Pirelli, Mercedes in dock over F1 tire tests

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By JOHN LEICESTER, Associated Press

PARIS (AP) — The hearing to determine whether Mercedes and Pirelli broke Formula One rules by holding in-season tire tests has opened in Paris.

The International Automobile Federation (FIA) convened the international tribunal hearing to determine whether Mercedes gained a competitive advantage from the testing session in Barcelona last month.

Laying out the case for the FIA, lawyer Mark Howard said Pirelli tried out a variety of tires in the test using Mercedes' 2013 cars, driven by current drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.

Pirelli organized the tests and paid for the Barcelona circuit where they were held, Howard said. But he argued that the testing could still have provided Mercedes with potentially valuable information about its cars and their reliability.

"Clearly there was data that was available to Mercedes," he told the panel of judges. "It is difficult to say that Mercedes gained no benefits from the test."

He said none of the other F1 teams were invited to the testing and none were aware that it was taking place.

"There is in fact very little factual dispute in this case," he said.

F1 rules ban the use of current-season cars for track tests.

Red Bull and Ferrari protested about the testing.

Pirelli has denied any rules-breach and said the 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) of testing offered no advantages to Mercedes.

Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery has previously said the tire compounds tested are not going to be used in the 2013 season.

"The focus was on 2014," Hembery said. "These tests were actually performed blind. Mercedes had no idea and has still no idea what was being tested. There was no benefit to them. The benefit was for Pirelli and F1 in general."

The FIA also looked into another Pirelli tire test involving Ferrari in Barcelona in April. But FIA President Jean Todt, who worked for Ferrari from 1993 to 2009, closed that case. The FIA said the Italian team used its 2011 car for the test, breaching no rules.

The FIA said the tribunal ruling "will be published as soon as possible after the hearing."

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