Mercedes' lawyer hits out at FIA in tyre test tribunal
Governing body accused of double standards; they argue there is little doubt of wrongdoing
Mercedes accused Formula One's governing body of double standards yesterday at a tribunal that could impose stiff sanctions on their team for allegedly breaking the rules with a 'secret' tyre test.
The team of 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton - preparing for his home British grand prix next week - and Germany's Nico Rosberg face anything from a reprimand to exclusion from the championship if found guilty.
Lawyer Paul Harris, representing Mercedes, suggested the International Automobile Federation (FIA) had treated his team in a very different way to Ferrari - who face no action despite both having tested with tyre supplier Pirelli this year.
Mercedes are charged with breaking the rules by using their current car at a 1,000km tyre test in Barcelona with Pirelli last month and gaining an unfair advantage from it, an accusation they deny.
Ferrari, who have tested twice previously with Pirelli including in April just before they won the Spanish Grand Prix at the same circuit, have not been summoned to the tribunal because they used a 2011 car.
"The key differences in treatment are plain," said Harris, criticising a sporting body run by former Ferrari team boss Jean Todt.
"Ferrari were allowed to rely on a verbal confirmation from Pirelli that authorisation had been achieved but apparently we are condemned for this.
"Ferrari's dealings with the FIA were non-specific as regards dates, location, names of drivers. They are not criticised but apparently we are," he added.
"Ferrari was even more involved in the actual testing than we were, they booked and paid for the circuit. They are not criticised."
The rules ban teams from testing with a current car, or one from the previous year, during the season but Pirelli are entitled to carry out a number of tyre tests.
The FIA's lawyer Mark Howard had earlier accused Mercedes of breaking the rules and gaining an unfair benefit, a charge made by champions Red Bull who protested with Ferrari when they found out about the test.
He told the four judges and tribunal president that there was little factual dispute in the case.
"There is not much room for doubt that the Mercedes 2013 car was a car covered by the regulations and that the car was subjected to track running time in Barcelona," he said. "It is difficult to say that Mercedes gained no benefit from the test."
The FIA has said a verdict will be issued "as soon as possible" after the hearing, which was continuing overnight.