Mercedes Team Caught Up In F1 Scandal
In a violation of F1’s rules banning testing during the season, Mercedes has been accused of cheating, by performing 1000 km of secret tire testing for Pirelli on the Barcelona circuit following the Spain Grand Prix.
Worried about the Mercedes team gaining a potential competitive advantage, both Ferrari and Red Bull protested the rule violation, seeking clarification at the recent F1 race in Monaco. There is confusion over what a team is permitted to do as per the sporting regulations, as it may conflict with activities that are contractually permissible. Ferrari and Red Bull say that they are seeking only a rule clarification, rather than sanctions.
At issue is three days of tire testing on a current championship car, with tires that will be used at the next race.
Pirelli’s Tires have been problematic during this year’s race series, struggling with unexpectedly high levels of tire wear over long distances during the last three races. A number of their tires faced delamination occurrences in both Spain and Bahrain.
Ferari and Red Bull claim that Mercedes may potentially gain a competitive advantage by building it’s understanding of the tires and therefore boosting the team’s performance. Formula One rules prohibit testing during the season, but Pirelli says that their contract with the FIA allows them to call on a team for 1000 km of private tests during the season with a “representative car”, when it has urgent work to do to address safety issues. Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery said that the clause is common in all FIA contracts, including the World Rally Championship and has been included for years.
Pirelli says that they okayed it with the FIA, who agreed that safety must overrule the sporting regulations. Mercedes echoed the sentiment, saying that the safety aspect should preclude protests from rival teams.
There is no precedent of teams violating the testing ban regulations, and so if Mercedes is found guilty, the FIA must come up with suitable sanctions that will suit the crime, but not be so harsh as to force Mercedes to question it’s future in the race. Pirelli might also be found in breach of contract.
Complicating the matter is that the rules state that all teams must be offered the opportunity to test. Pirelli claims that they invited all teams last year, and Mercedes was one of the ones that accepted. Other teams say that they knew nothing about these tests until a week after they were completed.
There is speculation that Pirelli is considering pulling out of the Formula One circuit at the end of this season, as they have not yet committed to renewing their contract.
By Linda Aylesworth – car-news.ca