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Mercedes grilled at International Tribunal
Posted By: James Allen  |  20 Jun 2013   |  4:30 pm GMT  |  348 comments

Mercedes and Pirelli appeared today before the first ever sitting of the FIA International Tribunal, under chair of judges Edwin Glasgow QC, an experienced lawyer in FIA hearings.

Glasgow said the judgement will come ‘by tomorrow.’

The team was there to answer a charge that it had breached the F1 Sporting Regulations by testing a current car during the season. Tyre supplier Pirelli was also called to explain why it did not open the test up to other competitors.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner surprised everyone by making an appearance in person as an observer, while several other teams sent legal observers.

It was the FIA’s turn to speak first, with Mercedes following and then Pirelli. In addition to lawyers, Ross Brawn represented Mercedes, Paul Hembery Pirelli and the FIA’s Charlie Whiting was also there.

The FIA case
The FIA stated its case, which was that Mercedes had not been given permission to test with a 2013 car, as had been claimed.

The FIA lawyer, Mark Howard QC argued that the only the World Motor Sport Council had the power to authorise something which goes against the rules.

Mercedes asked the FIA’s Charlie Whiting via telephone in on May 2 if they could use a 2013 car for a Pirelli test and he consulted with FIA in house lawyer Sebastian Bernard, who said that it was possible provided that Pirelli invited all the other teams to test and to show that it had done so.

“There was no attempt whatsoever by Mercedes to involve the other teams in order to ensure that no perception of an advantage was obtained,” the FIA’s lawyer Mark Howard said.

He added that Whiting told Mercedes’ Ross Brawn of the FIA’s stance to the principle of using a 2013 car in a Pirelli test, but also indicated him it was not a binding commitment from the FIA. Only the World Council had that power, he underlined.

“Whether or not Whiting consented, it is irrelevant, because testing in relation to Article 22 is a breach, unless it [a rule change] is granted by the World Motor Sport Council,” he said.

“This communication (Whiting’s message to Brawn) was not an agreement by the FIA – it was nothing more than Whiting and Bernard’s interpretation of [article] 22.”

The FIA also argued that Mercedes’ enquiries were vague rather than specific and that they were wrong not to follow up with Whiting with an explanation of the test they planned to carry out.

Howard claimed that Mercedes must have derived benefit from the test, “It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that some defect would have become apparent in the three days track testing, and it cannot seriously be suggested that Mercedes would not seek to remedy that defect,” he said.

Mercedes’ case
Ross Brawn spoke for Mercedes. The thrust of his argument was that the test was not conducted by Mercedes, it was conducted by Pirelli.

Mercedes’ QC Paul Harris said, “This was not a test undertaken by Mercedes. They are critical words in text of (Sporting Regulation) Article 22 – ‘undertaken by’. The Pirelli test was not a test ‘undertaken by’ Mercedes. It is irrefutable it is a test ‘undertaken by’ Pirelli.”

Harris also went on the offensive, trying to argue that if Mercedes was in the wrong, then the Ferrari test which took place in Barcelona a few weeks before Mercedes, using a 2011 car with Pedro de la Rosa at the wheel, was also in breach of the rules.

“It does not follow that if Ferrari runs on track a 2011 car, that that 2011 car does not conform substantially to either the 2012 or 2013 regulations. There was only 0.5s difference between the 2011 cars and 2013 cars, showing the changes between 2011 and 2013 are minuscule in terms of performance.”

Harris claimed that the test, and another test apparently conducted last season with a two year old car by Felipe Massa, were subject to a lack of transparency and that there had been an exchange of information after that test between Mr Hamashima, Ferrari’s tyre specialist and Pirelli.

Under cross examination, after the initial submissions from all three partied had been heard, Brawn argued that Mercedes had derived no competitive benefit over its rivals from the opportunity to test tyres for three days, “I don’t see how,” he said. “We didn’t know what the tyres were; we didn’t know what the detail objectives were of what Pirelli were doing. We always work on the principle that no information is better than bad information. I don’t see how we could have used any data from that test.”

However when cross examined further he admitted that the team must have learned something from an opportunity to run its current car for three days, “I think that is unavoidable, and was a consideration taken into account when we had permission from the FIA to do the test. But it does need to be kept in proportion.”

Mercedes also argued that the way F1 works, the opinion of Whiting is biding on all technical queries, such as whether a new innovation can be used on a car, so why should it be any different for sporting matters?

Mercedes did apologise for the impression of secrecy created by the drivers wearing black helmets, disguising their identity, “We regret now the decision of our drivers to wear black helmets and we apologise, ” said Harris. “We had our reasons – it was about the lack of bodyguard and security personnel. We do acknowledge that this part of the test aroused suspicions and it is regrettable.”

Pirelli’s case

Pirelli was unhappy about being drawn as a co-respondent into this Tribunal, as it is not a competitor and felt it was not subject to the disciplinary process.

The FIA’s reason for bringing them in was the lack of transparency over the test and lack of opportunity given to the other teams,

“None of the other 2013 competitors were invited to participate in the test or observe. None of the other 2013 competitors was aware that the test was to take place. Without the knowledge, consent and participation of other competitors, Mercedes and Pirelli may have engaged in activity that was prejudicial to the competition.”

* At the end of the hearing Mercedes’ lawyer asked for leniency in the event that the team is found to be in breach of the rules. He suggested that a suitable punishment would be for Mercedes to miss the three day young drivers test at Silverstone next month.

History shows that advising courts how to punish does not generally lead them to follow the suggestion. It also indicates that Mercedes feel they may have come out on the wrong side of this one.

If that is the case, expect to see pressure on Ross Brawn’s position from both within Mercedes and the sport as a whole.

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Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

yes, i too got this wrong as i in no way saw this coming. i doubt very much if this is the end of the story though.

in light of the evidence led by the FIA, the tribunal sought to ameliorate the charges and instead levy an ‘sentence’ that in no way reflects the benefits gained by mercedes.

ferrari comments make it painfully obvious that they are not happy either. why should they be? to date i haven’t read any red bull statements but it will be back to the drawing board now to see just how far they can go.


“At the end of the hearing Mercedes’ lawyer asked for leniency in the event that the team is found to be in breach of the rules. He suggested that a suitable punishment would be for Mercedes to miss the three day young drivers test at Silverstone next month.

History shows that advising courts how to punish does not generally lead them to follow the suggestion.”


They followed it this time. A ban from the young drivers test for Mercedes, and reprimands for Mercedes & Pirelli has all the hallmarks of a face-saving exercise, with the punishment not unduly harming either guilty party.


Yes indeed.

Got that one wrong. Never second guess a legal process!!


It wasn’t a criticism of you, James, more an observation that the Mercedes lawyer’s suggestion seemed to offer an acceptable face-saving way out for all concerned.

The punishment neutralises the advantage the team obtained for taking part in the test but, crucially, not the drivers. There is no escaping the fact that the current Mercedes drivers have obtained approximately 3.5 GPs worth of extra track time, between them, over their rivals.

As an aside, full marks to you James for actually reading these comments and replying. If only some others (*Ahem, cough*, Andrew Benson)did the same.


I heard Red Bull were offered to take part in the test, but refused, so what’s the deal with Pirelli not offering to other teams when they did?


Red Bull were due to do a test, I’m told, but not sure what car they would have brought.


Possible penalty:

Mercedes is forced to fire the drivers who benefitted from the test and has to do it with Schumacher and Frenzen for the rest of the season.


The thing I find most astonishing about this whole scenario is that Mercedes were able to run a car around the Barcelona track for 3 days and nobody noticed.

Until the story broke at Monaco, I don’t recall any reports in the press of Mercedes cars being seen running on track at Barcelona. Racetracks are huge, and whilst there is a fence around the entire complex, it’s not contained in the way a football stadium is. Add into the equation the unique sound an F1 car makes, and that there would have been hundreds of people on site clearing up after the Spanish GP and it seems astonishing that the whole test passed unreported, but it seems it did.

I also don’t remember the previous Ferrari test being reported in the press. Perhaps James or someone can confirm if this was the case, but it seems it is possible to run an F1 car for 3 days and it go unreported.

I think they genuinely thought nobody would find out, and it seems they almost got away with it.

Roscoe's Fault

Tomorrow they will reveal that the penalty is that Roscoe will be banned from the paddock.

It’s all Roscoe’s fault!


just off the wall….but are pirelli OEM suppliers to mercedes benz passenger vehicles?

imagine a scenario where brawn tells lauda and wolffie that they are doing a 1000km test for pirelli. L & W would then ask what is in it for them to put extra kilometrage on their precious cars. brawn says….absolutely nothing to be gained from us doing this…absolutely zero. nada.

does anyone give this scenario any oxygen?

Craig in Manila

Pirelli will get away with it on that basis that they “advised” all teams.

Mercedes will get away with it as (1) it’s not their role to advise the other teams and (2) they had what appeared to be a valid go-ahead from Charlie.

Ferrari will get away with it as (1) the cars were not supplied by Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team (they were provided by Ferrari Spa being the owners of all retired Ferrari F1 cars) and (2)the chassis involved were from 2011 irrespective of any mods that were made.

Overall :

– Charlie will get a slap for saying something that he shouldn’t have said

– F1/FIA will have to re-word their rules to take out the loopholes and grey-areas

– All the lawyers will go home happy-chappies

Of course, I could be totally wrong (except for the part about the lawyers).

Adrian Newey Jnr

Doesn’t Charlie have close ties to Bernie, having worked for him at Brabham? And doesn’t Bernie have an axe to grid with Mercedes for not signing the Concorde Agreement and holding up the floatation of the sport?


The whole thing is just a Racing Incident.

FIA left the door slightly open; Mercedes (or Ross who appears to have the bigger bollocks) went for the gap; the door closed; both parties are out and looking silly.

Slag each other off in the press.

Next race.



succinct, perhaps a little inelegant, but succinct nonetheless.


I’m wondering why there aren’t rules to say that a test of any sort can only be conducted in the presence of a representative of the FIA or whoever. If Merc/Pirelli said they were testing an old car and then actually ran it with the 2013 car, if no one opened their big mouth about it, would anyone know? If Pirelli spent all 1000km running 2013 tyres, would anyone know?

It should pretty much stop at, “You did a test at which we had no representative present. Regardless of what you claim, we can’t be sure of what went on at the test.” At which point a severe penalty of some sort would be dished out.


what exactly is charlie whiting’s role and what powers does he have?

time and again charlie has been asked to provide an opinion on something, the team who asked the question relied on it, and then there has been a protest. that’s not exactly what happened in this instance, but it does beg the question.

if the stewarts, or indeed the FIA, can adopt a different interpretation of the rules to what charlie has done, and “charlie approved it” is not a valid defence, then what is the point of asking charlie at all?

if i call my bank or telephone company or any other organisation, ask them something and am given a response, i expect the response to be reliable and dependable – none of this “this is my interpretation of the rules but the outcome will depend on what other people in my organisation ultimately decides”.


Charlie Whiting is 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.

Sporting matters fall under the jurisdiction of the race stewards during race weekends & the WMSC at all other times.

Since I’ve known this since I began working at FOM in 1997 & have seen many occasions of Charlie & the FIA stating this, Im frankly amazed teams continue to say they think Charlie’s word is the ultimate say.


James –

In any professional entity, it is extremely rare for anyone other than the “boss man” to be representing the company at such hearings.

Given that Wolf was always positioning himself as that boss, why is it that suddenly Brawn is representing Mercedes at the hearing.

Just does not seem right?

Would love to hear your take on why Brawn had to be there… he may say it was his decision, but its Mercedes’ reputation at stake, and its always the boss man who is responsible for the actions of all his employees…


Brawn took responsibility for the decision and so he is the one who should attend.

He’s also a very good advocate in these situations and has plenty of experience of them


I’m betting on a 3 race ban, effective immediately.


If Merc are banned for 3 races, starting immediately, then Lewis will not be able to drive at the British Grand Prix.

That should create an interesting response from the Great British Public all demanding their money back as probably most of them are there to see Lewis race and hopefully win.


I would like to respond to a part of what you wrote about the Pirelli case.

You wrote, “Pirelli was unhappy about being drawn as a co-respondent into this Tribunal, as it is not a competitor and felt it was not subject to the disciplinary process.”

However, when I checked a couple of sites, they have statistics recorded for all the tyre suppliers that have been in Formula 1, so they must be a competitor.

What confirms this is the 2005 United States Grand Prix, when the race still went ahead with the Bridgestone runners, due to Michelin being unable to guarantee their runners that the tyres would be safe for racing. Michelin couldn’t race, but Bridgestone could, so the race went ahead.

Tyre suppliers are competitors in Formula 1 and are subject to the disciplinary process.

This is why they have been brought into this case, and this was due to the lack of transparency over the test and lack of opportunity given to the other teams. This was a Pirelli test, and it was Pirelli’s responsibility to tell the teams that a test for them(Pirelli) was going to happen. The FIA lawyer may have said that, “There was no attempt whatsoever by Mercedes to involve the other teams in order to ensure that no perception of an advantage was obtained,” but it wasn’t the responsibility of Mercedes to tell other teams, it was the responsibility of Pirelli. The tribunal should throw the book at Pirelli.

As for Mercedes, I think they went through the right processes, the processes which they didn’t need to do, because it was a test undertaken by Pirelli, to make sure that they were within the rules and regulations, and that they did the test for the right reasons, to improve the safety of this great sport, and the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, which its chairman is Ferrari test driver Pedro de la Rosa, and its directors are Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button, said that the Pirelli tyres were unsafe.

Yet, the FIA race director Charlie Whiting, who should know everything, both technical and sporting about Formula 1, and FIA in house lawyer Sebastian Bernard, who should know more than Charlie Whiting said at the tribunal that they didn’t give permission for the test, yet it is quite clear that they did, according to the evidence of Mercedes. Whiting and Bernard should be sacked by the FIA for their apparent lack of credibility.

And one last thing, Mercedes haven’t given up the fight in this case, Ross Brawn is too smart, and even the FIA said that they were honest and truthful throughout. They are putting the FIA and Pirelli into a false sense of security.

My verdict: Mercedes win the court case.


Michelin and Bridgestone were competing against each other

Pirelli is a contract tyre supplier of spec tyres. Different contracts


But they still record the wins and results of the tyre manufacturers, they must be a competitor. You don’t have to have opposition to be a competitor. Frankel and Black Caviar are still competitors, even if no one is running against them. Pirelli may supply spec tyres, but they still have an interest and a responsibility to ensure safe and fair competition, and they clearly haven’t done that. They are a competitor in Formula 1 in my view.


I must say Merc GP is completely shafted in this whole mess, and it all started by them ringing up Charlie Whiting to ask for opinion.

Instead it should’ve been Pirelli contacting the FIA asking what they should do if they needed a 2013 car for a tyre test in order to make this test totally “undertaken” by Pirelli. Have the FIA tell Pirelli to tell whichever team was available to offer the test cars what to do in order not to be seen as a breach of regulations. I would even suggest to go as far as removing the team livery and put Pirelli logos on the test cars.

Merc GP is just caught in the wrong end of things. What do u think the reaction will be had it been another team that’s not struggling with tyre woes (eg Lotus or Force India) that offered the “test cars”? It just doesn’t help that the team facilitating Pirelli with the test is one infamously struggling with tyres for the past 3 seasons.

Trying to recall spygate and McLaren at the time thought they weren’t caught in the turd as much and could come off lightly. Instead they were hit with a $100mil fine and all constructor points wiped out. I have a feeling that Merc GP would be hit with a penalty not dissimilar to what Macca suffered before.


can some tell me what a “QC” means?

forgive me for an out-of-topic question. but it’s just bugging me


There are many answers, but the official one is Queen’s Counsel.


Google is your friend.

QC=Queens Council


Queen’s Counsel … given to prominent lawyers with over 15 years experience.


Queens Council

James McMillan

Queen’s Counsel


Queens Counsel – it’s an appointment made on merit and only the sharpest of legal minds will be invited to become a QC.


Going to be an interesting couple of seasons without Merc and their engines.

And ofc without Pirelli as well.

Schnell! schnell!

The suggestion that Mercedes were attempting to b incognito about the test is ridiculous.

Flappy paddle gearboxes have made the art of the gear change obsolete in f1 for over 20 years now.

On a serious not, this whole debacle has its origin in the inability of the teams and the FIA to facilitate a means for Pirelli to test its tyres. No more, no less. They need to get their &|%! together and allow Pirelli the means of doing so or allow for teams to test tyres.

What is absolutely right about this test is that it was done at a GP circuit immediately after the GP.

There should be the ability of somebody to build a car that replicates the amount of downforce and general characteristics of a modern f1 car. It doesn’t have to be an actual rules compliant car, just have the characteristics that Pirelli needs. In some respects this would have been a perfect F1 involvement for lola……


Ross Brawn is too smart of a man to have done this alone (with all the lawyers he has at his disposal) he’s going to take the fall…It’s all politics

The truth I believe is somewhere in the wording of the PIRELLI CONTRACT with the FIA.
I can see a case for a Pirelli test on safety grounds with the 2013 car…maybe with a few interpretations of their contract.

What I don’t get is WHY the CURRENT drivers were used that definitely gives them some advantage 1000K test in the car…(I don’t blame the drivers as they are contracted to the team and only following orders)

Love reading how other fans see this mess 🙂


I don’t think there is any grand conspiracy. I think Ross Brawn goofed. I think it will probably cost him his position eventually. But I have no idea what penalty Merc will get. Were I to decide it, I might deduct the points (but not the positions/trophies) from the two races after Barcelona and Montreal – both drivers and constructors points. But nothing more.

tom in adelaide

Amazing that a bunch of people paid so much money can make such poor decisions.


feeble attempts at ‘disassociation’ i presume.


I think too much attention is being given on wording than common sense. Mercedes are reading beyond the words of what can and can’t be done.

If Mercedes honestly think a 2011 car is still useful then why are they not running one testing to get information for their current car.

They know they have done wrong and they went about doing it in secret. They have been caught and should be punished, I even think the drivers should be punished as they would know the rules as any F1 fan does, why would Pirelli of used old cars in the past???

Ban, ban, ban!


James, this is a good write up. Is there any truth to the Autosport claim that Ferrari ran a proper test programme in their test with 2013 weight distributions etc?

If so, then they were not really running a 2011 car, but a 2011 chassis which substantially conforms with key aspects of 2013 cars….

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