Formula 1 Teams Protest Pirelli’s Private Tire Test With Mercedes

Rosberg Monaco 2013

Nico Rosberg winning the Monaco GP. From Mercedes

A tire test conducted by Pirelli with current Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 cars is under intense scrutiny this week, and possible violations are expected to be brought in front of the FIA, F1’s governing body, ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix. A few days after the Spanish GP, Pirelli used Mercedes’ current car, the W04, to conduct laps around the Circuit de Catalunya to test tires supplied to F1 teams. It’s been no secret that the W04 burns through tires more quickly than its rivals, which gives Mercedes a serious disadvantage on the track, where tire conservation strategy is more important than ever. Ferrari and Red Bull have lodged protests against the Pirelli test, which they allege violates current FIA regulations.

Current FIA rules bar teams from conducting tire tests in the middle of a season. Mercedes stated that the team was given permission by the FIA to conduct the test, but the governing body said that there were stipulations to the exception that were not met. The FIA required Pirelli to open the test to all teams, and only if Pirelli piloted the cars. The complaints stem from the claim that Pirelli never contacted other teams for possibly testing at Barcelona, and that Mercedes conducted the test themselves with their own drivers. Ferrari and Red Bull also insist that current cars cannot be used for testing.

Pirelli defended itself, pointing to a letter sent out last year, inviting all teams to take part in tire testing throughout the season. The manufacturer is entitled to 1,000km of testing, providing that either that testing occurs outside of the season, or the teams all agree to take Pirelli up on its offer of in-season testing. Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn stated that the teams have known about Pirelli’s desire for in-season testing, and following Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton’s performance in Bahrain, the team set a date for testing with Pirelli. The team remained steadfast in its belief that it could not have benefited from testing, as Pirelli mostly used 2014 tires; the manufacturer is also to have tested a new tire to be used in the upcoming Canadian GP, but kept its identity under wraps.

The requirement of Pirelli to provide drivers seems to be more clear cut, as it is alleged that Mercedes drivers were piloting the cars during testing. The protest is expected to be officially decided by the FIA in the coming days.


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About Cameron Rogers

Cameron Rogers is the founder and lead writer at Downshift Autos, the only automotive blog on the Internet*. Born in the back of an AMC Gremlin, Cameron vowed to never let this extraordinarily embarrassing detail define him, so help him God. He drives a GTI but absolutely will not shut up about it if somebody asks. He will not hesitate to let people know that no, they shouldn't get a Porsche 911 when a Morgan 3 Wheeler is so obviously the superior choice. He is obsessed with the seats of a Carrera GT and the steering wheel of a Fisker Karma. He once sat in the driver's seat of a Tesla Model S, his greatest accomplishment to date. He is just now realizing that writing an autobiography, however miniscule, in the third person is odd and unnerving. *As of this writing, Cameron has been informed that there are, in fact, many websites and blogs centered around cars and car culture. He regrets his grievous error.

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