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Crunch time in Paris for Mercedes and Pirelli over test row
Posted By: James Allen  |  19 Jun 2013   |  6:50 pm GMT  |  233 comments

Tomorrow (Thursday June 20) at 9-30am local time Ross Brawn of Mercedes and Paul Hembery of Pirelli will appear before the first ever FIA International Tribunal in Paris.

This is the conclusion of a process started by Red Bull and Ferrari when they protested Mercedes’ 1,000 km test at Barcelona in the week following the Spanish Grand Prix.

The FIA Sporting Regulations explicitly prohibit the testing of current cars once the F1 season has started.

The hearing is set to last into the early afternoon and the FIA has indicated that a judgement will be made public as soon as possible, ideally on the same day.

There is a lot at stake. If Mercedes is found to have breached the FIA Sporting Regulations by testing a 2013 car, then it’s likely that veteran team boss Ross Brawn could be made to fall on his sword. He has shouldered full responsibility for the test, while team chairman Niki Lauda has distanced himself from it, telling German media he only knew about it once it had started.

From Mercedes’ point of view the situation is quite serious as they have put ‘sporting integrity’ at the heart of the agenda from their side over this issue.

They claim that the FIA’s Charlie Whiting gave them permission to run a 2013 car. The FIA contends that it did not give permission for the test to take place as they believe it did, rather for a limited distance Pirelli-managed test only. Mercedes have emails and they say that the test was managed by Pirelli.

The question of why Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg wore unmarked helmets needs to be explained, as it has given rise to the suggestion that the test was ‘secret’. This positioning is unhelpful for Mercedes and Pirelli as one of the FIA’s stipulations is that all the other teams were informed, which does not appear to have happened.

Pirelli says that it approached the teams in 2012 asking for help with testing, so they did offer the same chance to everyone.

A test with a 2011 Ferrari was also conducted but this doesn’t violate the Sporting Regulations, while there have been suggestions that further tests were lined up with Red Bull and McLaren, but as they never happened we will never know what car might have been used.

Pirelli is in a slightly different position from Mercedes. They question the procedure in place with this hearing; as they are not a competitor they cannot see why they have been called to appear before the IT. They already disclosed everything they know plus all email correspondence regarding the test.

They have a contract wit the FIA which allows them to ask teams to supply cars for 1,000lm tests. Somewhere in the gap between that document, the email permissions from Whiting and the Sporting Regulations lies the answer the IT must establish.

If Pirelli are criticised by the IT, there could be some interesting legal repercussions, while if they are not, they may seek explanations and possibly an apology for being dragged into the Tribunal.

What penalties could be applied? Other teams are calling for a sporting penalty for Mercedes – a points deduction for example, as a financial penalty would serve only to establish the going financial rate for doing a test with a current car.

There have been rumours that both Mercedes and Pirelli may withdraw from the sport if the judgement goes against them. Whether there is any truth to that we would only find out if and when it happens.

Pirelli has contracts in place for next season with FOM and with most, but not all of the teams and not yet with the FIA.

The FIA International Tribunal was set up in 2011 by Jean Todt as a way to distance the president’s office from the disciplinary process of the FIA. Under his predecessor Max Mosley, instances like the Flavio Briatore Crashgate hearing were seen to position Mosley as both judge and jury.

Now the FIA President brings the prosecution, but the statutes say that he must stay out of the process from there, leaving it to the legally qualified members of the IT.

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Come on Ross Brawn! Show them who’s the Boss!

Enough of this bunch of old men running the FIA, who are not open-minded to innovation and slow-thinking. This sport is losing everytime! Please, we need to have racing back at its best! Let engineers/designers do their job and F1 drivers drive to the limit!



The regulations do not say ‘The FIA Sporting Regulations explicitly prohibit the testing of current cars once the F1 season has started’ but more precisely prohibit testing of current cars carried out by a current team entered in the world championship. If the test can be interpreted as one undertaken by Pirelli, then they can use whatever car they like, as long as it is a ‘representative’ car. Whether this can be construed as excluding or including current 2013 cars is I think one of the key questions.


I don’t see how a test carried out by Hamilton and Rosberg can be construed as being a test carried out by Pirelli.

If Mercedes had loaned their 2013 car to Pirelli and the latter conducted tests with it using their OWN drivers and engineers, then that would in compliance with the regulations. But that is not what happened, not by a long shot.


Ahh Ross Brawn trouble seems to follow you wherever you go. Malaysia 1999 is a prime example. Did mercedes cheat, well they could get away with saying everyone knew. But then why were Rosberg and Hamilton in the car wearing undistinshed helmets? Why wasnt the test driver in there? Surley if Ferrari or Red Bull knew about the test, one of the engineers would have been there monitoring it? All seems to be very dodgy to me, a 3 race ban should be suffucient and a ban on testing next year. As for Nikki Lauda, this was the same man shown the door to his own business.


Ahh Ross Brawn trouble seems to follow you wherever you go…..

I am far from convinced that statement is correct. However, leaving that aside, one thing that does follow Ross Brawn wherever he goes is success!


“why were Rosberg and Hamilton in the car wearing undistinshed helmets?”

That seems obvious – because the pretense was that Mercedes loaned the car to Pirelli and Pireli did the test with their own drivers.

The fact that the test was carried out by the regular Mercedes drivers blows a huge hole in the “Pirell conducted the test and we just provided the car” line of defense.


But IF you are doing a Pirelli test why not use Pirellis test driver which they have?


Mercedes are claiming in court right now that it was Pirelli who conducted the test and not them. What rubbish. Everyone knows the cars have data logging capabilities and Ross and the team could be at home while lewis and Nico log all the parameters of the 1000km stint. Easy as! Then go back over the data at a later date. If they say they gained nothing from the test thats rubbish.


Maybe it is too late ask, but, what is Charlie Whitings job anyway? Often teams defend themselves by stating that they had asked Charlie. Yet the FIA comes in and often enough states that is not what Charlie is there for. In others it is not his job to give the teams any form of permission and/or rule on any judgements. It seems at times that the teams could just go ahead and ask any fan in the stands if they think any wing configuration or last minute change to a component is ok. Because even Charlie accepts it, it still goes to the FIA and more often than not his decision get overturned! What may I ask is he there for??


I think Ferrari, RBR and co will be happy if they are all granted a 1000km test.

This doesn’t deal with the issue that Mercedes have done it illegally though, so they should definitely be punished.


I think Mercedes will get away with it on some serious technicalities, but will be warned about making sure the details are all correct. Pirelli will also get away on a technicality, but will also be warned about making sure the details are all correct, and making sure every team knows about testing. That is my prediction.

Scuderia McLaren

1: Whiting gets fired for FIA confusion

2: Brawn steps down as symbolic gesture

3: Responsibilty for using a current car rests with Mercedes not Pirelli and Mercedes will therefore suffer a (relatively) small fine. And constructors pts loss, but drivers pts remain intact.

4: The helmet issues are crap and irrelevant. Vettel changes his helmet more times than he wipes his ar$e. No rules have been breached here. It’s a red herring.

5: Pirelli announce new F1 deal.

You heard it here first.


It could be that the mistake here was the FIA’s.

If Mercedes do have email confirmation that the FIA were told and agreed to the test then I don’t see how Mercedes can be punished at all.

If that is the case it was probably the FIA not understanding what was being agreed when it was described as a purely Pirelli test.

Pirelli of course are not at fault at all- it must be made clear that their presence at the tribunal is to give evidence and not that they are ‘on trial’.


If Brawn is going to fall on his sword then would it be possible to get him at Mclaren. A swap with Ross Brawn for Sam Michael would be awsome for Mclaren. Only problem is I’m guessing Brawn would be expensive. But you pay peanuts you get monkeys, and I’m sure Mclarens budget could cover that.


I’m sorry but I find it inconceivable that the plan from Mercedes was to test in secret. Everybody knows that in the modern world you simply cannot secretly test an F1 car without someone knowing about it.

This sounds to me like a cock up in communications between the FIA/Mercedes/Pirelli and as usual the FIA don’t want to take ownership of their mistakes.


..then how is it nobody knew about it until the Monaco GP?…


Of course they knew about it before Monaco. Do you think that Christian Horner got an anonymous tip off during FP1? Or that Vettel told him that Rosberg had told him that they did a secret test but that he musn’t tell anyone or else it wouldn’t be a secret?

Of course they knew. They chose to reveal that knowledge in full glare of the world’s media at a moment it suited them.


“Of course they knew. They chose to reveal that knowledge in full glare of the world’s media at a moment it suited them.”

Source?… proof?…

No? didn’t think so…


I agree, I have made the same point on several occasions.


Some ‘facts’ from official statements.

Pre May 2013:

> Pirelli has a contract that allows them to do a 1000km test with any team.

> Pirelli asked ALL the teams in March 2012 to do a test with them. Only some teams replied.

> Pirelli asked some teams in March 2013 to do a test with them.

> Pirelli does a test with a 2011 Ferrari with the Corse Clienti division in April.

Early May ’13

> Pirelli/Mercedes ASK the FIA if they can do a test with the current car.

> FIA ADVISED Pirelli/Mercedes that such a test (using a current car) is possible but only if all the other teams are given the same opportunity.

> No other teams where asked after this advice.

> Pirelli/Mercedes do a three-day test after the Spanish GP.

I guess it’s all in the interpretation of everything said/written in the communication between the FIA and Pirelli/Mercedes from early May (when they asked the FIA about using a 2013 car) and the actual test.


I suspect it will be a political fudge. Both Mercedes and Pirelli are too important to F1 at the moment.

The conclusion will be that Mercedes did break the rules but were mistakenly given the impression that the test had been sanctioned by the FIA.

The “punishment” will be more about making sure the other teams don’t feel disadvantaged than anything else.

I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone involved already pretty much know what the outcome will be.


Just a thought, for those who have already decided their guilt and the appropriate punishment.

Here is a quote from Ross Brawn.

“When we get to the international tribunal and everything’s explained, people can make a judgement when they know the facts. I’m not going to pre-empt those facts. It’s unfortunate to be making judgements before the facts are known.”


Go ahead and leave Mercedes. This positioning of if we get punished we may leave is bull. Go ahead and leave, the sport continued without Mercedes before and can do so again. What we don’t want is blatant cheaters…Ross…


It is not Mercedes saying they will leave the sport, it is investors in the parent company asking the board, “where is the value”. The board needs to be able to answer this question.

Especially in the face of being called “Blatant cheaters” before the evidence has been tabled. (Mercedes actually has a strong sporting ethic)

And if Merc do leave we will have….

Ferrari who has struggled yet again to match RBR

McLaren who have been in decline for some years

Lotus, who are wearing a significant financial loss

Williams who are falling to their knees

A tyre manufacturer who may leave the sport to focus on others

Other tyre manufacturers who appear to be reluctant to engage on the FIAs terms

A float of f1 which appears will be delayed yet again.

A stock market that has just lost 2.5% in one day across Europe as perhaps money tightens again.


Things may just be a bit more fragile in F1 than you think:(


Fair point on value, I was singling Ross Brawn out on cheating not Mercedes. He has a history of scandal… where there is smoke there is fire. As for Mercedes they should have cslculated the pros n cons of entering the sport. If they leave they will have no one else but themselves to blame. I don’t believe F1 is fragile… it is in a state of growth. Most fans just want to see the best drivers fight it out… I’d still watch if they were doing so in 3 year old F1 cars.


Sorry James, just corrected my email address


Interesting article James, im reserving judgement until after the tribunal but hope Mercs threats are not considered. Hey James alot of people (the RBR bashing brigade) are saying that Merc got no help from the test, could you confirm that Mark Gillan former chief operations engineer at the Williams said that “Mercedes even though it was a completly blind test as Pirelli claim one would get quite alot of advantage” from the testing to you on your podcast and do you respect his opinion?


Ross Brawn is no dill. I’m sure he has a very clear understanding of the FIA regulations as they are written, and would have made sure everything was in order before agreeing to the test.

People will always speculate, but what happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty’?

If the verdict is guilty, then Mercedes must be punished, and the fallout can commence.



it is unfortunate that layers will get in the way of what should be a sporting decision, by the time the word smiths have finished their work it will become a political charade, the question should be simple did Mercedes gain an unfair advantage? not being aware of all the cars and tracks idiosyncrasies and just being a fan it appears to me they have, prior to the test the Merc’s were fast but made a rapid charge to the rear of the field when the tires went off, since the test they have been constantly on the podium, for my money it seems too coincidental?

could this be due to track configuration and surfaces? your thoughts would be appreciate.


Merc excluded from WCC in 2013 would be fair.

Drivers can keep their points.


The only problem is what if they split the contenders for the title. Say SV wins with LH and NR in second and third with FA 4th at the last race with FA only needing second to secure the title, that means merc cheating has handed the title to SV and RBR unfairly. Of course all this only matters if Merc are in fact found guilty.

Mike from Colombia

Just dock some constructors points and let’s be over and done with it.

Mercedes were good enough to show committment to F1 while BMW, Toyota, Honda and Renault pulled te plug.

They should be afforded some goodwill from all. Without them, F1 would be a poorer sport.


Who can prosecute FIA?

Ross would have made sure he informed FIA they are using the 2013 car.

Big time sabotage? Lotsa hidden secrets in F1.

Suddenly Lauda dosen’t exist I noticed.

But news of this nature keeps the void alive while waiting for Silverstone.


Just something regarding Charlie Whiting.

He’s the race director, Official starter, Technical/Safety delegate & Head of the technical department.

Anything relating to the sporting regulations (Test restrictions are all part of sporting & not technical regs) falls outside of his remit.

When it comes to sporting matters Charlie can only give opinions, He can’t make the decision.

Also unless its changed since I was last around F1, No document is considered an official FIA correspondence unless its sent to all competitors & made freely available to the media.

If Mercedes or Pirelli have an E-mail from Charlie, Im not sure that will necessarily help them since he doesn’t hold the power to OK a test given that testing is a sporting matter rather than a technical one.

The only way I see any E-mail from Charlie been relevant is if he was given permission from somebody higher up to inform them they could run the test & was passing this message along.

The top guys at both Pirelli & Mercedes should know the limitations Charlie has regarding sporting matters, To get an opinion from Charlie & then treat it as the final say (If thats what they did) is absurd.


All racing incident reports go to Charlie Whiting for adjudication, he then delegates to the stewards. That says in bold red letters, that he is in charge of sporting regulations too.

In any event, Charlie Whiting speaks for the FIA as a very senior member of staff. His emails are far from lightweight.


Passing incidents over the race stewards is simply part of Charlie’s role as race director.

Beyond asking stewards to investigate an incident he cannot make a judgement on anything, Thats why it gets passed to the stewards, why Charlie is not a part of the stewards panel, why he cannot tell the stewards which way to take a decision & why the stewards ignore any opinion he gives to the team (Hamilton’s Spa 2008 penalty is an example of this).



You said Pirrelli have contracts with some teams for next season, but not all. Do they all have the same contract? Same price/ level of service? I’m surprised its not a single central contract


Hmmm, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say Ross Brawn will take the hit for this and be forced out and it will turn out to be a conspiracy by him to get back at Mercedes for the management changes and undermining him all this time.

He will then either retire, or take on a roll at another team. Personally, I’d like to see him at Williams. Bring them back to glory before he retires.


Simple solution – Pirelli invite the other 10 teams for a 1000km test at Barcelona between the British and German GPs. That would even things up and we could move on….

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