The FIA International Tribunal has ruled that the Mercedes AMG Petronas team will be banned from participating in next month’s three-day ‘Young Drivers’ test session at Silverstone after it completed a private test session with Pirelli, against the guidelines of the International Sporting Code.
In all, the seven-hour hearing and next-day ruling at the FIA’s Paris headquarters turned out to be a serious non-event. Mercifully, however, it brought and end to a shambolic and hysterical coverage of an apparent rules breach, which was quite disgustingly egged on by two teams and various branches of the media with a serious axe to grind.
After hearing all of the evidence put to it from the FIA, Mercedes and Pirelli, the Tribunal ruled that Mercedes will forfeit the opportunity to participate at next month’s ‘Young Drivers’ test session, while hitting Pirelli with an official reprimand.
The Tribunal found that neither Mercedes nor Pirelli had acted in bad faith or set set about to intentionally cheat or “obtain any unfair sporting advantage” by conducting the test.
However, it did rule that Mercedes did in fact “obtain some material advantage (even if only by way of confirmation of what had not gone wrong) as a result of the testing, which, at least potentially, gave it an unfair sporting advantage, to the knowledge and with the intention of Pirelli.”
As a result, it ruled that Mercedes and Pirelli had acted in breach of Article 22 of the International Sporting Regulations, as well as Articles 1 and 151 of the International Sporting Code.
However, the Tribunal also criticised the FIA – and its race director, Charlie Whiting, in particular – for not adhering to the proper steps in either signing off, or refusing, permission for the test session when it was original requested.
That in itself was an embarrassing admission of the clear communications failings that exist within the FIA, and it hamstrung the sport’s governing body from being able to take more serious action, not that it was particularly warranted in the opinions of this author.
“The FIA wishes that lessons are learnt from this case and from the decision handed down. To this end, the FIA will make sure, in association with all F1 teams, that its control of the testings is strengthened,” its statement read.
“It is recalled that the notification of the FIA International Tribunal’s decision opens to each of the parties concerned the possibility of bringing an appeal against this decision before the FIA International Court of Appeal within 7 days.”
Mercedes has already indicated that it will not appeal the decision, and Pirelli is likely to follow suit, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that the entire episode was yet another example of how the sport’s leaders continue to shoot themselves in the foot.