Merc reprimand for tyre test
SWEET RELIEF: Mercedes F1 chief Ross Brawn at the 'tyre test' tribunal. His team was found guilty - but the transgression penalties were minor. Image: AFP
Author: ALAN BALDWIN
PARIS, France - Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have been given the all-clear for next week's British Formula 1 GP and their Mercedes F1 team has escaped heavy sanctions for tyre-testing with Pirelli.
An international tribunal here reprimanded Mercedes and Pirelli for breaking the rules on testing and ordered the British-based team to miss a three-day young-driver test scheduled for Silverstone in July.
The verdict, announced by the governing International Automobile Federation in a statement after a seven-hour hearing in Paris on Thursday will come as a relief for the team led by F1 veteran Ross Brawn.
RED BULL WISH FOILED
The tribunal had the power to impose a heavy fine, dock points or even ban Mercedes from the World championship - although that was never a likely option for one of the sport's major players.
Red Bull, which had protested to the IAF at May’s Monaco GP when it found out Mercedes had used its current (2013) car in the test, had indicated they wanted to see a tough response. Team principal Christian Horner said after the hearing: "If you commit a sporting offence, there's a sporting penalty that goes with it.”
The tribunal ruled in its detailed written verdict that Mercedes had not intended to obtain any unfair sporting advantage by taking part in a tyre test at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya immediately after the 2013 Spanish GP.
Teams are banned from testing during the racing season but Pirelli, the sole tyre supplier to the series and not a competitor, was allowed to test with a representative car.
The tribunal, declaring that both parties had disclosed to the IAF “at least the essence” of what they intended to do and had sought permission, said: "Neither Pirelli nor Mercedes acted in bad faith at any material time. Mercedes had no reason to believe approval had not been given.”
HEARING COSTS SPLILT
It found that IAF technical head Charlie Whiting had acted in good faith after taking advice from the IAF’s own legal department. Despite that, Mercedes was found to have acted in breach of the rules with the tribunal saying it did gain some material on-track advantage as a result of their test with both Hamilton and subsequent Monaco winner Rosberg.
Mercedes, Pirelli and the IAF were ordered to pay a third each of the costs of the investigation and procedure with the IAF paying all its own legal costs.
A Pirelli F1 spokesperson said afterwards: "We are satisfied with the outcome because it shows the court recognised Pirelli had always acted in good faith.”
The young-driver test ban was suggested by the team itself on Thursday as a possible means of redress if the tribunal felt sanction was needed. While that will mean losing out on three useful days of track testing, otherwise banned during the season, it will fall hardest on British reserve driver Sam Bird who would otherwise have expected some rare time in the race car.
STRONGER TEST CONTROL
The IAF, in a separate statement, said it hoped lessons would be learned from a case that was the first to be sent to the tribunal, set up in 2010 to deal with issues on which race stewards were unable to rule.
"To this end,” the federation said, “the IAF will make sure, in association with all F1 teams, that its control of testing is strengthened.”
Mercedes and Pirelli were reminded of their right to appeal.