Fleet Street weighs into F1's latest tyre row

Controversy - or is it 'contemptible farce'? - erupted at Monaco

By Mike Wise.   Last Updated: 27/05/13 9:54am

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Nico Rosberg might have scored an assured victory in the Monaco Grand Prix but it was Formula 1's unerring instinct for arcane off-track argument that left Fleet Street's finest frothing on Monday morning.

Tyres are, inevitably, the source of the latest controversy, with the FIA issuing a statement three hours after Rosberg took the chequered flag claiming that they weren't made fully aware of the test Mercedes and Pirelli undertook after the Spanish Grand Prix.

Red Bull and Ferrari launched a protest, with race stewards now sending a report to the governing body, which has the power to issue swingeing sanctions.

'No sooner had Nico Rosberg emerged triumphant for Mercedes amid the maelstrom of an accident-strewn race than his team became engulfed in an extraordinary row over tyres,' wrote The Daily Telegraph's Oliver Brown. 'As their leading rivals erupted in indignation at the disclosure that the Silver Arrows had carried out a private, 600-mile test in Barcelona earlier this month, Red Bull sporting director Helmut Marko angrily claimed that Mercedes' actions had handed Rosberg a one-second-per-lap advantage in his victory over Sebastian Vettel.'

According to The Times' Kevin Eason, the hearing took place in circumstances somewhat at odds with Monaco's more normal image of glitz and glamour. 'Race stewards set up a makeshift court in their Portakabin balanced on the waterfront', he wrote. 'One by one the accusers and the accused trooped in: Red Bull and Ferrari protesting that Mercedes had taken part in a banned tyre test with Pirelli immediately after the Spanish Grand Prix a fortnight ago; Ross Brawn, the Mercedes team principal, and Paul Hembery, Pirelli's motor sport director, were then called in to mount their defence'.

A curious aspect of the case is that no-one beyond the participants seemed to know that the test was actually taking place. The Times said that 'details (were) apparently blurted out at the Formula One drivers' meeting late on Saturday night' while The Daily Mail's Jonathan McAvoy pondered the apparent secrecy. 'If Mercedes believe their test was sanctioned and beyond reproach, why did team principal Ross Brawn not talk openly about the test?' he asked.

And what of any punishment? According to the Telegraph, 'Should Mercedes be found guilty the FIA could theoretically ban the German team for the rest of the season, although a more likely punishment would be for Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton to lose the points they picked up in the race' while The Times suggests 'a fate anywhere from innocence to disqualification from the World Championship'.

The Mail thinks 'a fine is more likely' while The Guardian's Paul Weaver pointed out that the stakes are also high for Pirelli, 'who could face a hefty fine, are still waiting to be confirmed as next year's tyre suppliers'.

Back to the Times, finally, who summed up the situation as a 'contemptible farce' that highlights 'F1's ridiculous and complex laws'.

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