A further three teams have criticised Mercedes for joining with Pirelli in what they believe was an illegal in-season test earlier this month.
Lotus, Force India and Marussia weighed into the debate over Mercedes’ decision to join forces with the Italian tyre manufacturer for a 1,000 kilometre test at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona between May 15 and 17, three days after the Spanish Grand Prix.
Formula One’s sporting regulations state only a two-year-old car piloted by a test driver can be used for such purposes, yet Mercedes employed their current model and with regular drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at the wheel.
Red Bull and Ferrari were the only teams to lodge a protest after news of the tyre test broke ahead of Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix, but support is now beginning to emerge from elsewhere in the paddock.
Mercedes are waiting to hear from the FIA whether a report from the Monaco GP stewards will result in a hearing of the governing body’s International Tribunal (IT).
Mercedes and Pirelli maintain their innocence. Mercedes insist no new car parts were tested, while Pirelli says the German team were not granted access to information on the tyres being run.
Mercedes further claim that the FIA gave them permission to undertake the test, although the governing body maintains its approval was conditional on other teams being offered the chance to take part.
It is clear that the overwhelming majority of the F1 paddock is lined up against Mercedes, although as the initial complainants only Red Bull and Ferrari would stand in opposition should a hearing be called.
The reluctance of the other teams to support the official protest was met with a tart response by Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who said: “They all say ‘We’re behind you’... just four miles further back.”
Lotus team principal Eric Boullier was one of those asked to join with the protest but opted against doing so, yet he is in no doubt Mercedes are in breach of the regulations.
“There is a sporting regulation in place, there is even a testing agreement in place between teams, and what took place is a breach of the sporting code,” said Boullier. Asked whether Mercedes would have gained any advantage, Boullier replied: “Sure, you can gain any advantage by doing this. If they did it, I think it was mainly because they thought they could have an advantage, but it is more about the breach of the sporting code.”
Teams were not aware of the test until it leaked out in a Grand Prix Drivers’ Association meeting in Monaco on Friday. Force India deputy principal Bob Fernley said: “If you are going to do a test you need to be transparent. It’s not going to do you any favours by trying to do something you are going to be caught out on.”
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