At the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this past weekend, Mercedes AMG Petronas approached the FIA over concerns that Ferrari had broken the rules in regards to wind tunnel testing. The FIA found the team had committed no fault, which has now prompted Mercedes-Benz to acknowledge the team “deserves,” any advantage that may come as a result of the testing.
The potential discrepancy lied with Ferrari’s technical partnership with incoming American team Haas F1. Because Haas wasn’t formally apart of the 2016 F1 World Championship before officially signing up in early November, the team was not limited by the same wind tunnel restrictions as teams that are already in the championship, such as Mercedes. This allowed Haas F1 unlimited time in Ferrari’s wind tunnel, which in theory would give Ferrari additional wind tunnel data they may not have otherwise gathered.
Mercedes did not point the finger at Ferrari and ask the FIA to hit them with fines or penalties, but simply wanted clarification of the rules as it is “currently considering the possibility of collaborating with third parties on its testing programme, including the sharing of staff and knowledge, which it believes could be permitted under the current regulations as drafted.”
“We asked the FIA for clarification, about what we could do in the future,” Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff told Motorsport. “We were looking at partnerships with some of the teams – which are our engine customers – in order to optimise on the aero development. We were not quite sure.”
“The regulations were a bit vague and ambiguous in certain areas, and this is why we asked for guidance from everybody, so every team would have in a transparent open communication, a guidance from the FIA.”
“This is a sport about gaining advantage and if they gained an advantage by interpreting the rules like they did then ‘chapeau’,” Wolff said. “They deserve it.”
FIA stewards have now imposed new restrictions that would make Haas/Ferrari’s partnership a breach of regulations. Mercedes said they are happy with the outcome of the inquiry as it give them and other teams “clarity,” for the future, which is what they set out to do all along.