[Updated]The FIA International Tribunal has handed Mercedes a reprimand over its part in the controversial Pirelli tyre test and stopped it from taking part in the Young Drivers’ test next month.
Pirelli has also been reprimanded; it will be interesting to see what their reaction is as they felt that they should not have been part of the proceedings in the first place. Their lawyer Dominique Dumas said yesterday that “we do not come under the jurisdiction or authority of the FIA”.
At the same time the FIA also said that it “wishes that lessons are learnt from this case and from the decision handed down. To this end, the FIA will make sure, in association with all F1 teams, that its control of the testings is strengthened.”
To read the full FIA IT verdict read TRIBUNAL VERDICT
Red Bull’s Christian Horner said that the verdict showed “that Mercedes breached the sporting regulations and the International Sporting Code.. however the penalty is not for us to decide. It was for the tribunal to decide and they have made their decision. ”
Ferrari was more critical. The Horse Whisperer, Ferrari’s official blog, said that Mercedes had got away “scot free”
“Today we learned, that even if one is guilty and in this case that is an indisputable and verified fact, there is always a way of muddling through as best one can. One only has to suggest to the judge what the penalty should be and even better, why not make it something light like a rap across the knuckles.
“It is somewhat perplexing to say the least to see that the guilty party can get away virtually scot free for having derived “an unfair sporting advantage.””
Here’s what the Tribunal statement said about the verdict:
“The Tribunal, after having heard the parties and examined their submissions, decided that:
1. Mercedes be reprimanded;
2. Mercedes be suspended from participating in the forthcoming “three day young driver training test”;
3. Pirelli be reprimanded;
and rejected all other and further conclusions.”
The full judgement goes into more detail.
The Tribunal found:
(1) The track testing, which is the subject of these proceedings, was not carried out by Pirelli and/or Mercedes with the intention that Mercedes should obtain any unfair sporting advantage.
(2) Neither Pirelli nor Mercedes acted in bad faith at any material time.
(3) Both Pirelli and Mercedes disclosed to FIA at least the essence of what they intended to do in relation to the test and attempted to obtain permission for it; and Mercedes had no reason to believe that approval had not been given .
(4) The actions taken on behalf of FIA by Charlie Whiting (having taken advice from the legal department of FIA) were taken in good faith and with the intention of assisting the parties and consistent with sporting fairness.
Notwithstanding the above findings:
(i) by running its car(s) in the course of the testing, Mercedes acted in breach of Article 22.4 h)….
(v) Mercedes did obtain some material advantage (even if only by way of confirmation of what had not gone wrong) as a result of the testing, which, at least potentially, gave it an unfair sporting advantage, to the knowledge and with the intention of Pirelli.
Clearly the Tribunal found that there had been a breach of the rules, but that it was done in good faith, based on a feeling that it had, what the Tribunal describes as “bona fide, but misconceived ‘qualified approval’ ” hence the lenient sanctions.
The verdict, while a triumph for the advocacy of Mercedes boss Ross Brawn, will come as a disappointment to Red Bull, Ferrari and others who felt that there was a clear breach of the Sporting Regulations and that Mercedes had gained an advantage.
However, the FIA International Tribunal is a new body established to distance the disciplinary function of the FIA from the office of the President and as such is considered to be fully independent.
The nub of the problem from Mercedes’ side was the issue of “permission”
They believed that by contacting FIA’s Charlie Whiting and asking if they could use a 2013 car to conduct a test for Pirelli, they had “permission”. As was pointed out in the Tribunal only the Head of FIA’s Sport Department Pierre de Connick and the World Motor Sport Council could consider something which contravened the rules, but Mercedes followed the procedure used at race meetings of approaching Whiting for an opinion.
He gave an opinion that it might be possible subject to certain qualifications, like all the other teams being notified, but Mercedes did not follow that up with a clear written outline of what they planned to do. So they did not have “permission” to do a 1,000km test with Pirelli at Barcelona.
Mercedes felt that they had acted in good faith and that if there was a breach of the regulations it was because of an interpretation of the rules, rather than a desire to gain an unfair advantage over rivals.
Mercedes’ submission to the Tribunal stated that the car ran in the same specification at the test in which it had completed the Grand Prix a few days earlier, with only parts past their life, bing replaced being for similar ones.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner was present at the Tribunal yesterday and had his say afterwards, while Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali is to take part in a live Ferrari webchat this evening at 7pm CET, presumably to answer some of the points arising from the Tribunal which concern Ferrari, such as the presence of Felipe Massa at Ferrari’s pre-Barcelona Pirelli test with a 2011 car, which was cleared by the FIA.