Formula One is waking up to a nail-biting climax this morning – and it’s nothing to do with racing.
Mercedes and Pirelli are set to appear before the FIA’s International Tribunal (IT) in Paris to answer charges relating to their three-day private tyres test in Barcelona last month.
The key question is whether Mercedes gained a competitive advantage from testing tyres with Pirelli in Barcelona from May 15-17.
Under the terms of Pirelli’s contract with the FIA as the sports sole tyre supplier, development tests are permissible. However, use of a current car for in-season testing is illegal under the F1 regulations, with the exception of one young driver test and limited straight-line running.
Pirelli tyres deny any rules-breach and said it believed the 1000km of testing offered no advantages to Mercedes, the German team which has struggled at times this season to make Pirelli’s rubber last.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s motorsport director will attend the hearing where the company will argue that the test focussed exclusively on development of 2014, rather than 2013 tyres and that Mercedes had no knowledge of the specifications used.
Team principal Ross Brawn is expected to be Mercedes’ lead representative at today’s hearing, where they have said they will “welcome the opportunity to explain the full facts of the Pirelli Test in an open and transparent manner”.
The FIA has already looked into another Pirelli tyre test involving Ferrari in Barcelona in April. But its President Jean Todt dismissed that case because the Italian team used its 2011 car for the test, breaching no rules.
The outcome of today’s hearing will be published as soon as possible, although any decision can then be appealed at the International Court of Appeal.
Alex Kapadia, Operations Team