Updates from the FIA International Tribunal on Mercedes’ test


We’ll provide updates from the FIA International Tribunal hearing regarding the legality of Mercedes’ tire test with 2013-spec Pirelli rubber and its 2013 chassis, the W04, after the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.

UPDATE, 9:30 a.m. ET: Pirelli has had its turn in front of the FIA Tribunal and its lawyer said the FIA has no jurisdiction to sanction it.

“Pirelli cannot understand the disciplinary action,” said Pirelli’s lawyer Dominique Dumas. “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.”

It appears the FIA will not issue a verdict on the hearing today, per a tweet from BBC reporter Jennie Gow:

UPDATE, 8:45 a.m. ET: Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn has weighed in on the matter, and said there was no way his outfit could have benefited from the test.

“I don’t see how,” he said, reported by Autosport. “We didn’t know what the tires were; we didn’t know what the detail objectives were of what Pirelli were doing. We always work on the principle that no information is better than bad information. I don’t see how we could have used any data from that test.”

Brawn added that Charlie Whiting’s decisions, whatever they are, are final when it comes to sporting decisions.

The way things are looking thus far, it appears either of these two could be one to fall on the sword. Of course, Pirelli is up next, and that could have a lot of impact.

8 a.m. ET: As of 8 a.m. ET, the FIA and Mercedes have presented their cases in the FIA Tribunal to determine the legality, and/or fallout, of Mercedes’ tire test after the Spanish Grand Prix.

The FIA was first up, per the BBC, and says it never gave Mercedes and Pirelli official permission to run its 2013-spec W04 chassis at the Barcelona test.

If Formula One race director Charlie Whiting had given the OK, the FIA claimed such a ruling was “irrelevant” and would not supersede its own ruling.

“Whether or not Whiting consented, it is irrelevant, because testing in relation to Article 22 is a breach, unless it [a rule change] is granted by the World Motor Sport Council,” said Mark Howard QC, the FIA’s legal representative.

Mercedes was next up (via Autosport), and true to form throughout this process said it was not in violation of Article 22 as it viewed the test as a Pirelli test. Its lawyer, Paul Harris QC, said Pirelli’s full organization and payment of the test should take Mercedes out of blame.

“This was not a test undertaken by Mercedes. They are critical words in text of Article 22 – ‘undertaken by’,” he said.”The Pirelli test was not a test undertaken by Mercedes, it is irrefutable it is a test undertaken by Pirelli.”

And while Ferrari had already been cleared of any wrongdoing by the FIA for its own test of 2013 Pirelli rubber, the key difference being it was with its 2011 car, Mercedes has now challenged that test too.

“Our position is if we are wrong on interpretation of what [article] 22 means and there was track running by us, such as we are in breach, it follows that Ferrari were also in breach,” said Harris. “They ran their car on track and we argue their car followed substantially with the regulations… I put the marker down.”

An interested spectator in the crowd? That would be Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who has attended the proceedings.

Position of F1 start lights altered to compensate for safety halo

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The position of start lights will be altered on Formula One tracks this season, in a bid to ensure the drivers’ line of vision is not impeded by the controversial halo protection device.

The halo is a titanium structure introduced this year in a bid to ramp up driver safety, forming a ring around the cockpit top. It is designed to protect the drivers’ head from loose debris and offer better safety during eventual collisions.

Although drivers largely understand the need for it, very few like it. They are worried it impedes visibility, it looks ugly and also that fans will no longer be able to identify a driver properly from his race helmet. Drivers also take longer to climb in and out of their cars.

Formula One’s governing body has addressed concerns and asked every circuit “to make the lights at a standard height above the track,” FIA race director Charlie Whiting said.

“Pole position seems to be the worst case scenario with the halo,” Whiting added at the season-opening Australian GP. “Maybe the driver can’t quite see the lights, or see only half of them, and he might have to move his head too much.”

The new start lights were positioned lower for Friday’s first two practice sessions at Albert Park. Drivers were also allowed the rare chance to rehearse grid starts at the end of both sessions.

“We haven’t normally allowed practice starts on the grid here because it’s quite a tight timetable,” Whiting said. “What I thought would be a good idea was to give the driver sight of those lights, rather than for the first time on Sunday evening.”

A repeat set of lights has been moved from its usual position halfway up the grid to a more convenient position to the left.

“Those repeat lights were normally halfway up the grid, and they were fitted round about 2009, when the rear wings became higher on the cars,” Whiting said. “But now the wings have been lowered, there’s no need for those halfway up the grid.”