Pirelli, extended testing and the IT

Will in season testing come back to F1 for 2014? and what the rules would be? Also, let's have a look at Pirelli and Mercedes current situation in the sport and how the International Tribunal might affect their future in the sport.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013

June 13th, 2013 (F1plus/J. Parker).- We ill Get Testing In 2014. Common sense may prevail at last. I say that because we are potentially now only 1 step away from seeing limited in season testing returning to Formula 1 during 2014, and with it a solid base for all teams to gather a much better understanding of the new regulations that come into force next year.

Now these plans were formally discussed by Formula 1’s strategy group which consists of certain teams (Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren, Lotus and Williams) alongside the commercial rights holder (Bernie) and the FIA in Monaco.

Thanks to Adam Cooper’s incredible insight, Formula 1 is only an official announcement away by the World Motorsport Council from having in season testing integrated back into the calendar after an agreement has supposedly been met.

Basically the agreement will see 8 days of additional testing granted, splitting up into 4 two day sessions spread through the year.

These would take place on a Wednesday and Thursday after a Grand Prix weekend (confusingly). The agreement will also see the days granted for teams to compose aero tests and filming days dramatically reduced, which is not necessarily a bad thing – as aero tests can be easily taken out during the in-season test sessions.

Whilst the step is logical on all accounts, smaller teams are rather unhappy that they will have to fund the resources to stay an extra 5 days at the circuit post Grand Prix in order to complete the test.

I agree that is does seem a very illogical solution to a very logical solution (couldn’t resist) and Formula 1 could still make a pigs ear of the situation. To keep all parties happy, I am surprised to see that the 2 day testing sessions are not merged into a current Grand Prix weekend, with them taking place on a Wednesday and Thursday before a scheduled race weekend.

With only 4 testing sessions scheduled, and the European Calendar scattered with 2 to 3 week breaks (experiencing one now before Silverstone) I am surprised that this is a route the “strategy group” have identified as something they are best not to follow.

Not only would this satisfy the much larger teams who are quite clearly pushing for increased mileage during the 2014 season to better understand their packages, the smaller teams resources will not be stretched as far as the current proposal - but more details will be released on the current situation in due course.

Pirelli Are A No

We will not be having the revised Pirelli compounds in Silverstone. The revisions were made with the construction of the tyre, and not the compound structure itself, but Pirelli decided not to put them into service for the British Grand Prix.

The reasoning behind this apparently, was down to the changeable conditions we experienced in Canada limiting running dramatically in practice on the revised tyres. With teams not fully confident on them and no major running accomplished Pirelli have indeed done a u-turn – but was this always going to happen?

Conflict to the changes have always been present from certain teams who have felt they have interpreted the 2013 regulations best – namely Ferrari, Lotus and Force India. Infact post Cataluyna when we experienced that controversial 4 stop race, both Ferrari and Lotus defiantly stood by their cars and suggested others should just get on with the job of adapting theirs instead of complaining about a lack of changes to the compounds.

Now these revisions were initially based on safety concerns. With the spectacular delaminations witnessed by everyone in the paddock, there was a general consensus that the construction of the tyre needed to be adapted to stop these happening. This incidentally is the only way Pirelli are allowed to override a majority team vote and revise the compounds during in-season.

However, due to the growing groans from teams that are happy on the current compounds, and an International Tribunal to worry about – it appears Pirelli have found a solution to stop the spectacular delaminations. By altering the composition of glue used in the construction process to keep the rubber attached to the carcass, they have apparently found an ideal solution for the current spec tyres.

This however means safety concerns are no longer present, and therefore Pirelli would need to have the approval of all teams in the paddock to bring the new construction compounds into service (the ones scheduled for Silverstone). With Lotus and Force India voicing a view that whatever the circumstances they will not allow the compounds to be adjusted, it leaves Pirelli between a rock and a hard place, facing the possibility that the new tyres may not even enter service at all in 2013.

To be honest I welcome this opposition by both Force India and Lotus. If the new glue used in construction stops the delaminations, then it is a team’s responsibility to therefore adapt their car to the demands of the compounds. The fastest car for the designated regulations will still triumph, and with safety concerns eradicated there is no reason to change mid season and therefore disadvantage teams that have interpreted the regulations the best.

We Have A Date

Mercedes will face the International Tribunal on June the 20th. 

Mercedes and Pirelli have a date in which they enter the dock at the International Tribunal. On the 20th of June in Paris BOTH parties will face charges for their actions in the “not so secret” Barcelona tyre test post Spanish Grand Prix. I have already written an article on why the Ferrari and Mercedes tests differ, and it will be fascinating to see, if found guilty of breaking the regulations, what kind of long term effect this has on the Mercedes board back in Stuttgart.

The board in Stuttgart have already expressed frustrations over the current situation with the tribunal, could the verdict from this throw their long term future into doubt, especially as no Concorde agreement has been signed yet in 2013?

Wolff and Lauda own around 40% of the Merc team, so if the board want out, we could possibly see them becoming majority shareholders.

The International Tribunal was set up for the most extreme cases of illegality in Formula 1. Any old case is simply not referred to the tribunal unless it is a serious break of regulations. Of course, there are 3 parties intrinsically involved in the case, most notably the FIA, and it will be interesting to see if negligence and incompetence is proven in both the FIA’s handling of the matter and the lack of clarity they gave to both Pirelli and Mercedes over being allowed to test a current 2013 chassis with current drivers line-up.

For Mercedes, well I will be surprised to see them given a monetary penalty after hearing all of the evidence. In my opinion they will either be found to be innocent and therefore receive no punishment, or be found guilty and suffer very serious consequences.

Whether it is the exclusion of the team from the World Championship altogether in 2013, or simply a matter of excluding their constructors points (much like spy-gate from 2007 with McLaren) I do not know. But in the grander scheme of things a fine will have no real bearing on the success or decline of the team – therefore is not an acceptable punishment in my view.

Pirelli’s charges are yet unknown, but it could be surrounding the authorisation of an in season test with a team’s current chassis without the knowledge of the other teams within Formula 1 or the FIA. Obviously Mercedes part in this mess would be regarding participation in the test, whereas Pirelli would be regarding the “setting up” and management of an illegal test.

This also could define the long term future of Pirelli. We already know that, contradictory to Bernie’s claims, Pirelli do not have a tyre agreement in place for 2014. They are fed up with the whole situation surrounding “tyre-gate” and the relationship with the governing body, the FIA is at an all time low.

With no concorde agreement yet signed in 2013 so far (4 months and counting) and Pirelli out of contract within Formula 1, there is simply nothing stopping them from packing up and walking away from the sport. If found guilty of breaking the regulations, would they even want to stay in the sport beyond 2013?

This could therefore leave Formula 1 in a very difficult position, with no tyre supplier secured for the future. Pirelli have already stated that it is already too late to draft in another supplier, prepare suitable compounds and be organised for the start of 2014 – don’t you just love Formula 1?

I am intrigued to see how this one pans out, and it could either have no, or incredible implications for the future of the sport.

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