Updates from the FIA International Tribunal on Mercedes’ test

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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.

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.