Dr. Helmut Marko has weighed in on the Mercedes test and it’s not a glowing review as you would expect. has the Q&A:

Q: Helmut, can you sum up how Red Bull Racing sees the Mercedes tyre test issue? The dust still hasn’t settled yet…
Helmut Marko:
 This test is a clear breach of the sporting regulations – and that is why we launched a protest. Firstly we want clarification, and secondly – if it is really a significant breach – we want to see punishment by the FIA.

Q: Formula One teams do have a habit of sailing close to the wind – was that too close?
 To push the limits is nothing unusual, but that was clearly too close for comfort.

Q: What advantage did that test bring? Was there an advantage at all? How do you assess an advantage?
 Formula One cars are very complex machines and every kilometre you can run – especially in the season – is delivering information. Whether this information can be transformed into a direct gain in time is impossible to tell from a distance, but if we were to do something like that I know that our car would be faster.

Q: In other words, if you ran such a test you know that you would gain something…
 Very clearly, yes. Every kilometre run brings valuable information.

Q: Red Bull Racing, and to a lesser degree Ferrari, made a big deal out of that Barcelona test. Why are McLaren so silent?
 I expect because they run a Mercedes engine and depend on the goodwill of Mercedes next season.

Q: Could the test also be important for 2014 development?
 We simply don’t know enough about the test yet.

Q: It is said that Red Bull Racing were also offered such a test, but dismissed it. Did it never occur to you that there could be ‘broader’ options in such a test – for example running your current car?
 It is correct that we were offered such a test. We decided that by committing such a breach of regulations, we – as championship leaders – would be confronted with consequences and thus did not follow that route.

Q: How can such an issue be dealt with in a way that is satisfying for all sides?
 That is a case for the International Tribunal. When they have all facts and information I expect them to come to a finding that satisfies all parties involved.

Q: If you look at the situation from your point of view, isn’t the next logical step the law of the jungle and no FIA-controlled rules?
 Well, first of all the sporting regulations have been broken. Then there is a test agreement among all the teams – a gentlemen’s agreement that we haven’t even mentioned – that also has been clearly violated. And if this test is waved through without consequences all the talks about cost reductions would go out of the window – it would be the reopening of Pandora’s box which would be hard to ever close again. Renault would definitely like us to test their new engine, and so on and so forth…


It will be difficult to avoid the issue that every mile driven is a chance to tweak your car and learn something. What I am most perplexed by is the FIA in this matter and the approval of using a 2013 chassis. Surely Pirelli could have completed the test with a 2-year-old car but then it would not be the same as a current format. It’s a difficult situation to be sure.

I also understand Monisha’s point at Sauber. The teams are right in the heat of their 2014 chassis development and a chance to get a sniff of the proposed rubber for next year could be huge. What do you think?


An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry focusing on technology integration, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • JackFlash(Aust)

    The 2013 FIA Formula 1 Sporting Regulations are very clear in Section 22 “Track and Wind Tunnel Testing”.
    In season testing of any format is NOT ALLOWED, excepting;
    — 8 instances of promotional events, on promotional tyres, for max 100km per event
    — 1 instance of a Young Driver’s Test, under FIA control at a FIA specified track, with Rookie drivers.
    — 4 instances of straight-line or constant corner radius aero tests under strictly limited FIA distance and FIA ECU regulations.

    In season testing is specifically BANNED for 2013 cars, and for 2012 cars, and for any 2014 car-prototypes.

    There is NO ROOM for INTERPRETATION. It matters NOT an iota, what Pirelli or Mercedes say – tyre testing does not exclude itself from the FIA Sporting Regulation’s ban on in-season testing. It matters NOT what form of tacit approval of the concept of the tyre test with a 2013 vehicle these two may have got from FIA rep Charlie Whiting; by email or handshake or twitter account. All the other teams in Formula 1 have been significantly cheated by the Cataluña ‘private’ testing by Mercedes and the tyre supplier Pirelli.

    IN SEASON TESTING IS BANNED. Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 has broken this code quite emphatically with a 1000km worth of 2013 car and 2013 driver testing. Even if the wheels were shod with Gouda Cheese-wheels (rather than Pirelli proto tyres), it would not change the rule breakage. That Ross Brawn feels he can use the guise of the test being Pirelli’s arrangements, not a Mercedes managed test, as excuse and let Pirelli face the heat; smacks of Mercedes Team desperation and probably mounting Board pressure for ‘F1 program’ results from Stuttgart.

    Unless Ross Brawn holds a written statement from the FIA office, or from FIA rep Charlie Whiting stating explicitly that Mercedes could support Pirelli with this tyre testing in-season, and that 2013 car and 2013 drivers could be supplied by Mercedes for Pirelli’s test purposes and under standard FIA ECU and telemetry regulations; Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 is in real trouble. I cannot believe Ross Brawn would have ever gone down such a route, unless he had such a ‘parachute’ to jump with. He’s not a stupid man.

    I can however more easily believe that the FIA is feckless enough to approve breakage of their own Sporting Rules, by the action of trying to provide Pirelli with the tyre-safety-testing opportunities they gave to Pirelli in writing, yet one conflicting with their own FIA F1 regulations. The mystery part is why the FIA home office says they didn’t approve the tests. Did Charlie Whiting commit FIA tacit tyre-test event approval, without clearing it with FIA head Jean Todt?

    What a mess. The upcoming FIA tribunal will be very interesting to follow (pre-Silverstone).

    p.s: Perhaps the easiest and most ‘restitution-ally right’ way out of this crap-fest is to allow every other team in F1 to undertake a free 1000km 2013 car/driver test at Silverstone after the race event, or another race-venue of choice ASAP. Make Pirelli supply all the same tyre prototypes (a reasonable penalty of sorts), and copy the test scenarios to the letter of telemetry records from Mercedes test in Cataluña. JF

    • Rapierman

      I would agree with the “make whole” solution (American Lawyer-speak for “restitution”). The problem, however, would be one of logistics. A thousand kilometers is essentially three complete races, plus a fraction. You would need three such after-race events to get it done. How would you arrange things? Could you keep it from disturbing the schedule?

  • Rob

    It’s all pretty bizarre really….. Regardless of the rubber there is value in running distance with current cars/drivers [and I don’t buy for a second the team didn’t learn things because they did not have control of the schedule or knew the exact tyre]….. and the team would have been aware of that…. Maybe they got some yahoo in the FIA to agree in writing in which case they are golden…. Maybe it’s an exit strategy for Brawn [given recent rumors he wants to finish up anyway] and he will play scapegoat… Dunno… but it’s all just head scratching bizarre.

  • JasonI

    Has anyone ever figured out Dark Helmut actually does?

    • Rik

      This of Helmut as an employee’d Flabbio Briatore, without the criminal history. Helmut is driver Vettel’s manager as well as a team manager. Not a bad gig if one can get it.