Formula 1 teams will be warned by the FIA that any repeat of the kind of 'dummy' pitstop that Mercedes conducted in the British Grand Prix will not be tolerated, Motorsport.com can reveal.
Mercedes was locked in a tight duel with Williams for the lead of the British Grand Prix when it tried to fool rivals Williams into making an earlier stop than ideal.
The Mercedes pit crew was dispatched into the pitlane on lap 14 in a bid to trick rivals Williams to come in for fresh tyres. The plan did not work though, as all cars stayed out.
Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff was open afterwards that it was a 'fake' stop intended to unsettle the rivals.
"We know that Williams has more difficulties in making the tyres last at the end and we knew that triggering an early stop would make them think, are we able to do that? It could trigger them into a pit stop," he said.
"It was a bit of a game, which didn't function. My wife sent me a WhatsApp message, saying: 'You guys think you can fool us, hah, hah, hah.'
It has been widely understood over recent years that such dummy pitstops are not allowed, as on safety grounds the rules only allow personnel to be in the pitlane when they are actually conducting work.
Article 23.11 of F1's Sporting Regulations states: "Team personnel are only allowed in the pit lane immediately before they are required to work on a car and must withdraw as soon as the work is complete."
The difficulty with the regulations, which is why Mercedes was not called up for a rules breach at the time, is that it is impossible to know if teams have deliberately conducted a 'dummy' stop or if there has been a change of plan after the stop was called.
Putting foot it in it
The difficulty of proving intent is why Mercedes was not investigated at the British Grand Prix, as by the time the FIA was aware that it had been a 'fake' stop it was too late to do anything.
An FIA spokesman told Motorsport.com: "At the time, what Mercedes did was okay as no one knew that they were not actually going to stop. In fact we still don't really know.
"However, in view of the fact that they were alleged to have said that it was a "dummy" stop, they may have put their foot in it rather."
Having been alerted about Mercedes' actions, the FIA now intends to make sure that teams are clear that 'fake' stops are not allowed.
The governing body has revealed that it will adopt a zero tolerance approach to the matter, and will tell teams in a briefing ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix that any repeat in the future will be viewed as a rules breach.
Under repeat circumstances, teams will have to prove to the FIA that there was a genuine reason for them to stop if they are to escape sanction.
This will include radio communication evidence to show that the driver was under the impression he was to make a stop.
The FIA spokesman added: "Going into the pitlane like this, for no valid reason, is not allowed but the difficulty would be proving it was a clear breach.
"We have no intention of giving them a few chances and will be speaking to all the teams in Hungary about this and warning them that we will want to see (and hear) evidence that they were actually intending to stop."