this was in contrast to Pirelli’s arrangements for the Mercedes test.

Intriguingly he also revealed that in 2012 Felipe Massa had taken part in a similar test on Pirelli’s behalf at Barcelona.

Ross Brawn was adamant initially that Mercedes gained no benefit from the test and that Pirelli had not told the team what tyres it was running, although under question he conceded that inevitably there was some benefit.

Meanwhile Pirelli lawyer Dominque Dumas argued that it does not come under the jurisdiction of the FIA as a non-licence holder, citing the 2009 ‘Crashgate’ case – which led to senior team personnel being licensed and thus subject to punishment. Briatore was banned by the FIA, but that was overturned in the French courts.

There’s no clear indication as to which way the International Tribunal will go after a fascinating day of exchanges.

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f1  Verdict awaited after Mercedes hearing

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18 comments on Verdict awaited after Mercedes hearing

  1. Ray In Toronto, Canada (Ray T (The other one)), 20 June 2013 16:21

    It was a Pirelli test. Period. End of.

    What can the FIA do to Pirelli?

    Nothing!

    This “tribunal” is a joke and it is the FIA who are “bringing the sport into disrepute”.

    Ferrari tested in 2012, did they? Hmmm….

    If Mercedes is guilty of anything, then so is Ferrari.

    I hear ticket sales to Silverstone are going poorly. Is this supposed to help?

    The FIA are a complete and utter joke.

  2. Ray In Toronto, Canada (Ray T (The other one)), 20 June 2013 16:44

    Further, it was revealed that while Pirelli paid and arranged for this test, Ferrari actually booked and paid for the test it undertook earlier with de la Rosa.

    Ergo, Ferrari – if anything – are in greater breach of the rules as per strict interpretation (given that there was less than 1 second of performance differential between the 2011 car and the 2012 car).

    Finally, if Massa tested in 2012, why was nothing made of it?

    It seems the FIA are back to Schumacher-era double standards:

    One set of interpretations for Ferrari, another set for everyone else.

    The FIA (including Whiting and his lawyers/advisors) itself should be sactioned for either:

    1. Incompetence; or

    2. Favouritism towards Ferrari; or

    3. Bringing the sport into disrepute; or

    4. A combination of the above.

  3. David H, 20 June 2013 16:59

    FIA’s number one priority is to cover its behind and spin anything else. What do those bureaucrats do all day?

  4. Ray In Toronto, Canada (Ray T (The other one)), 20 June 2013 17:07

    Typo!

    * I meant to write “…there was less than 1 second of performance differential between the 2011 car and the 2013 car”

    Another thing is that Ferrari were actually doing their own thing during the April, 2013 test (which they, and not Pirelli, booked and paid for). Apparently they were running balance tests in the middle of the day.

    Guess who won the Spanish Grand Prix just after the test was completed?

    You’re right if you guessed Ferrari!

    I stand by my “double standards” line.

    So, who’s going to sanction the FIA?

  5. Bill, 20 June 2013 17:50

    “Indeed after talking to both Mercedes team manager Ron Meadows and Ross Brawn on May 3 Whiting had checked with FIA layer Sebastian Bernard on the relevance of the phrase ‘undertaken by the competitor’, and was told that if the test was deemed to be undertaken by Pirelli, it could be permissible.”

    Following this reasoning, there is nothing that stops Honda from testing a 2013 or a 2014 McLaren all year long.

    Ferrari and Red Bull can hold test sessions for Magnetti Marrelli or any other supplier and nobody can do anything about it, because the suppliers arent competitors.

    “Harris even claimed that Mercedes didn’t have to check with the FIA, given that it was a Pirelli test, claiming that Brawn took a cautious approach.”

    Id say this also can work against them: if you are so sure its within the rules, then why ask Whiting? And if Whiting said: okay, as long as you follow condition a and b it should be okay, why didnt they do condition a (inform other teams) and b (invite them to test too)?

    To me, Mercedes can argue all day long, they gained a sizeable advantage of doing an in season test vs their rivals. That they thought they could get away with it because Whiting broadly agreed is baffling.

    The irony of all this, is the background of the ban on in season testing: it was implemented specifically to rule out tyre test sessions, that made up the bulk of previous years in season testing sessions. That Whiting even considered if it would be possible, is shocking.

  6. Ray FK, 20 June 2013 18:52

    Modern Formula 1 is just in one hell of a mess

  7. Tomsk, 20 June 2013 19:01

    One man’s “fascinating” is another man’s waste of time.

    Relieved to see Sir Christian Horner was on hand to stick his oar in for the benefit of any cameras present. Unfortunately for him they’re Sky ones, so nobody’s watching anyway. Note where Martin Brundle was today.

  8. The Original Ray T, 20 June 2013 20:23

    Another reason to avoid watching F1. the sport is ruined, great job guys.
    [golf clap]

  9. Rich Ambroson, 20 June 2013 22:52

    What is this “Formula 1″ I keep reading about? I (stupidly, I see) thought it was a racing series, but apparently it’s a political soap opera/farce.

  10. michael klausmeyer, 20 June 2013 22:54

    f1 is finished as a sport…..it’s ruled by the big buck to the point,
    where the drivers are no longer allowed to compete.
    they have to follow orders.
    remember the days, when teams were there to help their drivers to win.
    that’ s why races have become so boring these days.
    when niki lauda looks and talks stupid – as he did in monaco, when it all came out – it’ s just perverse.
    it could well be that they only told him when the test was already on, and made it look like it was brawn’s thing, who supposedly had checked it with the fia.
    and maybe niki at the time just wanted to play with his kids, and didn’t want to get involved with it.
    brawn had a terrible three years, he just wants to get out anyway.
    so he might have told toto, he would gladly leave, if it went bad…so toto might have thought, it’ s worth it…..worst case scenario….ross can finally go fishing, and what is meant like a penalty is really the best for everybody…..
    all theory, of course, but when mercedes says, they wanted to
    help pirelli, they treat the world like a kindergarten, and that is something ugly…..it is NOT sportive behaviour. it’ s as sick as the greed of the financial markets ahead of 2008.
    but isn’t this another wonderful opportunity to start a new “grand prix series”,
    one that is ruled by the teams, not by ecclestone/cvc.
    until then i will watch a lot of motogp.
    hals und beinbruch……

  11. John Read, 20 June 2013 23:32

    If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck it’s a duck.

    You don’t need a QC to see that the activity “undertaken” was TESTING.

  12. Michael Spitale, 20 June 2013 23:49

    With testing at such a premium these days this has to be a harsh punishment. Ross Brawn is a very measured person and he knew without a doubt that Bernie and the FIA do not want to ruffle the feathers of Mercedes so he figured the juice was worth the squeeze in the end. The fact that they got 3 days of tests, with this years car and this years drivers in black helmets to hide their identity speaks volumes. There is ZERO doubt to anyone that this test helped them a ton. Their car was eating tires like Cookie Monster eats cookies and now it is not much different than other teams as was seen in Canada.

    I don’t want a cash fine I want a sporting fine. Dock them 100 constructors points.

  13. John Read, 21 June 2013 05:58

    Or just send them to the rear of the grid for a few races.

  14. Carlos Sanchez, 21 June 2013 06:54

    Solution:
    Concede three days of testing ASAP to ALL F1 teams except Mercedes, period.
    End of the story, stop the politics and BS for God’s sake…
    Let’s go RACING again!

  15. Steve W, 21 June 2013 08:55

    Oh look, boys and girls… this is what happens when you all grow up and become adults…

  16. Terry Jacob, 21 June 2013 09:41

    What an absolute load of nonsense , Formula One has totally lost the plot . The racing has become contrived nonsense , likely to get worse next year with stupid 1.6 turbo engines and more damned KERS , and what do we now have ??? Squabbling over who or who might not have gained an advantage by conducting a test on behalf of Pirelli as they struggle to salvage their reputation as tyremakers having been talked into producing rubbish tyres by the clowns running F1 . Get real , Mercedes or whoever conducting a tyre test is a diversion from F1′s fundamental problems .

  17. Aj Leeds, 21 June 2013 09:48

    Seems the likes of Redbull are first to moan at any other team doing anything these days. But that’s typical as they don’t get cautioned for anything these days They seem to be exempt from everything but first too run too FIA
    F1 is getting boring…

  18. Ray In Toronto, Canada (Ray T (The other one)), 21 June 2013 12:57

    Well, we have the ruling.

    And guess what? That’s the FIA saying that they themselves (Whiting and his advisors/lawyers) were also partially at fault with their half-baked responses. The essence of what was being asked was disclosed to the FIA.

    What is really disgusting is that Ferrari will go to any lengths to get any advantage.

    De la Rosa tested before the Spanish Grand Prix and it wasn’t a Pirelli test only and they did MORE than 1000 Km worth of testing in a Ferrari that was 0.5 seconds slower than their current car.

    Ferrari were running on their own and were conducting balance tests in the middle of the day.

    It’s obvious that Ferrari were acting in a way that Pirelli and Mercedes weren’t. Ferrari got a bigger benifit than Mercedes.

    It’s also obvious this ruling – not being able to go to the young driver test – is to save face for both the FIA and Ferrari because the Mercedes lawyers would have had a field day with the FIA and Ferrari if they (Mercedes) were punished in a more serious way.

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