Mercedes’ controversial secret tyre test at Barcelona has placed the team in a tight spot as it stands to face heavy sanctions should the German manufacturer be found guilty of breach of regulations.
In the week following the Spanish Grand Prix earlier this month, Mercedes carried out a test at the Catalunya circuit with tyre supplier Pirelli, which caught its rivals unaware.
Once the secret was spilled during the Monaco GP weekend, Red Bull and Ferrari launched a protest against the “underhand” tactics reasoning that Mercedes had carried out in-season testing, which has been banned according to regulations.
Mercedes argued that the test was no secret and that motorsport’s governing body was informed.
"Nothing was secret. We didn't Twitter. Should we have?" Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff was quoted saying by Reuters.
Pirelli reasoned that its contract stipulates that it is allowed to conduct 1000kms of testing with a ‘representative’ car.
However, the FIA issued a statement saying that neither was it informed about the test nor were other teams offered an opportunity to participate in it, countering the claims of Mercedes and Pirelli.
"Pirelli's response is that had they publicised the fact then politics would have eventually cancelled an important test for them to sort out the structural issues," former Formula 1 driver Martin Brundle wrote in his column on the Sky Sports website.
The matter is now headed to the International Tribunal.
“Mercedes could now face heavy sanctions,” reported Reuters. “If the Monaco winners are found to have flouted the regulations, they could be stripped of points, fined or even excluded.”
However, rival teams are unsure of what penalties could be imposed, should Mercedes be found guilty.
"I do not know what the solution is because there is no precedent," Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali told Autosport.