• FIA International Tribunal

Mercedes points finger at Ferrari in defence

ESPN Staff
June 20, 2013 « FIA claims no approval given | Pirelli believes it can't be sanctioned »
Ross Brawn was cross examined during the tribunal © Getty Images

Mercedes claims it had permission to test its 2013 car for Pirelli but insists it has no case to answer at the FIA International Tribunal because the test was carried out by the car manufacturer.

Mercedes also claimed that if Ferrari's tyre test with Pirelli prior to the Spanish Grand Prix was deemed legal despite the 2011 car largely conforming to this season's regulations then it too should be cleared.

At the tribunal in Paris, the FIA outlined its case against Mercedes, stating its belief that the test was prejudicial to the 2013 Formula One season. Following a short break, Paul Harris QC - representing Mercedes - began the defence based on the claim that the test was undertaken by Pirelli and not Mercedes.

The article in question

  • Mercedes is being accused of breaching article 151c of the FIA's International Sporting Code, which states:

    Any fraudulent conduct or any act prejudicial to the interests of any competition or to the interests of motor sport generally [shall be deemed a breach of the rules].

Outlining its defence, Mercedes focused on who was carrying out the test, with Harris saying Mercedes was merely a subcontractor to Pirelli. "The only sensible conclusion is that what happened on that day - whether one calls it a test or track running - was conducted by Pirelli," Harris said. "If the test wasn't undertaken by Mercedes, there is no case."

Harris also claimed that the test came under clause 4.2 in the Pirelli contract, which is not seen as a test by article 22 of the Sporting Regulations - which relates to track testing - but because the clause does not mention testing. Harris said that clause 4.1 of the Pirelli contract bans testing under article 22, but that clause 4.2 relates only to Pirelli testing.

Mercedes also made reference to an email from Charlie Whiting to FIA lawyer Sebastien Bernard, in which Whiting asks: "In my view, any such testing would not actually be undertaken by the competitor. Do you think we would be able to take this position to allow Pirelli to undertake a meaningful test?"

To which Bernard's reply was: "We could take this position."

Harris admitted that more transparency would have been good, but "in the world of Formula One, that transparency is not the norm." He said that Mercedes "acted in good faith throughout, conducting a test to the benefit of all Formula One participants."

Mercedes said the reason it ran its race drivers was due to the short notice of the test - with Pirelli "delighted to have drivers of that calibre" - but apologised for running anonymous helmets as it makes it look suspicious.

With Ferrari having carried out a tyre test using its 2011 car prior to the Spanish Grand Prix, Mercedes says its test was planned and conducted in exactly the same manner - with Whiting's approval enough authority in Ferrari's case - and therefore if it is in breach of 151c then so is Ferrari.

When called for cross examination, Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn asked how the teams are supposed to seek clarification from the FIA if Whiting does not have the authority and why there is not a defined procedure, with Brawn also claiming he has never been asked to refer sporting questions to the World Motor Sports Council.