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Why Mercedes Has To Go to (FIA) Court: An Explainer

Illustration for article titled Why Mercedes Has To Go to (FIA) Court: An Explainer

As the Formula One circus descended on Montreal for this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix, there was one subject that was on the minds of everyone in the paddock. The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, earlier this week, called Mercedes-AMG Petronas to an FIA International Tribunal regarding its "secret" 1000km tire test with Pirelli before the Monaco Grand Prix. So here's a look at what this all means.


Wait, what the hell's this tribunal thing?

Basically, the tribunal was created in 2010 by the FIA to handle disputes and breaking of the rules. The President of the FIA (currently former Ferrari boss Jean Todt), may open up an inquiry into any possible rules violations. Then, he, acting as the prosecutor on behalf of the FIA can choose to either close the inquiry or bring it before the tribunal. The tribunal itself consists of 12 members, elected by the FIA General Assembly. The current twelve are listed here (PDF). Of those twelve members, at least three will be selected for Mercedes's hearing, of which one is President of the Hearing. Due to FIA rules and the fact that Mercedes-AMG is a German team, none of the members are allowed to be German. It should be noted that this is the first instance that the tribunal has had to be used since the concept was created three years ago.


So why's Mercedes have to go again?

As per Article 22.4h, no teams may test “between the start of a ten day period which precedes the start of the first event of the championship and 31 December of the same year” with the exception of the FIA Young Driver Test and four straight-line aero tests.


So Mercedes broke the rules, right? But there's a catch. (There always is, isn't there?) Pirelli says that their contract states that they may request any team to conduct a 1000km tire test with a current car, provided that they ask all the teams. This is where things get a bit hazy. At first, Ferrari and Red Bull contested that they were not asked to do a tire test. Later, it became known that Ferrari conducted a tire test following the Bahrain Grand Prix, albeit with a 2011 car rather than a current car. And Red Bull, though it had previously denied contact with Pirelli about a test, said they were asked for a 2013 car, but declined. From NBC Sports's Will Buxton:

There used to be a Storify embed here, but Storify doesn’t exist anymore.

[View the story "Why Mercedes Has to go to (FIA) Court" on Storify]

Furthermore, Mercedes alleges that they asked the FIA for permission and were given it before conducting the test.


What else do we know?

Well, now we know that Nico Rosberg knew what tire compounds were being tested by Pirelli, contrary to Pirelli's previous assertion that Mercedes was unaware of the compounds being run. Meanwhile, Ross Brawn has taken responsibility for OK-ing the test.


If Mercedes do get penalized in some way for conducting the test, sacking Brawn would play into the rumors that new Mercedes F1 advisor Niki Lauda wants him gone.


Ultimately, we don't know quite how the whole thing is going to turn out. On one hand, it could be a messy show. But on the other, it's certainly better than they way the FIA handled McLaren's "spygate" debacle six years ago. Buxton, however, manages to find a way for Mercedes to throw another wrench in the whole thing.


Stay crazy F1.

Photo credit: Michael Elleray

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