Ferrari entered in to a close technical partnership with Haas, with the new team purchasing many parts ahead of its debut in 2016. As a new competitor yet to enter F1, Haas is also not bound by aerodynamic testing restrictions this year and has been using the Ferrari wind tunnel as part of its car development.
In a letter from Mercedes executive director (technical) Paddy Lowe on 15 October, Mercedes requested the FIA clarifies when an external entity entering F1 for the first time becomes a competitor, as well as wanting opinions from the FIA's Charlie Whiting on the use of the wind tunnel quota; the provision of surfaces; design of surfaces; use of surfaces design staff; transfer of knowledge, information or data; potential ways of avoiding the wind tunnel quota and the acceptance of entries in to F1.
Mercedes wants clarity on Appendices 6 and 8 of the 2015 Formula One Sporting Regulations, with Appendix 6 relating to Listed Parts and Appendix 8 covering Aerodynamic Testing Restrictions. The team feels there are ambiguities in the regulations and it wants clarification of what is permitted in the regulations as it "is currently considering the possibility of collaborating with third parties on its testing programme, including the sharing of staff and knowledge, which it believes could be permitted under the current Regulations as drafted".
Ultimately, Mercedes wants the FIA to rule whether Ferrari and Haas have used their partnership to illegally circumvent the restrictions on aerodynamic testing - which include wind tunnel testing time and CFD usage - while similarly questioning whether Haas will be using any of Listed Parts designed or used by Ferrari.
Appendix 6 states "a constructor shall, in respect of the Listed Parts to be used in its cars in Formula One, only use Listed Parts which are designed by it". Though the design and manufacture can be outsourced, Mercedes wants clarity that two teams cannot use any of the same Listed Parts, which are:
- Survival cell as defined in Article 1.14 of the F1 Technical Regulations
- Front impact structures used to meet the requirements of Articles 16.2 and 16.3 of the F1 Technical Regulations
- Roll over structures - roll structures as regulated by Article 15.2 of the F1 Technical Regulations
- Bodywork as defined in Article 1.4 of the F1 Technical Regulations and regulated by Article 3 of the F1 Technical Regulations with the exception of airbuses, engine exhausts and any prescribed bodywork geometries
Whiting responded to Mercedes' requests on 13 November, stating the questions do not fall within his remit but within the jurisdiction of the Stewards. With Whiting having rejected a request for confidentiality because the issues raised are "likely to be of interest to all participating teams", the FIA states Mercedes has now called on the Stewards to consider the team's requests and "provide a binding interpretation for the benefit of all teams competing in the Championship".
The Stewards confirmed they have the authority to settle the matter under Article 141 of the International Sporting Code and called Mercedes to appear before them ahead of FP3 in Abu Dhabi, inviting the team to make any additional submissions before they considered the matters.
The Stewards will hold a special hearing at the Yas Marina Circuit at 1600 local time - one hour after the end of FP3 - to hear verbal submissions from any other competitor, including Haas, or any other interested party. Written submissions have also been requested by 1700 local time, with the Stewards stating their intentions to hand down a decision ahead of the race on Sunday.
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