Following a tense day in front of the International Tribunal, both Mercedes and Pirelli anxiously prepared to discover their fate. Day 1 went as well as could be expected for Mercedes, while Pirelli had suffered a reputation damaging affair. The verdict brought results which had been somewhat anticipated – Mercedes have been excluded from the forthcoming Young Drivers Test at Silverstone and Pirelli have been reprimanded for instigating a test which contravened the regulations. However, many will feel that the penalty does not reflect the severity of the crime.
While the initial plans were to deliver a verdict on Thursday, the court room deliberations which lasted for a colossal seven hours meant that the final decisions had to be delayed. This was unsurprising considering the strong opinions which Mercedes and Pirelli wished to deliver, coupled with the, at times devious techniques employed by Christian Horner and company.Consequently, Mercedes fans had to wait what seemed an age before the FIA revealed their verdicts. The hefty sanction which many anticipated was not delivered. Instead, the team received an exclusion from the three day Young Drivers Test event which will be held in Silverstone in two weeks time. This penalty is considered to be a minor sanction by competitors, as they feel that it does not reflect the knowledge which was gained during the Pirelli tyre test. Sky Sports F1 analyst, Ted Kravitz highlighted this, stating; “There’s no doubt Mercedes have got away very lightly. A slap on the wrist at the very least and exclusion from the young drivers’ test, while it would have been useful, isn’t exactly going to make or break their championship,”
It is evident that the penalty is an attempt by the FIA to balance out the testing mileage attained by teams. Notably, Pirelli and Mercedes tested for three days – coincidentally or not, the same length as the YDT. Despite this, competitors will still believe that Mercedes possess greater knowledge, as the young drivers will inevitably lack the experience which is required to give the type of feedback which Hamilton and Rosberg are able to. While Mercedes claim that they were unable to collect extortionate quantities of data during their test, rivals are still unconvinced.
Many competitors expected more, especially considering the severity of the crime. Kravitz highlighted, “In the coming days Mercedes may try to spin this to say that they weren’t guilty but the full judgement from the FIA makes it clear that not only were Mercedes technically guilty of breaking Article 22.4h of the Sporting Regulations banning in-season testing, they were also guilty of breaking Article 151 of the International Sporting Code which prohibits acts prejudicial to the interests of competition.” Consequently, it is the mitigating factors which have spared Mercedes a possible exclusion for the British Grand Prix, or perhaps the Constructors Championship altogether. Pirelli played an influential part in the protection of the team, after announcing that Mercedes asked to use the 2011 car as oppose to the 2013, (in other words, they attempted to follow the regulations strictly while Pirelli did not). Moreover, Mercedes clearly researched into the legality of the test itself, identified by their discussions with Charlie Whiting. Subsequently, the punishment cannot be judged upon the face value of the crime – there are several points of contention which the FIA had to account for.
While Pirelli’s reputation is in tatters, the tyre manufacturer did have immunity from serious sanction during the trial since they are Formula One’s sole tyre supplier. The majority of the paddock suggest that Pirelli are committed to leaving the sport at the conclusion of their contract at the end of the season. Consequently, their antics could not be punished in a way which the FIA would have undoubtedly preferred. A reprimand was given yet Paul Hembery does not want to forget about the fiasco entirely. He believes that the events have highlighted the insufficient amounts of tyre testing which manufacturers can complete. He stated, “In terms of the result, it was good to hear that it was recognised that both ourselves and Mercedes acted in good faith based on information we’d received from the FIA. The costs of course were split three ways between the three parties and hopefully it means we can all start focusing back on the sport. Of course it doesn’t take away our need to be able to test in representative conditions with representative cars. We’re still running round in obsolete, almost museum pieces, trying to do our job so there’s still a lot of work to be done to allow us to do what we call representative testing going forward.”
Despite this, Pirelli and Hembery commented on how the tribunal was conducted in an “entirely fair” manner. However, with both parties receiving minor punishments, many sections of the paddock are left feeling disgruntled. Across the two days it appears that Pirelli and Mercedes have abetted each other’s arguments to great effect. The penalty is evidently lenient as Mercedes have announced that they will not appeal; a rare result of any court decision in any discipline of sport.