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SBD Global/June 24, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Mercedes, Pirelli Found Guilty By International Tribunal In 'Tyregate' Case

Mercedes F1 Team Principal Ross Brawn sits in on the FIA International Tribunal hearing in Paris.
Mercedes has been found guilty in the "Tyregate" case, but the slap on the wrist delivered Friday by the Int'l Tribunal "was hardly approval for the prosecution of the team by the FIA," according to Kevin Eason of the LONDON TIMES. Costs "were shared equally between Mercedes and Pirelli," which were both reprimanded for their part in an illegal 600-mile tire test session last month, and the FIA. The tribunal, headed by Tribunal President Edwin Glasgow, found that the FIA had given "qualified approval" for the test, a mitigating factor at the center of the seven-hour inquiry Thursday in Paris. The tribunal found that Mercedes had broken article 22.4 of the FIA's sporting regulations by running a current '13 car in the test and that Mercedes did "obtain some material advantage" which "at least potentially gave an unfair sporting advantage." The five judges qualified their guilty verdict by finding that "neither Mercedes nor Pirelli were trying intentionally to gain an advantage or that they acted in bad faith" (LONDON TIMES, 6/21). In London, Tom Cary wrote the judging panel also ruled that Mercedes "had no reason to believe that approval had not been given" given the advice it had received from FIA Race Dir Charlie Whiting and senior lawyer Sebastien Bernard. The FIA "responded to the verdict in a separate statement in which the body expressed hope that lessons can be learned." The statement 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" (TELEGRAPH, 6/21).

THE PUNISHMENT: REUTERS' Alan Baldwin wrote the tribunal "ordered the British-based team to miss a three-day young driver test scheduled for Silverstone in July." The tribunal had the power to impose a heavy fine, dock points or even ban Mercedes from the world championship -- "although that was never a likely option for one of the sport's major players who are currently third overall." Champions Red Bull, who had protested to the FIA at last month's Monaco Grand Prix when they found out Mercedes had used its current car and drivers in the test, "had indicated they wanted to see a tough response." After the hearing, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner said, "Usually if you commit a sporting offense there's a sporting penalty that goes with it" (REUTERS, 6/21).

ACCEPTING THE DECISION: The BBC's Andrew Benson wrote Mercedes said it "acknowledges and accepts the decision" of the FIA Int'l Tribunal. In the best interests of the sport, the team does not intend to avail itself of any right to appeal the decision." The tribunal said it was "unable to express any opinion" as to whether testing carried out by Ferrari with a two-year-old car in '12 and '13 was "properly authorised." But it said it was "equally unsatisfactory" that Whiting had given his consent to this even though the tribunal "had no evidence before it which indicates his opinion had in fact been wrong." The decision to split the costs equally suggests that "the tribunal felt the FIA was not completely blameless in the episode" (BBC, 6/21). In London, Simon Cass wrote the decision certainly places the focus on F1's rule makers, the FIA, "to tighten up the regulations regarding in-season testing given that the leniency of the verdict on the int'l tribunal points to the fact there are significant loopholes which need to be addressed." The lack of a draconian punishment "certainly suggests the int'l tribunal was sympathetic to the apparent inconsistencies in the rules" (DAILY MAIL, 6/21).

RED BULL THREAT: SPORT BILD's Bianca Garloff reported Red Bull Motorsports Dir Helmut Marko revealed his dislike of Mercedes' punishment in the tire test scandal. Marko: "That's a joke. We expected a tougher punishment." The other F1 teams "have not issued official statements so far." However, a Ferrari spokesperson said, "We are disappointed that Mercedes pointed the finger at us in its defense" (SPORT BILD, 6/21). In London, Kevin Eason reported Red Bull is "threatening to take the law into their own hands as a direct challenge to the authority of the FIA." Red Bull execs "are considering boycotting the young drivers’ test to set up their own private session in a mirror of the Mercedes case." A private test "would breach the FIA rulebook," but Red Bull said that they "would take the risk of a reprimand -- the punishment meted out to Mercedes -- for the benefit of three days of testing" (LONDON TIMES, 6/24).
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