Pirelli defends Mercedes test as fair
Pirelli dismissed allegations that it breached Formula One rules by conducting in-season tire testing with Mercedes, saying on Friday it acted fairly and professionally over the test which it believes offered no benefit to the German team.
The tire maker, criticised by several teams over concerns its tires were degrading too quickly this season, faces tough questions over the test which took place following the Spanish Grand Prix. Red Bull and Ferrari launched protests over the test following Sunday's Monaco GP, which was won by Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg.
Motor sports's governing body, the FIA, now wants Ferrari as well as Mercedes to supply information as part of their disciplinary inquiry into the tests. The FIA issued a statement late Friday saying it wants both Ferrari and Mercedes to participate in its investigation.
"This follows the Stewards' Report from the Monaco Grand Prix and represents supplementary information required by the FIA in the light of the replies received from Pirelli, who were asked for clarifications on Tuesday May 28," the FIA said.
Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery said earlier that tire compounds tested are not going to be used in the 2013 season and therefore offered no benefit to Mercedes. Hembery said several teams were offered a chance to test but Mercedes was the first to take up the offer.
"The tests were performed on tire specifications not used and will not be used in the 2013 world championship. The focus was on 2014," Hembery said. "These tests were actually performed blind. Mercedes had no idea and has still no idea what was being tested. There was no benefit to them. The benefit was for Pirelli and F1 in general."
After Monaco, the sport's governing body said in a statement that "the stewards (present) will write a report to the FIA who may bring the matter before the International Tribunal."
In a further statement, the FIA warned Mercedes over its conduct and said its tribunal "may decide to inflict penalties that would supersede any penalty the stewards of the meeting may have issued."
Red Bull and Lotus accused Mercedes of holding secret tests - which it denied.
"At the end of the day it's a breach of the sporting code," Lotus principal Eric Boullier said. "If they did it, I think it is maybe because they think they could get an advantage."
Hembery insisted Pirelli had done nothing wrong in holding the test, adding that it was done in a transparent manner and in consultation with both Mercedes and FIA. All the teams were made aware, he said, as far back as 2012 that they could avail themselves of this type of testing and the company has answered all questions from FIA since the inquiry began.
"Some people have described the tests as secret. Well, this wouldn't win any James Bond prizes," Hembery said. "We booked the circuit in our name two days after the Formula One race. We turned up in our truck dressed as Pirelli people with a brightly colored Mercedes car."
Hembery acknowledged they have done similar testing with another team whom he refused to disclose. He said Pirelli was in discussion with several other teams to do a similar test later in the season which he said was crucial given the changes expected in 2014.
Teams will be forced to switch from 2.4 liter V8 engines to the more efficient, 1.6 liter V6 turbocharged hybrid power units. That leaves plenty of challenges for Pirelli should it renew its contract to be the sport's tire supplier.
With such radical changes expected, Hembery reiterated his call for FIA to allow in-season testing.
"That allows you to make changes during the season in a qualified way. That is something that would give us great benefit particularly in light of the dramatic changes we are going to see in the sport next year," he said.
Hembery also downplayed concerns about the tires this season that prompted several teams to complain races were more about pit stop strategy than outright racing. The Spanish Grand Prix, for example, required four pit stops.
"Every team has the exactly same tires and the same opportunity to go out there and use them and get to the front," he said. "We have seen some great racing this year and seen top drivers winning races. In the end, the best car, the best driver will win the championship."
But Hembery acknowledged tire degradation was a real concern and that the company was working to eliminate it. A new tire compound featuring Kevlar will be introduced for use at the first free practice at the Canadian Grand Prix.
Pirelli, however, has delayed introducing new compounds for the Canadian Grand Prix, preferring to stick to P Zero white medium and P Zero Red super soft tires. Teams, however, will be allowed to test two sets of "experimental" tires that will be introduced at the British Grand Prix and then used for the rest of the season.