Paul Hembery Q&A: Pirelli’s view on the secret Mercedes test controversy

News that Mercedes conducted a 1000kms test for Pirelli at Barcelona after the Spanish GP has inflamed passions in the paddock and infuriated rival teams.

The heart of the matter is that Pirelli has a contract with the FIA which apparently allows it to call on a team to test during the season when it has some urgent work to do, primarily if there is a safety issue.

Pirelli told the teams about this last year and according to motor sport boss Paul Hembery some agreed to help, and others didn’t reply.

In the aftermath of the controversial Spanish GP, and with changes planned for Montreal, Pirelli asked Mercedes to test, with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg doing the driving. Due to rain their work extended over three days before the 1000kms was completed.

Incredibly a week passed after the end of the test before the other teams began to learn on Friday in Monaco that it had taken place.

Teams also learned that for at least part of the time tyres that will or could be used in Montreal were under test. And while Pirelli says that the work was aimed at the future that doesn’t seem to gel with the fact that an ‘emergency’ test like this would by definition involve tyres to be used this season – and  Pirelli previously made it clear that little or no work is yet going on regarding 2014.

The key issues for angry rivals are a) the FIA’s own sporting regulations confirm that no testing can be done with a current or last year’s car and b) the lack of transparency in what went on.

This blog grabbed Hembery for an exclusive chat. This what he said:

Q: Can you clarify what the situation is?

“We have an agreement with the FIA that states we can do 1000kms tyre testing. It’s something that we had back in the World Rally Championship as well. Last year we wrote to the teams saying this and inviting teams to say yes or no, whether they were willing to do it. Some teams said yes, and some didn’t reply.”

Q: Why was Mercedes involved in the testing?

“Because they were one of the teams that said they would do it. It’s really that. We were in discussions to do some other testing with another team in the future.”

Q: Who was that?

“It’s our business really.”

Q: Why were the other teams not informed it was going on?

“The issue you’ve got is it’s our testing, it’s our work, and what you see is the more discussion you have, the less you manage to achieve. If you start talking about it you end up six months later actually doing it.”

Q: To allow a team to test with a current car and not tell the others was bound to cause some resentment.

“That was not our situation. We asked for a representative car.”

Q: Under the filming days agreement for example other teams are invited to come and observe and so on, and they tell each other what they are doing. You must have realised that when this would came out they would be upset.

“No, because it’s completely irrelevant, it’s not relevant to what’s happening here, what’s going to happen this season. It’s looking at all sorts of solutions that may have relevance in the next 10 years, I don’t know.”

Q: But it did involve the Canadian GP tyres?

“It involved all sorts of tyres.”

Q: But it did involve tyre that you might be running in Canada?

“It involved all sorts of tyres… Let’s turn it round the other way. What do you expect us to do? The rules are very clear, it’s existed in the FIA contracts for years, and we just used it. We’ve got nothing else to add.”

Q: The fact that you did it with a team that’s made very public its issues with tyres, even if a lot of the running wasn’t with tyres that will be used this year, it’s still them running with this year’s car, with Pirelli, getting data. As Christian Horner said it hasn’t hurt Mercedes, has it?

“They [rivals] have no idea what they tested.”

Q: Won’t the fact that you didn’t tell people and even the team’s own dedicate Pirelli engineers didn’t tell them ‘we were in Barcelona last week with Mercedes’ lead to trust issues?

“We go into laboratories, we do a lot of work. We’re doing our job. They don’t tell us what they’re doing. Every team will have the same opportunity at the same time when we introduce something, and that’s it.”

Q: Did you ask anyone else to do that test, or was it just Mercedes?

“We invited all the teams to do 1000kms testing, some replied, some didn’t.”

Q: But that was last year?

“Some replied, some didn’t…”

Q: But for this specific test…

“We don’t need to. Some replied and some didn’t…”


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15 responses to “Paul Hembery Q&A: Pirelli’s view on the secret Mercedes test controversy

  1. SuperSwede

    I can´t see any reason to blame Pirelli for this, not Mercedes either in my opinion.

  2. Mick

    A storm in a tea-cup. Mercedes wouldn’t get any useful data from it because they wouldn’t know what each of the tyre compounds were and would have run the car to Pirelli instructions – how to drive, fuel loads, length of run etc.

    Red Bull will kick up a big fuss of course as they don’t like Pirelli or Paul Hembery at the moment.

  3. Ale M

    So if Mercedes “wouldn’t get any meaningful data” why did they use their race drivers for the test and not one of the 3 test drivers they have?

    It’s all a mockery of the fans, Pirelli and the FIA are directly influencing the championship battle. Mercedes have tyre issues, they gave them 1000km to sort them out, with Pirelli’s assistance.

    • This is a great comment. If it was a test for Pirelli why didn´t Alguersuari and the other driver do it? Mercedes knew that it will obtain new information.

      And Hembery must think F1 fans are silly, “we send an email last year”, that´s the must stupid excuse I have seem in my life.

  4. CTP

    Pirelli clearly feeling the pressure, and getting no support from the little one or the silent one.

  5. If mercedes did not get aany information out of it, then they should fire their engineers,

  6. ronmon

    This was a clear violation of the ban on testing current cars. I say, drop the hammer on Mercedes and exclude them from the championship. The tire testing exception in Pirelli’s contract limits them to using a car at least two years old.

    • Kingszito

      No! Pirelli’s contract does not limit them to use a car at least two years old. They can use any year car they deemed fit for their test if they can afford it. That regulation of testing a car at least two years old only exist for the F1 teams hence Mercedes argument is that the test was for Pirelli. Do you ever think that Mercedes would be that ignorant to get involved in this type of situation without seeing any loophole in the regulation? You can call it anything you want, but as for me this is the same as teams exploiting loophole in the regulation which Red Bull has been doing perfectly in the last three years. However it’s in the hand of FIA to decide.

  7. IMO Pirelli are in a difficult position because Red Bull have made a campaign of attacking them while at the same time Pirelli are fulfilling their brief to make tyre pit stops part of racing strategy. It sounds like Mercedes got nothing out of this except bad publicity and Red Bull are playing the whiner’s game. I would love to see the race pace of Mercs unfettered from graining. I wonder if RBR would too?

  8. S. Bloom

    That’s as defensive as an interview can get.

  9. They should just bring back bridge stone tyres

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