By Adam Cooper, Crain News Service
DETROIT (June 14, 2013) — Formula One group CEO Bernie Ecclestone said he believes that Mercedes, not Pirelli, is to blame for an ongoing tire testing controversy that will be judged by a Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile International Tribunal on June 20.
The crux of the flap revolves around a recent reportedly "secret" test of Pirelli Tyre S.p.A.'s Formula 1 tires conducted by the Mercedes-AMG-Petronas team prior to the Spanish F1 Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya track in Barcelona, Spain.
Asked for his views on the controversy, the F1 boss emphasized that Mercedes should have turned down the chance to risk breaking the FIA's Sporting Regulations.
Mr. Ecclestone is known to have an uneasy relationship with Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn after a commercial disagreement during the Brawn GP days. Some have suggested that he wouldn't mind seeing the former Benetton and Ferrari man carry the can for what happened.
"Wait until the tribunal, they've got all the facts," Mr. Ecclestone said. "If you offer me stolen goods, it's up to me to decide whether I want to accept them or not. It's not up to anyone to tell me what I should do. I should know what I should do.
"Pirelli were doing the right thing, obviously. They couldn't get out of a tire problem, if there had been proper testing, which there should be, they wouldn't be in this problem. It's only because there's no proper testing that they're in this problem. As people have been complaining, the obvious thing to do was to get out of it by testing. And they asked."
Asked if he felt Pirelli had done anything wrong, Mr. Ecclestone added: "Not at all."
Mr. Ecclestone and the F1 organization have a significant commercial deal with Pirelli for signage and so on, but he denied that has impacted his opinion.
He even seemed to equate Mercedes with an unmarried woman choosing whether or not to engage in illicit behavior.
"I don't care. It makes no difference to me. What is right, is right, you know," he said. "The one thing an unmarried girl has got is the right to say 'No.' You would have to reckon that Mercedes were in that position...."
Meanwhile Mr. Ecclestone played down suggestions that Group Michelin—a company known to be friendly with FIA president Jean Todt—is waiting in the wings to replace Pirelli.
"No idea. I haven't got a clue. I haven't spoken to anyone," he said. "We have a long-term contract with Pirelli, as the FIA do. And I think most of the teams have—I think they've done a deal with all the teams they want to do a deal with."
This report appeared on the website of Autoweek magazine, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.