FIA tribunal arguments focusing on ‘the code’

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As the FIA tribunal surrounding tiregate continues to unfold, the arguments are becoming increasingly heated and passionate, with both Pirelli and Mercedes claiming that they are innocent over the matter. However, just as MotorSportsTalk analyzed the details determining the verdict for the case, such fine points could once again come into play in Paris.

For Mercedes, their argument surrounded the FIA’s sporting regulations which they unquestionably come under. Interestingly, they appeared to pick up on the syntax used; the FIA claim that Mercedes ‘undertook’ the test, whilst Mercedes claim that it was in fact Pirelli who ‘undertook’ the test by asking the team to run at the Circuit de Catalunya. Despite both being in the dock, there appears to be little cohesion or collusion between the two parties – perhaps it is a case of damage limitation? Furthermore, Mercedes argued that Ferrari should be brought back into the investigation, despite the Italian team being acquitted after testing with their 2011 car after the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Pirelli’s argument is also finely poised, with their lawyer claiming: “Pirelli cannot understand the disciplinary action. Pirelli is only acting with the rights it was given by the FIA.

“The claims are unfounded because it has been recognized that Pirelli has not violated the code.”

This ‘code’ that the tire supplier is referring to is the set of FIA Sporting Regulations which all teams must adhere too, but Pirelli’s argument is based on the fact that they do not come under the FIA’s jurisdiction as per the regulations.

A closer look at the regulations suggests a very different story though:

“All drivers, competitors and officials participating in the Championship undertake, on behalf of themselves, their employees, agents and suppliers, to observe all the provisions as supplemented or amended of the International Sporting Code (the Code), the Formula One Technical Regulations (the Technical Regulations) and the present Sporting Regulations together referred to as “the Regulations”.

Pirelli, as a supplier, is therefore required to abide by this code, yet their argument is that they are not under this umbrella.

Interestingly, the example which the Italian tire supplier has chosen to use involves Flavio Briatore’s ban from the sport in the wake of Crashgate in 2009. Briatore was banned from all F1 activities, yet he managed to have this ruling overturned in a Paris court as he was not under the FIA’s jurisdiction, and the Italian supremo now attends many grands prix. The FIA reacted by introducing personnel licenses to the sport, covering this loophole. In this case though, the regulations do seem to be more water-tight.

Similarly, Pirelli and Mercedes are trying to expose flaws in the FIA regulations, and it could well come down to the use of English in making a decision, which is due on Friday after all of the evidence was heard today in Paris.

IndyCar’s 2018 full-field grid nearing completion

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Following Wednesday’s confirmation of the all-Canadian tandem at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, each of the eight full-time teams in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season have announced at least one driver for 2018, leaving very few remaining question marks.

What stands confirmed is below:

CONFIRMED

  • Team Penske (3, Chevrolet): Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power
  • Chip Ganassi Racing (1, Honda): Scott Dixon
  • Andretti Autosport (4, Honda): Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Marco Andretti, Zach Veach
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (2, Honda): Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato
  • Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (2, Honda): James Hinchcliffe, Robert Wickens
  • Ed Carpenter Racing (2, Chevrolet): Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter (ovals)
  • A.J. Foyt Enterprises (1, Chevrolet): Tony Kanaan
  • Dale Coyne Racing (1, Honda): Sebastien Bourdais
  • Harding Racing (1, Chevrolet): Gabby Chaves

There are four additional drivers confirmed for selected races or an month of May program:

  • Team Penske (1, Chevrolet): Helio Castroneves
  • Andretti Autosport (1, Honda): Stefan Wilson
  • Calmels Sport with SPM (1, Honda): Tristan Gommendy
  • Team TBD (1, TBD): Kyle Kaiser

All told that’s 17 full-season driver and team combinations confirmed and four additional part-time programs, at least, that are set. Several of those driver/team combinations will have engineering and strategist changes, as well.

In a minor note since our last update at Sonoma, Marco Andretti confirmed he won’t run No. 27 next year. Of note, Bryan Herta served as Andretti’s race strategist this year, although the car he was an entrant on was Alexander Rossi’s No. 98 car. Herta will continue his relationship with Andretti Autosport again next season.

WHAT’S LEFT TO SORT? NOT MUCH

Elsewhere, there’s only a handful of remaining question marks as the series hits mid-October, a rarity from past years and an illustration of the urgency to fill seats to get as much preparation time in testing with the new 2018 Dallara universal aero kit as possible.

NBC Sports expects 2016 Indy Lights champion and 2017 IndyCar rookie-of-the-year Ed Jones to be confirmed soon as second driver in Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 19 Honda alongside Sebastien Bourdais, with team personnel and Bourdais both having indicated a preference in keeping the Dubai-based Brit for a second year.

NBC Sports also expects Jones’ successor as Indy Lights champion, Kyle Kaiser, to have his future announced shortly in terms of which team he’ll step up to IndyCar with. It would not be a surprise if Kaiser does graduate along with Juncos Racing, although Kaiser is known to have talked to multiple teams. The Mazda Motorsports scholarship nets him $1 million for a three-race program, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500, with the driver then needing to secure additional funding for further races, as Jones and Pigot both have each of the last two years.

The status of Brendon Hartley has now been thrown up as a slight question mark dependent on how his Formula 1 debut with Scuderia Toro Rosso goes at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, and if Toro Rosso provides him a further race opportunity in one of the remaining three Grands Prix thereafter. Having been all-but-earmarked for Chip Ganassi Racing’s second seat in 2018, if an F1 offer comes, Hartley’s potential IndyCar bow could get delayed.

A McLaren-named entry competing either in the Indianapolis 500 or full-time seems further off than realistic for next year, McLaren’s Zak Brown told reporters on a teleconference this week. McLaren maintains an IndyCar technical presence though, via its McLaren Applied Technologies outfit.

What’s left then are the dominoes of whether Carlin’s IndyCar plans officially come to fruition as the team has gotten closer than it ever has to doing so, and who emerges in the second seats at A.J. Foyt Enterprises and Ed Carpenter Racing (road and street courses), respectively.

A number of young IndyCar veterans – Max Chilton, Charlie Kimball, Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly namely – are yet to land for 2018 and there’s no guarantee all four of them will be back in IndyCar next season.

There’s also a handful of young drivers, namely RC Enerson, Jack Harvey, Esteban Gutierrez, Santiago Urrutia, Zachary Claman DeMelo, Sage Karam and Matthew Brabham among others, who could well emerge in the frame for seats.

Gutierrez’s status seemed dependent on Mexico City being added to the 2018 calendar, and although the race still could be added, the fact neither is in place at this point doesn’t inspire as much confidence about his presence as a regular on the grid as it did earlier this summer.

All told, there’s not nearly that much to sort out as IndyCar’s grid for 2018 is looking very much close to set at this early stage of a long offseason.