An interesting element to today’s International Tribunal was the appearance of Red Bull team boss Christian Horner. It was not clear, at the time, if Horner would be merely observing or actually testifying but it seems it was the former. sky Sports F1 caught up with the team boss and asked a few questions and as you can imagine, he was particularly careful with his words. you can read the full interview here.
What I did find interesting was his view on two issues. The first was centered on the fact that Mercedes claimed they gained no benefit from running on the test tires from Pirelli. That being said, Red Bull’s boss echoed their technical director, Adrain Newey, by saying:
“I think it’s quite clear that whenever you are running a Formula 1 car you are learning something, particularly when it is a current car. It’s almost irrelevant what type of tyres they had on.”
The other notion put forth by Mercedes was that it was their assumption that the test was approved by the FIA as they consulted race director Charlie Whiting and he consulted FIA legal representative, Sebastian Barnard, about the test and it seemed clear that they felt the test could be ran as a Pirelli test and not a competitor’s test. this called into question the very concern we had which was why did the FIA tell Mercedes it was fine to use a 2013 chassis for the test when Ferrari clearly used a two-year-old chassis in their test? Mercedes seemed to suggest that the FIA were speaking from both sides of their mouth but Horner offered some clarification:
“I think there’s a degree of ambiguity but the rules are very clear. All the teams know what the rules are, they spend an awful lot of time involved in writing the rules with the FIA, so I think all the teams are quite clear on what the rules are.”
Whether or not the FIA were contemplating the legality of the test as being a Mercedes-ran test or Pirelli, Horner seems to suggest that the rules are painfully clear and that all the teams know what is legal and not so there should have been no surprises even if the FIA’s race director thought it my be possible.
Is Mercedes using a conversation with Charlie Whiting as the hinge of their defense? Not completely. They also argued that a 2011 Ferrari chassis is still too close to the 2013 chassis per the regulations as well as suggested that Charlie Whiting has always been the definitive word when the FIA is concerned. I’m sure the FIA have issues with that notion.
Regardless, Whiting and Barnard did imply a test ran by Pirelli with a 2013 chassis could be legally justified and I do think there is some culpability on the FIA’s part. Just how much remains to be seen and from Horner’s perspective, that’s merely parsing words, the issue of no in-season testing is quite clear and understood by all teams.