FIA investigate ‘private’ Mercedes tire test

It appears an official complaint has been registered with the FIA from Ferrari and Red Bull over a test that was conducted between Mercedes and Pirelli following the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. According to Red Bull team boss Christian Horner:

“We feel it’s not in line with the rules, so that’s why we’ve protested before the race here. We just want clarity,” Horner told Sky Sports F1.

“I think it’s important to be brought to a head. I don’t think we’re the only team that feels that way. I don’t think it’s Pirelli’s fault. Pirelli need to sort their situation out; the problem is the manner in which this has been dealt with has not been right.”

While Mercedes have been leading the time sheets during qualifying over the last three races, their race pace has left them bereft of the podium come Sundays. That all changed this weekend, much to some Formula One pundits surprise, as Mercedes were able to dominate the entire race from beginning to end witha  comfortable victory for Nico Rosberg.

The victory was historic as Rosberg’s father, Keke Rosberg, won in the principality exactly 30 years ago. Nico’s improved performance in 2013 is nothing new as he’s held pole position at the last three grands prix but what may be new to F1 fans is Mercedes AMG Petronas’s ability to run and entire race without falling backwards due to excessive tire wear. On one hand, Mercedes may have gotten on top of their tire degradation issues since Barcelona but some feel the extraordinary test, called for by Pirelli, following the Spanish Grand Prix may have given Mercedes an advantage other teams were not afforded. According to Mercedes boss Ross Brawn, much is being made over little:

“We’ll have to wait and see what the stewards have to say. But our position is clear: We were approached by Pirelli to conduct a tyre test because they were very concerned about some of the problems they were having recently and they didn’t feel the car they had been using was representative.

“In their agreement with the FIA, there is a provision to ask any team to do for a 1000km test. We ran that past the FIA to make sure they were happy – and they were.”

“It wasn’t secretive. While we were setting up to do the test, all the other teams were still there. Why didn’t they see that our trucks weren’t going home?

“There was no attempt to make it a secret test. It’s up to Pirelli to inform people if they wish to. It’s not our responsibility to advise people. There was no attempt to make it a secret.”

Pirelli said they would be making changes for the Canadian Grand Prix onward originally claiming there were too many pit stops in the Spanish Grand Prix but the other issue of the delamination problems experienced by Lewis Hamilton as well as Jean-Eric Vergne and Paul di Resta was not a safety issue. After the FIA got involved in the proposed change suggesting that no changes can be made to the tires unless there is a safety issue, Pirelli have now told the press that the changes are for safety reason and Brawn’s commentary seem to suggest as much. So which is it?

According to Pirelli, their test was not outside of the regulations as motor sport boss Paul Hembery said:

“As per our FIA contract, we can ask teams to do 1,000 kilometres of tyre testing. It’s something that’s common in all FIA contract including the World Rally Championship,” Hembery told Martin Brundle on the grid ahead of the race.

“We asked the teams if they were interested. Some said yes, some said no.”

“They [the teams testing] don’t know what they’re testing. Nothing’s relevant for this year, it’s all future stuff.”

Mercedes were asked to meet with the race stewards in Monaco following the grand prix to explain their position and Brawn told Sky Sports F1:

“We obviously explained to them the circumstances behind what happened; I’m reasonably comfortable with what we did,” Brawn said.

“We did it at the request of Pirelli. There was a serious issue with the tyres which we’ve all experienced and that needed fixing as soon as possible.

“We’ve explained to the stewards what was done and it’s now up to them. We’re comfortable with the position we’re in.”

According to those words, Brawn suggests that there is a serious safety issue and makes one wonder if they were actually testing next year’s compounds or if they were testing this years new construction due to real safety concerns that Pirelli say don’t exist. Either way, teams may or may not be asked to test and Pirelli admit that some teams agreed they would test with them after the Spanish Grand Prix but why did they chose Mercedes over another teams that offered their services? Did Mercedes lobby more effectively to get the nod? Did the test have any impact on this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix victory? Mercedes has struggle in the first five races but seemed to have very little trouble in Monaco with tire degradation… coincidence?






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