A 1000km Test And No Benefit You Say?

I really wanted the title of this post to be the above photo caption, but that just seemed too long. Now lets dive into what will undoubtedly be a hot topic again in the wake of the Canadian GP: Mercedes, Pirelli and the “private” test.

This was bound to happen at the first good result by Mercedes and that it has happened at the following Grand Prix after the news broke in Monaco is not much of a surprise. Mercedes finishes with two cars in the top five and one of them in front of a Red Bull. This seems to support what most fans and most teams have been saying all along. There is no way the “private test” was not a benefit to Mercedes and by extension to both drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton in helping them understand the Pirelli rubber this year. Even considering that Mercedes didn’t know what they were testing and that most of the tires were for the 2014 season, meaning different compounds in anticipation of a new engine formula, surely the telemetry and data collected were important. Nothing that anyone can say that will make me think differently.

Can someone please tell me again how Mercedes secret 1000km test was not a benefit...

Can someone please tell me again how Mercedes secret 1000km test was not a benefit…

This blogger is ready to take on anyone, any engineer, any pundit, any expert that still wants to claim nothing meaningful was gained. I say to them all, if that is the case then let’s just allow every team on the grid to have a 1000km test using a different compound tire. Let’s see how many would jump at the chance. Based on my observation, anytime a team can see an advantage, they would gladly take it. 1000km seems like a great advantage to me.

In case you are wondering who on earth would say there is no benefit from this test, Paul Hembrey went out of his way to say exactly that. Let’s read what he has to say about it. I am reprinting only a few excerpts, but have linked the entire press release here:

In statement, Pirelli denies favoritism after Mercedes tire test row

Pirelli, in development testing with teams carried out in 2013, has not favoured any teams and, as always, acted professionally, with transparency and in absolute good faith. The tyres used were not from the current championship but belonged to a range of products still being developed in view of an eventual renewal of the supply contract. Further, none of the tests were carried for the purpose of enhancing specific cars, but only to test tyre solutions for future championships – My response is, a current 2013 chassis covered three race distances with your tires…

This test, as always, carried out with a single compound never used in a championship, regarded structures not in use in the current season and not destined to be used later during the 2013 season. The tyre tests were conducted “in the dark”, which means that the teams had no information on which specifications were being tested or about the goal of the testing; nor did they receive any type of information afterwards. – My response is, a current 2013 chassis covered three race distances with your tires…

The Barcelona test was conducted in cooperation with Mercedes between May 15 and May 17, 2013. The teams made available one car and two first tier drivers, who alternated at the wheel on different days. The trials were done with a base compound, not in use this year, and 12 different structures which had never been used in 2013, only one of which with kevlar. The team did not obtain any advantage with regard to knowledge of the behaviour of the tyres in use in the current championship. – My response is, a current 2013 chassis covered three race distances with your tires…

No tire wear issues in Canada, but for at least one team one has to wonder why...

No tire wear issues in Canada, but for at least one team one has to wonder why…

The summation, if I understand Mr. Hembrey correctly, is that nothing was gained by Mercedes. [Pause.] Right … Paul and I are not going to see eye to eye on this matter. Let’s agree to disagree. Let’s just suspend logic for a second and focus on Mercedes apart from the tires. There is no getting around the fact that Mercedes tested their 2013 chassis, the W04, three extra race distances more that any other team up to this point in the season and is that not an advantage in itself?

Canada can only be viewed as a great result for Mercedes. Mercedes, more than any other team this year has suffered tire wear to the extent that they go backwards on Sunday. It’s true that the nature of the circuit Gilles Villenueve, basically two long straights connected by two slow turns at each end, caused no team excessive tire wear. However, Lewis Hamilton looked as though he was driving a completely different car to the one in Spain. Hmm…?

Was this finishing position the result of a circuit that’s easy on tires? How about the on-going development in the factory back at Barckley? Could it have been Hamilton’s skill set behind the wheel of an F1 car to qualify well and convert that into a solid podium? Maybe, Maybe, and maybe, but probably … not.


Lewis Hamilton - a great drive in Canada. The question on everyone's mind is, was it you or the...

Lewis Hamilton – a great drive in Canada. The question on everyone’s mind is, was it you or the…

In Malaysia, Mercedes also finished with Hamilton in third, but in my mind and I think in most people’s, Hamilton’s third in Canada represents a true step forward for the team. The question then becomes: was this the result of the test? Ross Brawn wants everyone to call it “a private test” but lets call it what it was: a secret test. Why call it that? Because as Steve Matchett, who is an NBCSN commentator and an ex-Formula 1 engineer, explained during the telecast of the Grand Prix,  “When there is a test, no matter what, a team will issue a press release.” No press release = let’s keep it a secret.

Seems that Ross and company are not fooling anyone. Here is one of the things I have discovered about the fans that follow F1. They are well informed, intelligent and have an attention to detail that is quite astonishing. It will not have gone unnoticed by most fans that something was different this weekend for the Mercedes chassis, at least in the hands of Hamilton.

I have been trying to get a sense of the public’s opinion concerning this matter in between the comments of praise for Vettel’s dominance and the brilliant drive of Alonso. Here is what I have found.

From James Allen’s website:
Roberto Reply:
June 10th, 2013 at 5:55 am
Yeah, Mercedes seems to have a much better handle on tire degradation now thanks to the return of in-season tire testing and aero development tests …………………. oh wait!

Posted By: Miha Bevc
Date: June 9th, 2013 @ 9:55 pm
Great drive by Vettel and Alonso, but also Vergne and DiResta! Mercedes are getting better with the tyres. Hamilton was actually the last of the frontrunners to make 1st stop. I’m quite sure the ‘secret test’ helped them a little.

These are from Speed.com:
Obviously Mercedes sandbagged in Montreal to help their defense in the Tire Test Inquiry. “Seriously judge, if we were trying to gain an advantage, wouldn’t our results be better…

Rosberg said: “Some work to do for us, because with those high-speed corners it could be quite heavy on the tires. But I think we’ll be OK.”     Of course ! they are going to be ok ! after 1000 kms of free practice, are we dumb not to think that with the data that they have collected is not going to help them in the high speed and demanding tracks, from now on, that data is going to be very useful.

This is from another blogger @ It’s An F1 Life, who’s blog I have recently been reading:
The fact that Mercedes had a decent race in the aftermath of their secret test will only serve to fuel the fire surrounding the debate that the test helped them out significantly. I am under no impressions that the test was anything but beneficial for the team in terms of how they now understand their car’s behavioral characteristics with the tires.

Don't let the pretty girls fool you. The FIA is not amused. They will be judge, jury and punish-er come June 20th.

Don’t let the pretty girls fool you. The FIA is not amused. They will be judge, jury and punish-er come June 20th.

This latest incident of the tire drama is playing out against the back drop of an FIA Tribunal. This is the first of its kind I believe. The Tribunal will take place later this month on the 20th. Presumably Pirelli will show why they are not prosecutable for this tire test which they claim was allowed under the auspices of safety. I don’t have much to say about this except from a PR standpoint I think Pirelli shot themselves in the tire. Ha ha.

Mercedes will on the other hand state their case as to why they are not in breech of Article 22.1 of the FIA’s sporting regulation. I’m just a little ol’ blogger but I am finding it quite challenging to see how Ross Brawn and the plethora of Merc lawyers are going to talk their way out of this one. Unless Ross has a silver bullet (and part of me would not be surprised by the way, being the best strategist in F1 currently), it is a stretch to arrive at a conclusion other than guilty.

The bigger question now is what will the penalty consist of? I have read several possible outcomes and the options seem to be 1) a hefty fine, 2) loss of constructor points, 3) a race/s ban, 4) expulsion from the 2013 season, or any combination of these four. It would be silly for me to enter a guess as to what the outcome will be since I have not a clue what criteria the Tribunal will use to meter out the punishment. But I won’t let that stop me. Here goes.

Paul Hembery, Pirelli's point man. It will be a different kind of Q and A on the 20th with Mr. Whiting

Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s point man. It will be a different kind of Q and A on the 20th with Mr. Whiting

Lets start with what will not happen. I don’t believe that Mercedes will be given the boot. That seems to me a punishment that is grossly out of line with their transgression. This type of punishment would be appropriate if Mercedes endangered lives or was found on a wide scale to be engaged in fixing races, bribing race control, paying off marshals or stewards, etc. Those are severe infractions. So no expulsion.

However, everybody likes money, and nothing says you screwed up like a fine. The FIA has been complaining for a while that it does not receive enough from Formula 1 or FOM (Bernie’s Eccelstone’s side of things), and it sees itself as an equal partner to those two. I am fairly confident that Mercedes will have to cough up some dough. Probably not like McLaren Spygate dough, but there will be some zeros attached to the figure, for shizzle.

I don’t think there will be a loss of points for either of the team’s two drivers, Hamilton and Rosberg, for they did not have anything to do with the decision to test. I also don’t think there will be a loss of points for the team only because it is impossible to pinpoint and quantify what the advantage was in regard to the test. If by chance the Tribunal believes Pirelli’s own argument, the majority of the test laps used tires reserved for the 2014 season and current tire use was minimal, with no details provided to Mercedes, then at least in regards to the tire data Mercedes did not benefit all too much. Note: I personally do not support this view but since I will not be casting my vote one way or other, it really does not matter.

This leaves the simple issue of breaking the rules which I feel Mercedes will be found to have done. And now it just becomes an issue of what is a fair punishment to the crime. This reminds me of the gas tank in the gas tank a few years back when BAR Honda was still in the sport. The year was 2005. Jenson Button was driving for them, and If you do not remember it really was a neat trick right up until they were found out.

Ross Brawn has gone out on a limp to take sole responsibility for the secret test. ouch...

Ross Brawn has gone out on a limp to take sole responsibility for the secret test. ouch…

For all of us non-technical folks, it worked like this. You fill the whole gas tank up to get your car past scrutineering in regards to the mandated weight, and then at the most opportune moment, meaning when no one is looking especially the the guys in the blue shirts with collars, you remove the race fuel from the little tank inside the bigger tank thus shedding kilos and still retaining the fuel you need to race. Anyway Bar tried to argue that the extra fuel was part of the car, that was their interpretation anyway. Ultimately the FIA found that BAR had contravened the rules and handed them a two-race ban. I think this will be a similar situation. If I was a betting man I would say expect to see Mercedes skip a couple of race weekends.  Or, depending what Ross Brawn has up his sleeves, it could just be Mercedes receives a warning and a slap on the wrist. Never underestimate that guy.

Unfortunately, no matter what penalty is handed out and regardless what Mercedes complies with, there will still be bad blood between the teams. The penalty, lenient or harsh, will not erase the fact that this early in the year one team out of eleven had the opportunity to test their current chassis, collect data and apply that valuable information to its current chassis where no other team could.

In the end I don’t think this tire test will  greatly change the order that we have seen so far this season as far as the teams are concerned. Mercedes has enjoyed a performance bump in the last two races, that much is obvious, but not enough (yet) to really make a meaningful impact. However the results in Canada did not help Mercedes’ case for their innocence.

In the next few weeks I predict a ramp up of the stories and information concerning the Tribunal and we will be more focused on the clarification of the sporting regulations and what Ross Brawn will be doing to prepare for his big day in court. But I just can’t help but feel, at the end of all of this, when all is said and done, it really is just another sunny day in the world of F1.

-jp- (a gas tank in a gas tank, what will they think of next?)

4 Comments on “A 1000km Test And No Benefit You Say?

  1. Agee to all but one thing. The drivers here are not totally innocent. They may have been instructed to wear black helmets but Lewis’s tweet from “Disney World Orlando” was a deliberate intent to deceive. He knew what he was doing, he knew it was wrong. It was intentional and for that he should be punished.

    • Doug

      thanks for that. i was not aware of that little bit of info. so let me sightly modify my stance Lewis and Nico your under the bus as well. 😉
      thanks for keeping me honest. jp.

    • Hi Doug,

      I highly doubt that the drivers will be punished. They can argue that they just obeyed their team’s boss. Of course they knew what they were doing. Lewis might have had a deliberate intent to deceive but I don’t think he can be punished based on a tweet. There is nothing preventing him from “lying” on twitter (as long as his tweet doesn’t harm others). It’s not like Lewis made an official statement.

      So in my opinion,
      – should the drivers be punished – may be
      – can the drivers be punished – don’t think so
      – will the drivers be punished – no

  2. Agree with you JP.

    I also can’t see how a team could not benefit from a test that was run over 3 race distances using their current car and the drivers. If it had no benefit at all to Merc, why did they use the current two racing drivers? Why not ask Pirelli to use Alguersuari?

    It is well documented that Hamilton doesn’t want to spend time on useless team activities. He even said that it has been a major factor when switching teams. So it seems contradictory to me that he participated in a test with no value at all for the team or himself.

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