Tiregate? The devil’s in the detail


Following Spygate (2007) and Crashgate (2008), Tiregate is set to become the talking point of the 2013 season, and we’re not even a third of the way through this year’s championship. With Mercedes and Ferrari both facing inquiries from the FIA, it appears that two of the title contenders could be under pressure, yet there are many finer points which make their cases very different.

The details of Mercedes’ test came out on the Sunday of the Monaco Grand Prix, immediately triggering protests from Red Bull and (ironically) Ferrari. After the Spanish Grand Prix, the team had completed 1000km of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya using their 2013 car( the W04), 2013 tires and their 2013 drivers (Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton). This is a clear example of an in-season test, the like of which is banned, and Mercedes have made no secret of their actions. Instead, they are fighting their case on the grounds that Pirelli’s contract with the sport allows for such a test to be undertaken.

Ferrari’s test has two great differences. Firstly, it was not completed using the 2013 car. Instead, the team used the F150 Italia, which they ran in 2011. Under the regulations, teams are forbidden from completing any running with a car used in the last two years (i.e. 2012 or 2013). Subsequently, Ferrari are clear on this point. Additionally, the rumor mill has suggested that Pedro de la Rosa completed the running, not Fernando Alonso or Felipe Massa.

How much of a benefit would the test have given Ferrari though? Although the car is two years old, and there have been changes made to the regulations since then, there may have been some benefit considering this was the first year in which Pirelli tires were used. Ferrari have been pushing for in-season testing ever since it was banned, with their use of Fiorano proving highly fruitful during their golden years in the early 2000s.

Ferrari are certainly not ‘as guilty’ as Mercedes, meaning that the decision ultimately rests with the FIA. Should they choose to take a particularly strict stance, both teams could face some sort of fine or penalty, but it would be Mercedes who are worse off as they did use their 2013 car. Ferrari have a tradition of being ‘cute’ with the regulations – i.e. keeping in the rules, but pushing them to the limit – and this is a classic example. The car used does not break the rules (unlike Mercedes), putting them in the clear for now. It does set a precedent for the future though, and Red Bull may be blowing the dust off the RB7 should the FIA deem Ferrari to have done no wrong.

It’s the idea of Mercedes being ‘more guilty’ than Ferrari which means that the two teams cannot be treated as equals. It is ultimately up to the FIA to decide what course of action to take, but Tiregate is set to rumble on well into the summer.

X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E

Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.