France Tire Test Hearing

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.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Ryan Hunter-Reay

Ryan Hunter-Reay
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the Verizon IndyCar Series field. Finishing sixth in 2015 after a late rally was Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2012 series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda

  • 2014: 6th Place, 3 Wins, 1 Pole, 6 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 195 Laps Led, 10.2 Avg. Start, 10.9 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 6th Place, 2 Wins, Best Start 3rd, 3 Podiums, 4 Top-5, 7 Top-10, 71 Laps Led, 12.2 Avg. Start, 10.4 Avg. Finish

The old adage “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish” would probably be the best way to sum up Ryan Hunter-Reay’s 2015 season, which until the final quarter of season could best be described as a forgettable nightmare.

The first three races seemed somewhat OK, with eighth, seventh and fourth place grid spots. But none of the three produced a result of note; Hunter-Reay was also caught up in the three-car, late race accident at NOLA Motorsports Park and didn’t bank any good finish until a fifth place at Barber the end of April.

A tailspin followed. Hunter-Reay started between 14th and 21st every race between the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and Milwaukee – a stretch of eight races – and only had one top-10 finish in that stint, eighth at the rain-affected lottery that was Detroit race two. Some seasons are just ones you want to end and by Milwaukee it was obvious that Hunter-Reay was racing just to get to the end of the year, without things getting any worse.

Things finally came good with a typically good drive at Iowa and arguably one of the drives of his career, two races later at Pocono, to end with two wins and extend his streak of winning a race in each of his six seasons at Andretti Autosport. It was no coincidence, either, that Hunter-Reay’s uptick in form came with the return of the late Justin Wilson’s presence in a fourth car.

After Pocono, Hunter-Reay also drove well to finish second at Sonoma, and by that point he’d completed an incredible late-season turnaround to jump from 14th to sixth in points. But if asked, he’d probably admit this was his toughest season yet at Andretti and arguably his toughest overall since his 2009 season, when he was in-between full-time rides and saw out the year with Vision Racing and A.J. Foyt Enterprises.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series field with fifth-placed Helio Castroneves.

Helio Castroneves, No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet

  • 2014: 2nd Place, 1 Win, 3 Poles, 6 Podiums, 7 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 282 Laps Led, 5.7 Avg. Start, 9.3 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 5th Place, Best Finish 2nd, 4 Poles, 5 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 198 Laps Led, 4.9 Avg. Start, 9.3 Avg. Finish

Much as you’d write about his fellow countryman and longtime friend and rival Tony Kanaan, age hasn’t slowed Helio Castroneves, but it’s instead fueled continued success. And while Castroneves went winless for only the second time (2011) in his illustrious 16-year career with Team Penske, he wasn’t down on performance.

Now 40, Castroneves continued to have several shining moments in 2015, which was particularly important to do to stand out against defending champion Will Power, this year’s primary title contender Juan Pablo Montoya and new driver Simon Pagenaud.

Castroneves scored four pole positions and boasted a 4.9 averaging starting position, second in the field to Power, which was very impressive to note. His run of form from Texas through Milwaukee, capturing three podiums in four races, was his best race stretch this season. Additional highlights included back-to-back runner-up results in the NOLA lottery and then on pure pace at Long Beach.

The month of May must though be viewed as a disappointment. Castroneves played a role in the first corner mess at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and got a points penalty (although the number was dropped) as a result. Then he endured another Indianapolis 500 where he was not the out-and-out fastest car in the Penske brigade. While Montoya and Power were dueling for the win and Pagenaud had speed to burn all month, Castroneves’ lone moment of note came with his accident in practice, which mercifully he emerged unscathed from.

As ever though, fifth in this field owed to his consistency and dogged determination to succeed. Castroneves has ended top-five in seven of the last eight seasons since the IRL/Champ Car merger in 2008 and if it wasn’t for Dixon’s top-three run hogging the headlines, we’d probably appreciate Castroneves even more so. As long as he’s continually competitive, he’s still worthy at Team Penske.