Penalising Mercedes is not the solution

Posted by: Dan on 27/05/2013

Category: Racing

Alright so Ferrari and Red Bull are upset that Mercedes got to test tyres privately for 3 days in Barcelona ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix. Mercedes won on the day and it’s being alleged that this was in no small part due to the “unfair advantage” gained by Mercedes having this private test time.

There are calls for (and a reasonable likelihood of) an FIA investigation into the matter and some suggestion that results may be adjusted or championship points lost.

Give me a break.

Testing tyres in Barcelona in different weather conditions, on a different track garners that much of an increase in Monaco? I find that very hard to believe. Formula One is a sport of microscopic variations. Everything’s weighed, studied, tested in a wind tunnel, measured, run through countless computer simlations and weighed again.

The claims that this testing time accounts for an advantage of 1 second per lap are laughable. There’s no way that can be a serious figure.

But even if it is, it’s clear that just revising the final standings in Monaco isn’t the right way to deal with this issue. It’s a data issue. The issue isn’t that Mercedes got different tyres to the other teams, it’s that their three days of testing yielded different data that allowed them to alter their tyre management strategy.

The correct way to deal with the situation is to afford all other teams an exclusive three days of testing on a track that has already been used in this year’s competition. Allow all the teams to collate additional data and make use of it as they will, because that’s what this aspect of the competition really is.

It’s inputs, outputs and maths. That’s all it is. If Ferrari and Red Bull really want you to believe that the only reason Mercedes won on Sunday is because of the tyre data, they’re essentially telling you that the driver could be replaced by a sandbag and the car could be driven by software written by the data analysis team.

If all it came down to was running competing data simulations, we wouldn't need the expense of running a series of global races. Admittedly, the viewing spectacle would probably be less spectacular, but that's probably a big part of why we do bother to put drivers in the cars and take them to the track. And that's what happened on Sunday. Drivers got into their cars and raced them. All things being equal, then maybe the extra tyre data had some influence, but all things are not equal. That's the point of racing.

This complaint is exactly what it sounds like, managers grasping for an excuse to explain their own under-performance.