Since the revelation at last week's Monaco Grand Prix that Mercedes had carried out testing following the Spanish Grand Prix, a lot had been said about whether it was within the rules or not. Pirelli and Mercedes argued that they were well within their right to, rivals however disagreed, believing they had broken Article 22.4, which states that in season testing of a current car is forbidden.
Pirelli insisted that the tyres being tested were from 'a range of products', with 2014 being the sole focus of the test and Mercedes gaining no benefit from the running. The Italian firm also believe that Mercedes had been granted permission to use a 2013 chassis and the use of such car was not something they specifically requested. Pirelli's contract with the FIA states that they are able to call upon a team to carry out 1000KM of testing for tyres.
Mercedes too are certain that they gained no advantage from the test. Team principle Ross Brawn stated that "When you do a Pirelli tyre test, you don't know what tyres you are
testing," He continued to say "we [still] don't know what the conclusions were.".
Later in the week, the FIA brought Scuderia Ferrari into the test row after it became apparent that they too had carried out secret tyre testing, despite protesting against Mercedes doing so.
However, the main problem for teams protesting against Mercedes appears to not be whether they gained any advantage with regards to tyres (it has been generally accepted that they didn't), but their use of a 2013 car. Unlike Mercedes, Ferrari's test used a 2011 car. Stefano Domenicali, the Ferrari team principle, made it clear that it was the use of a 2013 car that his team were protesting, not the tyre test itself.
With in season testing so restricted at the moment, with 4 days of straight line running and the young driver test being all that's allowed in season, any team would take advantage of more testing time to learn their cars. Ferrari are adamant that by using a 2011 car they didn't break testing regulations, but they would test using a 2013 car if the opportunity presented itself.
So with Ferrari protesting, yet being involved in another secret tyre test, do they have the right to protest? Which team is right and which is wrong?
Scuderia Ferrari didn't run the test themselves, Ferrari's Corse Clienti
program ran the test. This is not the F1 team, it shares no personnel
with the race team and their job is to run old, obsolete cars for
demonstrations, the Ferrari Driver Academy and wealthy clients. It is unlikely Scuderia Ferrari would have gained anything from the test. The test was ran by effectively a third party (Corse
Clienti), using an old car (2011 150 Italia), reportedly being driven by
Pedro De La Rosa, a test driver.
The approach to the Ferrari test is similar to Pirelli's previous tyre tests that they carried out themselves previously. Pirelli's testing program has used a 2009 Toyota and a 2010 Renault being ran by a former race team (Toyota)
and a third party (Lotus/Renault showcar team) and their tests were always
conducted using drivers who didn't have race seats or contracts with any
teams at the time (Heidfeld, Grosjean, De La Rosa, di Grassi,
Alguersuari). The clearest problem with Ferrari's test is tthat it was conducted in secret.hen Pirelli tested with the Toyota or Renault, every team knew about it, received data and could send staff to observe.
On the other hand, it was Mercedes race team that ran their test with a 2013 chassis being driven by Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, the teams two race drivers; meaning that the team could have learned about their car throughout the duration of the three day's running prior to the Monaco Grand Prix.
So did Ferrari get around testing regulations? Have Mercedes broken the rules? The two teams, along with Pirelli will now face an FIA Judicial and Disciplinary panel, which will decide whether any rules have been broken and what, if any punishments will be levied against any of the parties involved.
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