Mercedes face potential exclusion from the 2013 constructors championship should the team be found guilty of having breached in-season testing rules, an FIA court hearing may suggest.
The controversy broke over the weekend of the Monaco Grand Prix, as it emerged that in the two days following the Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona on 12th May, Pirelli had asked the Anglo-German team to conduct some ‘research’ runs into the new tyre being issued to the teams from the Canadian Grand Prix onwards.
A current FIA ruling, put into force at the start of the 2009 season, bans all competitors from conducting in-season testing using current cars and equipment.
However, a contradictory regulation authorises tyre supplier Pirelli to ask any of the teams to take part in a tyre test on the grounds of improving safety and consistency from the Italian manufacturer’s rubber.
The Bahrain and Spanish races saw a series of incidents where drivers experienced total failure of the tyre structure and increased levels of wear.
Several teams including Red Bull and Ferrari are understood to have lodged complaints with the FIA, arguing the test gave their opponents an advantage in understanding the new tyre sooner than their rivals.
It has led to accusations of favouritism after the Mercedes cars consistently struggled with degradation in the opening races of the season. Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton locked out the front row in Catalunya but faded to 6th and 12th places in the race.
Pirelli have already conducted a test this season with Ferrari between the Bahrain and Spanish Grand Prix’ but the team used a 2011 car, whereas the Mercedes test made use of both the F1W04 and the team’s current race drivers.
The FIA is expected to make a ruling public within the next week.