Mercedes and Pirelli got away with what amounts to no more than a slap on the wrist from the governing body for breaching the rules covering in-season testing.
After weeks of hysteria and a seven-hour hearing in Paris on Thursday in which the FIA International Tribunal waded through lengthy written submissions, both parties received reprimands. Mercedes will also not be allowed to participate in the Young Driver test at Silverstone on 17-19 July. That is hardly going to worry Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes team, considering there was talk of a draconian fine or even exclusion from one or more races after they allegedly brought the sport into disrepute by staging a “secret” test in Barcelona on 15-17 May.
Yes, they will lose three days’ valuable running on the latest Pirelli rubber – which may or may not balance out any potential advantage gained from the three days they have already had – but some will feel sorry for testers Sam Bird and Daniel Juncadella, who lose the all-too-rare chance to showcase their talents.
The International Tribunal panel was presided over by Briton Edwin Glasgow QC and included fellow countryman Anthony Scott Andrews. Their verdict cut through all the hoopla that has surrounded the situation since details of the “secret” test leaked out during the Monaco Grand Prix. It was a storm in a teacup, but it was one brewed by the communication between Mercedes and the FIA’s race director, Charlie Whiting, who Mercedes claimed had given them permission to test. If one thing stands out more than anything else it is the need to tighten up the understanding about testing rules.
Ferrari also held a “secret” test in Barcelona – a week before the Spanish GP – but were not called before the tribunal because they kept within the letter of the rules by testing a two-year old car. If Mercedes were deemed to have derived advantage from their test, it is hard to argue Ferrari did not gain something similar from testing on a track that was about to stage a race – which they won.
It will also be interesting to see if the affair impacts on the roles of Whiting and Mercedes’ team principal, Ross Brawn.