Pirelli & Mercedes development test leads to F1 Hysteria & FIA headless chicken impersonations
There are times in life where I wonder what the writers and media withing the world of F1 do all day. They chase ‘exclusive’ interviews that ten others also get, and miss the rest of what’s happening in F1.
Furthermore, this pack mentality appears to drive illogical deductions, made in the rush to get ‘the story out’.
Sunday in Monaco began with a furor developing over a three-day test that took place in Barcelona following the Spanish GP. Apparently, Red Bull and Ferrari were upset because they knew nothing about it, and the fact that Mercedes used a 2013 car.
Yet, much of the drama and hysteria could have been diffused indoors doors in an early state with some calm questioning and less mischief making. We first heard the drama described as “a ‘secret test’ performed by Mercedes and Pirelli in Barcelona”.
It was a secret?
Following the checkered flag, the Mercedes team was sitting in its garage, smoking cigars and drinking fine port, whilst all the others were charging around like crazy, packing hundreds of tonnes of equipment into trucks … and nobody noticed?!?
Anyone who has ever been at a Grand Prix circuit the morning after a race will know how ridiculous it is to suggest that Mercedes operated a secret test. Mrs. Judge loves to take oblique industrial landscape photographs at empty tracks and moans that there are too many people around on Mondays after a race.
The cars were buzzing around the Circuit de Cataluña on Monday morning, whilst hundreds of F1 team members were still busy finalizing the cleanup and moving out.
Christian Horner claimed he had only learned of the test after qualifying in Monaco. This raises the question of how much else Christian is not aware of, or not being told.
Mercedes gained an advantage
Helmut Marko, following the race, said: “We are very unhappy. When we test for three days, we go a second faster – that’s what Adrian Newey [Red Bull's designer] says. It definitely helped them – you can see that they had no tyre problems today. That’s no accident.”
Yet, both Paul Hembery and Ross Brawn clearly stated before the race that the test was controlled by Pirelli. Mercedes was given tyres with various indentifying codes and were asked to test them, with Pirelli monitoring the results.
Hembery also claimed that most of the tested tyres were 2014 prototypes, with some versions of the as yet ‘not-agreed-upon’ revised 2013 tyres, due to debut in Canada in 2 weeks time”.
Marko is making himself look silly again. If Red Bull has been running the 2013 tyres for over 50,000 kilometers and still can’t work them out, then how does three days of testing with prototype tyres give Mercedes an understanding the 2013 rubber?
Count the brain cells
Some will argue this was just F1 reporters desiring to create a drama. It wasn’t. The fervent chasing of tails for ‘information’ in Monaco on Sunday morning was comical.
Yet for anyone starting from ‘rational land’ the question was obvious. How stupid are Ross Brawn and Paul Hembery? Even if this is a tough question to comprehend, we can distill the answers into multiple choices – “Very stupid”, “somewhat stupid”, “not really stupid”, and “pretty smart” are the likely responses.
The matter was clearly always going to hang on a technicality and Ross Brawn, following his years at Ferrari, knows exactly how to spot a loophole and drive a coach and horses through it.
The FIA on the other hand is more like a headless chicken. It is easy to believe that the left hand has no idea what the right hand is doing in a ‘dis-organisation’ that appears to be bureaucratic first and efficient last.
Others not informed
Paul Hembery told SKY that he had written to the teams, asking them whether they would participate in testing tyres with them. “Some responded with interest, others didn’t bother to reply at all”.
Later in the day, some of the mischief making was again made apparent when Horner admitted that Red Bull was asked to attend the test but, “We declined, because we are of the opinion that such a test violates the regulations.” (Motorsport.com)
This had never happened before
Ferrari tested tyres for Pirelli following the Bahrain GP this year, though they are believed to have used either the 2010 or 2011 car.
A Ferrari spokesman said, “Pirelli can offer to the teams the chance to do 1,000 kilometers of testing for tyre development and safety. But the fundamental aspect is the year of the car because if you use a current car it should be allegedly a breach of article 22. We want a clarification on this because if it is not against article 22 we would be interested in doing this.”
A later statement from the FIA clears the matter of a current car up quite nicely. “At the beginning of May, the FIA was asked by Pirelli if it was possible to carry out some tyre development testing with a team, using a current car. Within the contract Pirelli has with the FIA as single-supplier, there is provision for them to carry out up to 1000kms of testing with any team – provided every team is offered the opportunity to do so”.
So,maybe testing had not previously occurred with a current car, but the FIA clearly sanction it, subject to certain conditions.
Niki Lauda told Brazil’s Estadio, “When we were asked to do this, our team boss Ross Brawn called Charlie Whiting and asked if a test is compatible with the sporting regulations.
Charlie consulted with the FIA lawyers and gave us the green light. Further, Pirelli didn’t just ask us, but Red Bull as well.”
The stewards were never going to overturn the result of the race, and this matter was always going to be kicked back to Paris. This may not have been the case 15-20 years ago, but thankfully the randomness of post-race decisions as well as overruling the results is predominantly a thing of the past.
The full response of the FIA, the first part of which is stated above, continues, “Pirelli and Mercedes-AMG were advised by the FIA that such a development test could be possible if carried out by Pirelli, as opposed to the team that would provide the car and driver, and that such tests would be conditional upon every team being given the same opportunity to test in order to ensure full sporting equity.
Following this communication, the FIA received no further information about a possible test from Pirelli or Mercedes-AMG. Furthermore the FIA received no confirmation that all teams had been given an opportunity to test.“
This note was handed to the media last night. No FIA headed paper left, chaps? Methinks this says it all.
It appears to be tradition to have a major row break out during the Monaco GP weekend. If I were a cynic, I’d believe it to be orchestrated by Bernie and the Prince as part of their ‘mysterious’ arrangements for this event.
In 2012, the crisis of rule breaking was directed towards the Red Bull RB8 slotted floor. Pre-race protests were considered, but at the last moment it was agreed that the FIA would be allowed time to clarify the matter without bringing the result of the race into question.
So where does this now hang. Clearly a 2013 car was allowed by the FIA, so all of Ferrari’s early protests over breaches of the sporting regulation on this matter are now satisfied.
Mercedes has little to prove or argue. As long as the development test was “carried out by Pirelli, as opposed to the team that would provide the car and driver,” the Brackley team are in the clear. It is not their responsibility to ask or inform other teams.
Pirelli’s situation is less clear. Yet, the battle of arguments will be fought over the condition that, “every team being given the same opportunity to test in order to ensure full sporting equity”.
Pirelli will argue that nothing was done in an underhand manner and that a representative of the FIA was in attendance. Horner clearly admits Red Bull were asked to attend, but refused.
The problem Pirelli may have is that ‘every team’ does not appear to have been given ‘equal opportunity’ to participate in the test. Sauber team boss Monisha Kaltenborn told Auto Motor und Sport: “We knew nothing about it.”
Furthermore, I understand that Pirelli will argue they couldn’t operate a full test with all teams present, due to the sheer volume of the various prototype compounds that they would have been required to produce. In addition, it makes sense to use one or two controlled test beds (cars) when attempting data analysis and interpretation.
Also, other teams have been contacted prior to the Monaco weekend and were offered the same opportunity following other upcoming races.
So, Pirelli will argue they reasonably have met/are meeting the ‘every team’ and ‘equal opportunity’ conditions. It appears that the FIA conditions were hastily decided upon and expressed in far too loose words, which has allowed Pirelli to act as they did.
One has to ask whether Pirelli cares what the FIA say or do to them at present. Can they be fined? Can they be treated any worse over their contract extension talks?
It could just be that Pirelli don’t give a monkeys banana and, should the FIA rebuke one of it’s officially sanctioned suppliers, it will be another stain on the FIA’s reputation, rather than Pirelli’s.