MOTOR RACING

Mercedes and Pirelli reprimanded over ‘tyregate’

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 June, 2013, 9:26am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 June, 2013, 9:26am

Mercedes and tyre-makers Pirelli on Friday escaped with reprimands for carrying out unauthorised tyre tests, with Mercedes also suspended from next month’s young driver test.

The verdicts were announced by the International Automobile Federation (FIA) International Tribunal following Thursday’s seven-hour meeting at FIA headquarters in Paris.

The controversial Mercedes/Pirelli tests, carried out over three days in May in Barcelona, sparked protests from the Red Bull and Ferrari teams that they contravened Formula One race laws.

Friday’s much-anticipated decision came after both Mercedes and Pirelli defended their actions, saying they had no intention of disobeying the sport’s regulations.

Mercedes said they accepted the verdict.

“In the best interests of the sport, the team does not intend to avail itself of any right to appeal the decision,” a statement on the team’s website confirmed.

The issue has badly divided Formula One with Mercedes on one side and world championship rivals Red Bull and Ferrari on the other, and the FIA had a range of sanctions at its disposal, including fines and suspensions.

The tests were carried out by Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg but under FIA rules such testing of tyres during the season, using the latest Formula One team cars, are banned.

Red Bull and Ferrari, sworn rivals of Mercedes for this year’s drivers’ and constructors’ championships, promptly lodged protests, claiming that the German team had been seeking to gain an unfair advantage and that Pirelli had been complicit.

Mercedes claimed they had done nothing wrong as the tests had been wholly organised and carried out by Pirelli, controlling the running of the car and the driver for the duration of the test.

Pirelli had reportedly been considering suing the FIA if the company was hit with a heavy penalty.

But in what will be seen in some quarters as a let-off for both companies, the sport’s ruling body settled for simple reprimands, with Mercedes also banned from the July 17-19 young drivers session.

The issuing of simple reprimands had been proposed by Mercedes’ lawyer Paul Harris at the end of Thursday’s sessions.

After the ruling the FIA said: “The FIA wishes that lessons are learnt from this case and from the decision handed down.

“To this end, the FIA will make sure, in association with all F1 teams, that its control of the testings is strengthened.”

Mercedes in their statement added: “Mercedes looks forward to working with the FIA and its fellow competitors to establish a more rigorous procedure for testing in the future, particularly to support the appointed tyre supplier.

“We now wish to bring this matter to a close and focus on the forthcoming British and German Grands Prix, both of which are important home races for the team.”

Ferrari later blasted the punishment as a “rap across the knuckles”.

“Today we learned, that even if one is guilty and in this case that is an indisputable and verified fact, there is always a way of muddling through as best one can,” said Ferrari through its “Horse Whisperer” blog on its official website.

“One only has to suggest to the judge what the penalty should be and even better, why not make it something light like a rap across the knuckles.

“It is somewhat perplexing to say the least to see that the guilty party can get away virtually scot free.”