Mercedes principal Ross Brawn, a past master at finding Formula One loopholes, may need to pull another rabbit from his magician's hat on Thursday if his team are to escape potentially heavy sanctions.
The burly Englishman will explain to an International Tribunal hearing in Paris
why the team of 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton and Germany's Nico Rosberg should escape punishment for apparently breaking strict rules on testing.
The possible penalties range from a reprimand, through fines and points deductions, to the nuclear option of exclusion from the championship.
Brawn — winner of multiple championships with Benetton, Ferrari and the Brawn GP team that became Mercedes — is the team's leading witness and has considerable experience of appearing before the FIA and coming out in the clear. Benetton's 1994 traction control furore, Ferrari's ‘bargeboard' controversy of 1999 and the Brawn double diffuser row of 2009 all ended with the Briton emerging on the winning side.
Courtroom drama cannot be ruled out, nor can explosive consequences in the biggest crisis faced by the sport in recent years.
What is the tribunal?
The tribunal was set up in 2010 to rule on matters submitted by the FIA to ensure regulations are upheld. Thursday's hearing will be its first ever.
Who will be there?
Mercedes principal Ross Brawn and Pirelli head Paul Hembery along with lawyers. Ferrari and Red Bull, as interested parties, can also participate.
What is this case about?
Mercedes provided their 2013 car, along with drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, for Pirelli's use at a private tyre test at Barcelona circuit after the Spanish Grand Prix. F1 regulations ban teams from testing during the season with a current car or one from the previous season and at a track used in the championship.
What sanctions could be applied?
Potential punishments range from a reprimand to exclusion from the championship. The tribunal can also apply a fine or dock points.
What happens next?
Pirelli, who do not have a contract for 2014, could walk away. Both parties can appeal, and the matter could be taken to civil court.
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