A bit of ‘handbags at dawn’ has emerged in the hours leading up to today’s Monaco Grand Prix, after it emerged that Mercedes staged a secret three-day Pirelli tyre test following their dismal race performance at the Spanish Grand Prix a fortnight ago.
It is understood that the team ran both of its lead drivers at the Circuit de Catalunya over a total of 1,000 kilometres as the sport’s sole tyre supplier tried to perform further development work on its tyres.
It is believed, however, that the team was unaware of what tyre compounds (or variations of them) were being used, as Pirelli had removed its coloured tyre markings so as to not give the team any extra advantage.
Pirelli’s deal apparently permits it to perform further testing in-season – despite the FIA banning the teams from any similar testing – but given that the best available Formula 1 car at Pirelli’s disposal is over three years old, it can ask any of the established F1 teams for assistance.
Apparently it’s not the first time that this has happened. It is believed that a similar test outing was performed with Ferrari’s help after the Bahrain Grand Prix, although the Italian team has neither confirmed nor denied that this took place.
While Mercedes claims that it sought approval from the FIA prior to agreeing to Pirelli’s request to the test session, that hasn’t impressed Red Bull Racing, who have lodged a protest with the FIA – probably on the sole grounds that they are yet to be asked if they can do a test session…