Mercedes suspended from young driver test and reprimanded for part in Testgate
Pirelli also receive reprimand after Tribunal hearing into controversy
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 24/06/13 12:25pm
After a morning of deliberations in Paris following Thursday's mammoth, and at times heated, seven-hour hearing into the controversial Barcelona tyre test, Formula 1's governing body announced that both parties had been punished for contravening the sport's regulations.
However, given pre-verdict fears had been that Mercedes might face a more hefty sanction should they duly have been adjudged to have contravened the rules, their subsequent reprimand and ban from the three-day Silverstone test is relatively minor.
Indeed, Mercedes' own lawyer himself himself had suggested the latter penalty to the court in the event the ruling went against the Brackley team.
The Tribunal, which consisted of a four-man judging panel, ruled that "neither Pirelli nor Mercedes acted in bad faith at any material time" and both parties disclosed "at least the essence of what they intended to do in relation to test and attempted to maintain permission for it".
However, the panel still decided that Mercedes did act in breach of Article 22.4h of the Sporting Regulations, which forbids full in-season testing with a current car, by running with their W04 at Barcelona and "did maintain some material advantage" as a result which "at least potentially, gave it an unfair sporting advantage".
Both the team and Pirelli were also ruled to be in breach of Articles 1 and 151 of the International Sporting Code, the latter clause covering cases of bringing the sport into disrepute.
To that end, in its judgement the Tribunal ruled that "the other teams should be placed in a similar position to that in which Mercedes is in.." in wake of their illegal test although stressed that the sanctions imposed recognised that "the testing would not have taken place but for the bona fide, but "misconceived 'qualified approval' which was given on behalf of the FIA".
The judging panel also ruled that the costs of the hearing would be split three ways between the Mercedes, Pirelli and the FIA.
In addition to the sanctions imposed, the FIA added in a separate release that it intended to consolidate the control of F1 tests in wake of this case.
"The FIA wishes that lessons are learnt from this case and from the decision handed down. To this end, the FIA will make sure, in association with all F1 teams, that its control of the testings is strengthened," it said in a statement.
Explaining both the detail, and implications, of the outcome of the Tribunal, Sky Sports F1's Ted Kravitz said: "There's no doubt Mercedes have got away very lightly. A slap on the wrist at the very least and exclusion from the young drivers' test, while it would have been useful, isn't exactly going to make or break their championship," he said.
"The other teams, especially Red Bull and Ferrari, are going to be hopping mad with this decision that they'll see as a complete let-off.
"In the coming days Mercedes may try to spin this to say that they weren't guilty but the full judgement from the FIA makes it clear that not only were Mercedes technically guilty of breaking Article 22.4h of the Sporting Regulations banning in-season testing, they were also guilty of breaking Article 151 of the International Sporting Code which prohibits acts prejudicial to the interests of competition.
"So what it's all about is mitigating factors. The FIA accept that Mercedes were trying to do the right thing, both in terms of why they wanted to do the test in the first place (to help Pirelli solve their recent tyre failures) and the lengths to which Mercedes went to get approval for the test (an email to Charlie Whiting, who replied with conditional approval after consulting the FIA's own legal director). The FIA will have also noted the ambiguity in Pirelli's contract with the FIA that doesn't expressly prohibit using current cars for tyre tests.
"These points have obviously proved that Mercedes acted in good faith and that it wasn't an overtly intentional breach of the regulations. But at least one thing was concluded in Paris yesterday, that Mercedes would have benefitted from the test by gaining knowledge about the car and tyres.
"How this is going to help them in terms of giving Mercedes an on-track advantage in the races ahead, we will have to wait and see."
In Thursday's hearing the FIA's counsel, Mark Howard, had argued vociferously that both Mercedes and Pirelli had contravened Formula 1's Sporting Regulations in regards to in-season testing by conducting the post-Spanish GP test with a Mercedes' 2013 car and may have also breached Article 151c of the International Sporting Code by engaging in "any act prejudicial to the interests of any competition".
Mercedes, who had protested their innocence in the matter since news of the test first broke of the morning of the Monaco GP last month, reiterated during the course of their submissions to the Tribunal that the Barcelona test was "conducted by Pirelli" and therefore the team themselves hadn't contravened Article 22.1 of the Sporting Regulations which bans full in-season testing with a current car.
The Brackley team's lawyer, Paul Harris QC, also cited an email exchange between FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting and the governing body's legal advisor Sebastian Barnard which they claimed had given them the green light to put forward their W04 for testing with race drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
Pirelli's lawyer, meanwhile, had argued that given the tyre firm were an F1 supplier, as opposed to a competitor, the FIA had no power to sanction them under its statues and in any case its separate commercial agreement with the governing body didn't specify what kind of car they could run in their permitted tests.
Mercedes later confirmed they would not be appealing the decision.