Analysis: Mercedes challenges Ferrari's F1 work for Haas (without mentioning them)
The Stewards in Abu Dhabi are considering an issue that has been raised by Mercedes, which is questioning the legality of an existing F1 team doing...
The Stewards in Abu Dhabi are considering an issue that has been raised by Mercedes, which is questioning the legality of an existing F1 team doing work with a new team not yet entered into the F1 championship.
Mercedes raises the issue in order to clarify what it calls "ambiguities" in the regulations, or loopholes, which it believes Ferrari has exploited in its work with the new Haas F1 team for 2016, but without mentioning either of those competitors in its deposition.
Wind tunnel and CFD simulation time is strictly limited in the F1 rules for existing teams, but not for teams yet to enter. The suspicion is that Ferrari has derived benefit from the unlimited wind tunnel time it has spent on the Haas project.
Mercedes says its interest in the matter is in understanding what is possible, as it is considering doing a joint project with another team along these lines and would like to know what the rules are.
It's been bubbling under for months now, but following an exchange of letters between Mercedes' technical boss Paddy Lowe and the FIA's Charlie Whiting, the FIA man steered Lowe towards raising the matter with Stewards at a race meeting, as the questions Lowe was asking fell outside his jurisdiction.
So Mercedes has brought it up this weekend, at the final round, as it believes that any material benefit Ferrari has derived from the testing has made its car faster.
The issue also raises questions for Haas about what aerodynamic surfaces and geometries it will be able to use on its 2016 challenger, of the stewards decide that there is anything against the rules about the way this process has been carried out.
Teams can collaborate up to a point, Force India, for example has made good use of buying permitted parts from Mercedes and before that McLaren.
But there are listed parts such as the monococque, the wings, the front impact structures, the floor and diffuser which must be unique to each team and the IP in them cannot be shared.
There is also the question of using a team that is not yet entered in order to circumvent wind tunnel and CFD testing restrictions.
We have written about this matter before and paddock insiders have been grudgingly admiring the cleverness of Ferrari and Haas for exploiting the ambiguities in the rules, but Mercedes has clearly decided that Ferrari is getting too close for comfort and has decided to make an official fuss about it in the hope of clipping Ferrari's wings.
On Friday, Ferrari and its fuel partner Shell issued a statement about the performance benefits it has derived from the five different fuel mixes that have been brought to the track during this season.
The statement says that "Shell V-Power race fuel and Shell Helix Ultra with PurePlus Technology lubricant delivered an unparalleled 25% of total performance gain to the SF15-T Formula 1 power unit in 2015, giving almost half a second per lap, equating to an average of 30 seconds over a race distance."
It's rare for a team and its oil partner to issue figures like this. Mercedes and Petronas gave a briefing on Friday and the oil company representative bluntly declined to say anything specific about how much power gain had come from the fuel this season.
Abu Dhabi GP: Rosberg stays ahead of Hamilton in FP3
Alonso could take year off in 2016, says Dennis