June 17th, 2013 (F1plus/R/ Baillie).- Mercedes will find themselves at the mercy of the FIA International Tribunal on the 20th June as they try to get to the bottom of the 1000km 'private test' held in Barcelona, however there are more than points or races at risk for Mercedes as if found guilty, they risk losing sponsors.
Following the Spanish Grand Prix, Mercedes and Pirelli held a three-day 1000km 'private test' as the Italian tyre manufacturer tried to get on top of the safety issues regarding this year's tyres. The regulations say that it is possible for a team to use a 2013 car to carry out tyre tests for safety reasons as long as the rest of the teams and the FIA were aware.
Unfortunately for Mercedes and Pirelli it seems FIA were unaware and judging by the other teams reactions they had no clue either. This crucially means that there was no FIA representative there, meaning that only Mercedes know what they did to the car and found out from the test, which could be a lot or it could be absolutely nothing at all.
If found guilty possible punishments range from; deduction of championship points, race ban/s or disqualification from the 2013 World Championship. While those would all be devastating punishments for the Brackley based team, being found guilty could have repercussions, which result in the loss of sponsors.
Most people are more than aware that money makes the wheels go round on a Formula 1 car, and following the ban on tobacco advertising and the current economic climate teams are tight for funds, so holding onto sponsors is incredibly important.
If worst comes to the worst and Mercedes are disqualified from the championship (which seems pretty unlikely as Renault were given a suspended disqualification for crashgate in 2008) it won't please their sponsors one bit.
Without the cars taking part in the race, their business or product name won't be broadcast onto millions of screens across the world and may decide they no longer want to be a sponsor of the team.
That would put Mercedes in a precarious situation, especially if they lost a big sponsor, such as Blackberry, as they won't have the funds available to develop their 2014 car to the level they were planning to. This would certainly have a lasting effect on the team as it could see them put on the back foot at the start of the season.
Recently it’s been reported in The Sun that if Mercedes decide the outcome is unfair they may quit the sport as it may damage their reputation. Of course, one of the main reasons Mercedes are in the sport will be to help try and raise their profile, so being involved with something which painted them in a bad light wouldn’t be good for their profile and wouldn’t help them financially. Therefore it may make more sense for them financially to quit the sport and cut their losses, rather than face disqualification and lose sponsors.
Testgate is clearly a very complex issue and there’s obviously much more to it than we’re aware of, so it will be very interesting to see how it plays out later this week at the International Tribunal.