The FIA Stewards have responded to the request for Mercedes for clarification of he rules concerning technical co-operation between teams, especially in respect of wind tunnel use.
The Mercedes submission was made in the light of widespread suspicions in the paddock that Ferrari has gained from its relationship with Haas F1. The new team is using the Maranello wind tunnel as it prepares for its entry in 2016. Signifcantly, today’s ruling will not apply retrospectively.
The Stewards have also said that no one has been behaving incorrectly, despite the suggestions about Ferrari and Haas, in essence because the new team was not yet an official competitor: “Having examined the reports (including audit reports team facilities) provided to us, the Stewards confirm that there is no evidence that competitors have not complied with the requirements of Appendices 6 and 8 as they were interpreted prior to today’s date.”
The stewards have tightened up the definition of many areas of the relevant rules as pinpointed Mercedes, all of which make it harder to teams to share aero data. Among them is a restriction on staff being seconded from one team to another: “No employee of a competitor who is involved in aerodynamic development may be seconded to, or temporarily employed by, another competitor unless such secondment or employment is a genuine long term arrangement for the sole purpose of providing the other competitor with technical expertise. Any seconded employee must not then return to the original competitor without a suitable (or normal) period of “gardening leave” or “isolation”.”
One of the key conclusions of the Stewards report is that henceforth a new team has to comply with the same rules on wind tunnel use and so on as any other existing team from the moment that it is accepted. Currently this has been something of a grey area, with teams only regarded as becoming official competitors when the entry list is confirmed in December.
The FIA said: “The Stewards recommend to the FIA that in future once a potential competitor (as opposed to Official Entry) applies to be a competitor in the FIA Formula One World Championship and this application is accepted, that competitor should be bound by Appendices 6 and 8 (and for that matter any other appropriate sections of the Formula One Sporting and Technical Regulations).”
The stewards acknowledged that the point of aerodynamic restrictions was to keep a lid on costs: “That intention is understood to be to place limits on the amount of aerodynamic development each competitor is able to carry out and to prevent an escalation of the costs associated with research particularly, for Appendix 8, in the area of aerodynamic testing. None of the representations of the teams or any other party challenged this underlying objective. Accordingly our interpretation of the regulations as they stand has reflected the above intention.”