By Adam Cooper, Crain News Service
DETROIT (May 31, 2013) — While the main focus in recent weeks has been on Pirelli Tyre S.p.A.'s Formula 1 test conducted by Mercedes-AMG-Petronas at Barcelona, a session conducted by Scuderia Ferrari has now come into the spotlight.
Ferrari conducted the test on Pirelli's behalf at Barcelona between the Bahrain and Spanish Grand Prix races. Ferrari has justified its involvement in the same way that Mercedes has, saying that it was simply responding to a request made by Pirelli by letter in March of last year.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli's motorsports director, told this writer in Monaco: "Some replied, some didn't."
The key point is that Ferrari ran only a 2011 car on behalf of Pirelli, in stark contrast to the later Mercedes test at the same venue with a 2013 machine. Thus there is no question of Ferrari having circumvented the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) sporting regulations by running a current car.
The test was conducted at Barcelona, not by the race team but by the Corse Clienti division, which runs F1 cars owned by wealthy customers, as well as street demonstrations and any other running involving non-current cars such as young driver tests.
In Monaco, Stefano Domenicali made it clear that Ferrari's protest against Mercedes was focused solely on its use of the W04—on the basis that the Italian team would be happy to test with its own F138, if that is ultimately deemed legal.
"For a bit more of a year, there has been a possibility of performing these so-called 1000-km tests that Pirelli does for its own tire development," a team spokesman told this writer.
"For Ferrari, it has always been very clear that these tests could not make use of a 2013 car. In terms of running an old car, the matter is quite irrelevant, because it is totally within the rules.
"This is something that we have never denied, this was very transparent. All the teams have this possibility. The tires—the specification of the test—is something that Pirelli knows, not us."
While Ferrari clearly has not broken any FIA rules, rival teams were not aware of the test at the time and have been somewhat surprised as details have gradually emerged.
Thus, the issue is more one of a lack of transparency from Pirelli, and as with the Mercedes test, its contractual commitment to the FIA to ensure sporting equity.
Until the Ferrari test, Pirelli had conducted its development with a 2010 Renault run by the Lotus show-car team, but with other teams kept fully in the loop about what was going on. The teams were given clear guarantees that Lotus would not gain any advantage and were sent reports of the test results. This was not the case with either the Ferrari or Mercedes tests.
This report appeared on .autoweek.com, the website of Autoweek magazine, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.