Mercedes’ secret tyre test at Barcelona has placed them in a tight spot as they stand to face heavy sanctions should the German manufacturer be found guilty of breach of FIA regulations. They are accused of breaking an in-season ban on testing, with Pirelli willing accomplices. The matter is now headed to the International Tribunal. If guilty, the Monaco winners could be stripped of points, fined or even excluded.
In the week following the Spanish Grand Prix on May 12, Mercedes carried out a test at Catalunya circuit with tyre supplier Pirelli, which caught its rivals unaware. The rule is that all 11 teams have to unanimously agree to any extra test days and Mercedes failed to mention their little secret.
There is estimation that Mercedes spent £1 million during the three-day testing. To avoid a spending war, restrictions were introduced, with a 15,000km-limit imposed in 2009 followed by a ban in 2010. Ferrari and Red Bull complained when news of the hush-hush test reached them last week.
No secret: MERC
Mercedes boss Ross Brawn said: “It’s up to the stewards to decide if we have done anything wrong. We’re comfortable.” Mercedes even argued that the test was no secret and that FIA was informed. "Nothing was secret. We didn't Twitter. Should we have?" Mercedes director Toto Wolff said after the Monaco GP.
Pirelli reasoned that its contract stipulates that it is allowed to conduct 1000kms of testing with ‘a representative car.’ Christian Horner, Red Bull principal, felt Mercedes must take the blame: “When it enters the world championship it's the team's responsibility to comply with the regulations.”
FIA not informed
FIA issued a statement saying that neither was it informed about the test nor were other teams offered an opportunity to participate in it. “Pirelli and Mercedes-AMG were advised that such a test could be possible if carried out by Pirelli, as opposed to the team, and that such tests would be conditional upon every team being given the same opportunity.”