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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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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • charlie w

    Why investigate? Pirelli and M-B/AMG team both claim the FIA knew and approved the test. Jean Todt is becoming the Jean-Marie Balestre of the 21st century.

  • It does not appear that Pirelli thought this one through. If two teams did not receive the invite (or had the invite given to them in terms suggesting the test wasn’t above-board), then they could well be refused the possibility of supplying 2014 tyres. I can also see Mercedes getting a suspended ban for their actions, though I’m convinced it wasn’t really their error; the FIA and Pirelli are responsible for this mess.

    • I am perplexed by Pirelli’s public statements and approach to the tire issue as a whole. First there was no issues with the tires, then they said they needed changing for Canada, then they said there was no safety issues and now they call a test that, according to the FIA, should have bee offered to all teams…did Pirelli offer it to all teams?

      • Scholesy

        I am just enjoying their “anyone but Red Bull” approach. They are starting to resemble an heel pro wrestling GM or manager, trying to stop Red Bull anyway they can.

      • cconf1

        According to Hembery:

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

        Looks to me like they did.

        • Yet some of those other teams – notably Red Bull and Ferrari – are reporting they weren’t asked. If the teams had all been invited in the correct fashion, the FIA should have known, but apparently did not. Either the FIA failed to get the correct procedure down and it’s been exploited, or Pirelli have broken their agreed terms. Either way, someone (probably several someones) are telling porkies.

  • Sizziano

    So if the FIA knew about and approved this test why are they investigating again?

    • Alleged improper conduction of said test. What they thought they’d approved does not appear to be what happened; it remains to be seen who exactly erred.

  • olderguysrule

    The games afoot mr NC. Let the mayhem begin.

    • Who’s labeling this as Tiregate first? :)

      • nofahz

        Or tyregate, pirelligate…

        • cconf1

          Or “We-didn’t-want-you-to-renew-our-stupid-contract-anyway-gate”.

  • Ab345

    I think the Mercedes with the much talked about tire issues and speed for a lap would be the ideal candidate to see what is going on with the tires before changing them from Pirelli’s perspective. If the FIA did not react or ask for more, that is not on Pirelli.

  • nofahz

    According to the FIA’s statement they didn’t know about the test. Doesn’t bode we’ll for Pirelli getting a contract renewal if that was ever a possibility in the first place. Guess its on to Hankook

    • As much as I love Hankook and would love to see them make the step up to F!, why would they want to jump into this mess after watching what has happened to Pirelli? They would be stuck making a subpar tire that forces them to work against the team rather than with them. You get subjected to immense political harassment from the teams and lambasted in the press all for doing what is asked of you by F1.

      • nofahz

        As well as no Concorde agreement in place. No TWG etc…

  • This is the kind if story F1 needs to quickly go away. Unfortunately for F1 there’s no race next week so it looks like we’ll all be talking about tires again for a fortnight.

    The FIA’s and Pirelli’s statements clearly don’t match. The FIA has said they told Pirelli they could conduct such a test if everyone was invited. Pirelli’s response was that they kinda asked a few teams but Merc was the first to say yes. Those two accounts are not the same thing.

    Then you got Ross B involved whom many consider his best talent is skirting the rules in a lawyer like way with this gem “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” well if you don’t tell anyone that is the definition of “secret” Ross.

    But this could be a real pickle for the FIA. If Pirelli didn’t make it clear to other teams what was going on, how do you punish the only tire manufacture that is basically doing you a favor by making a crapy tire? And while Pirelli may be the target of punishment, that leaves the question of Merc being the only team to get an advantage, do you then punish them too? Can you even do that?

  • Tim

    Another he said, she said issue in Formula 1.

    Now, I find it really hard to believe that the other teams didn’t know something was up when M-AMG didn’t leave the track like all the other teams after the Spanish Grand Prix. These teams have spies everywhere . . . surely they were not blind to what was going on around them.

    • Sizziano

      I agree. There is more to this story obviously.

    • They could have believed it was a filming day. I don’t think Mercedes has used its two-day filming allocation yet this year (which can be done with current cars, but must be with very hard “show” tyres).

      • danfgough

        That’s true but they would also be done over shorter distances and slower speeds. Also, all teams are entitled to attend such days to protect against shiny new aero parts being used. Therefore even if it was filming the other teams would have been notified.

        Also, surely someone in the Barcelona circuit support crew might have had an idea what was going on and maybe called a local reporter. Any Alonso fan would have had an interest in finding out why Silver cars were on track mid season.

        This was all timed to break at Monaco for maximum exposure. For what purpose…..?

        • dom

          …timed to break at Monaco but more specifically on the heels of Nico topping all the practice time charts?

  • Rapierman

    I’m wating for the horse’s head to show up in Bernie’s bed.

    • sims

      Speaking of horses when do you think the horse whisperer will pipe in?

      • Rapierman

        “Soon.”

  • Andreas

    Christian Horner is of course correct insofar as if you get to run the current car for three days extra, that’s “testing” in anyone’s book. But I don’t see how he can say it wasn’t Pirelli’s fault – it was Pirelli’s test, after all. And Ross Brawn is equally correct in saying it was Pirelli who should have kept the other teams informed – again, it was their test, not Mercedes’ (although Red Bull and Ferrari may not agree :-). Either way, to punish Merc for this, you’d have to (successfully) argue that the test was done at least partially for their benefit – i.e. that there were some sort of conspiracy. If Pirelli failed to properly inform the other teams (or invite them to take part), the slap should be on their wrists, not Mercedes’. Even though Mercedes clearly got an advantage – even a tyre test will give you information you wouldn’t otherwise have had.

    The main issue here is which story is the correct one… Ross Brawn claims they “ran it by FIA” and got the go-ahead. But FIA doesn’t seem to act as if that was the case. And Pirelli claim the test was for “future stuff” and “not relevant to this year’s stuff” – while Ross Brawn clearly relates the test to the problems with this year’s tyres. And mind you – what “future stuff”? Like Todd pointed out in the Sector 3, Pirelli doesn’t have a contract for next year…

    Could we just get a stable, consistent tyre for 2014 onwards, and get back to actual racing? Please?

    • Jack Flash (Aust)

      A couple obvious questions arise from your discussion points wiith respect to the MOTIVATION that Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 would have had to stump up a current spec F1 car, a driver, and all the testing support staff to Pirelli, to achieve for their tyre-tests over a full couple of days? (Even if Pirelli paid Merc some compensation costs for test kit/people)

      [1]. Why would Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 agree to do this logistically costly test …. if they got nothing out of it? They wouldn’t.
      [2]. Why would Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 agree to do this logistically costly test …. if they could see no data correlation benefit to seeing the data streams coming into Pirelli engineers hands (& a copied mirror data flow to be pawed over at Mercedes homebase in UK). Are Pirelli server security experts to assure this didn’t happen?

      This is a very bad situation for Formula 1, the FIA, but foremost Pirelli (who seem to be changing their stories re tyre issues, change rationales, and safety cases, more often than kids facing questioning in the Principal’s Office at highschool).

      Even if all F1 Teams were made aware of the Pirelli request for testing platform/support; it doesn’t erase the extra Merc test kilometres (fact), nor the direct car/tyre correlation data potential leaks (level playing feild threat) that the Pirelli Test has invited with one team only involved.

      This is going to very very messy. JF

      • Andreas

        Well, nobody (in F1 at least) does this for nothing. Even taking Ross Brawn’s words at face value, they stood to gain a tyre that won’t delaminate and damage gearboxes. Ross said as much – they had been at the blunt end of some tyre issues, and were keen to help sort those issues out. But the reality is probably that they got more than that out of it – even if the raw tyre data were privy to Pirelli, just running the car is helpful. That would be the reason these Pirelli tests need to be offered to all the teams – if they decline, they’ve at least been given the opportunity to gain the same info as the others.

        The thing is, I wonder if some of the hubbub stems from different interpretations of the “all the teams” bit. From the Pirelli statements, it sounds like they do these tests with one team at a time (some have even said this could have been a case of Mercedes being quickest to accept). But when I read the FIA statement, I got the sense that these tests should be offered to all the teams, and if all 11 teams want to participate, all of them should be allowed to do so. I guess it comes down to interpretation, and the FIA spokesperson might well have been more clear when talking to the media after the crap has hit the fan, than they were when Pirelli initially approached them about it. It wouldn’t be the first time in history…

        • Ab345

          What about the Bahrain test? Even if Ferrari fielded a 2011 car, these cars are later in the development cycle, so if they got the data to work with, they could still see what is going on with the tire and make adjustments. Perhaps Alonso’s all out 4 stop strategy and win in Barcelona makes more sense now.

  • Sod’s Law

    OK, so there was no “secret” test, just a test that the FIA and probably a lot of other teams knew about. Move along, there is nothing to see here. These are not the Droids you are looking for.

  • Otto Bonn

    I find it downright laughable that, when the agreement between Pirelli and the FIA to allow Pirelli some sort of in-season testing using 2013 cars/teams/drivers was reached, nobody involved had the foresight to realize how it would ultimately play out!

    Really FIA? Really?! You thought that as long as every team was “invited,” they’d all be cool with one specially chosen team getting an extra 1,000 miles of testing under its belt? During a season in which tire degradation is overwhelmingly the most critical component to success? Have you not paid any attention to Formula 1 in the last, oh I don’t know, 50 years?!

  • speedy_bob

    So let’s summarize what we read in the media:
    -RBR wasn’t aware of the test vs Horner stating RBR didn’t accept the invitation in the spirit of sportivity

    -Pirelli only tested new stuff vs no contract signed for 2014 (but I can follow their logic: it’s very likely the WILL get a new contract and the better prepared they come, the better for everyone)

    -Pirelli only tested new stuff, no relevance to 2013 tire, yet they investigated 2013 delaminations: I also see no contradiction there: perhaps the 2014 carcas of the tire is the same as the 2013 one

    -I cannot believe the other teams didn’t question Merc NOT packing up come Sunday evening. They often all fly together and yet, this time no one noticed Merc crews staying behind? 1 Spanish F1 fan posted video’s and pics DURING the test and the rest of the internet didn’t notice until Saturday Monaco?

    -Merc says it informed the FIA, the FIA responded with more questions vc. the FIA claims it didn’t know anything about the test. I believe they did know at least something.

    • Andreas

      There are plenty of versions of events floating around, as is usual with F1. The latest I’ve read (in Autosport) was that last year, Pirelli first approached the teams about tyre tests with current cars. FOTA sent out a reply to FIA, Pirelli and all teams, making clear that even though Pirelli’s contract with FIA gives them the right to conduct such tests, they can’t be held under the current sporting regulations (which limits off-season testing and forbids in-season testing). The only way to do these tests (with current spec cars, rather than the older chassis Pirelli has at its disposal) would be if all teams agree to have it done (thus changing the regulations) or to run the tests off-season (during the already regulated testing scheme).

      Pirelli, on their hand, seems to interpret their initial e-mail (which FOTA replied to) as the de facto “invite to all teams” (as they said ‘let us know if you’re interested, and we’ll schedule a time/place’). Ferrari/Red Bull seem to claim that as they weren’t specifically invited to this test in Barcelona, they weren’t invited at all.

      So what it boils down to – once again – is different interpretations of rules and words… Again, I wonder what FIA is going to come up with, and how to police it. On the BBC 5 Live podcast, it was said that the only way to rectify it would be to schedule a tyre testing session ASAP, and invite all teams except Mercedes. Although that would be in breach of the sporting regulations… :-)