F1's leading team principals have voiced their approval of the FIA's new independent tribunal process for hearing complaints, even if one or two didn't necessarily agree with the punishment handed out at its first sitting.
The new process, which replaces the FIA's own judgement on issues of concern, handed down a ban from next month's Young Driver test as the penalty for Mercedes' involvement in tyre testing with Pirelli but, aside from comments that that may have been to lenient a sanction, the team officials were generally happy.
“I think the process was fine,” Red Bull's Christian Horner – the most aggrieved of Mercedes' rivals – commented, “It was the first time it happened. I think that the relevant parties made their case and that the judges did a good in running the tribunal and had all the facts placed in front of them. The verdict they reached was, I think, the right one.
“The penalty they applied? I have to be a bit careful because [Ross Brawn]'s bigger than I am, and sitting next to me! Possibly it was a bit soft but, you know, it was a fair process and it was certainly interesting to see how it panned out.
“I think the biggest thing to come out of it is clarity. We need to know what the rules are – whether you can test a 2011 car for more than a 1000km or whether you can test a 2013 car etc, etc. The big thing for us moving on from the tribunal is to get absolute clarity for the remainder of this year and moving forward as to what constitutes testing and what does not.”
Brawn, among the main protagonists in the 'testgate' affair that triggered the tribunal, agreed with Horner's assessment of the process, even if he had naturally different views on the outcome.
“I think, rightly or wrongly, there has been criticism in the past of the process and I think what the FIA has done, particularly with the president of the FIA, is put in place a process which I don't believe there can be any criticism of,” he reasoned, “People may always have their opinions about the opinions of the tribunal, but I think the process itself can't be criticised.
“This is the first time we've seen it in action and I think we can have confidence in the future that at least it will be independent. My understanding was that the selection of the judges was completely independent, coming from a potential panel of twelve, people who obviously have some knowledge of sport, particularly motorsport and they judged the case on the facts and did what they felt was appropriate. We can have opinions about the outcome of the case but I think the process is very encouraging for the future and one that should give teams in F1, or teams in motorsport, confidence.”
Eric Boullier, Martin Whitmarsh and Marussia's Graeme Lowdon were similarly supportive, although the latter had his own views on how the punishment was reached.
“It's the first time we've seen it in action and, from what we could see, it was a pretty fair and transparent process,” he noted, “We were happy to see the outcome in terms of how the tribunal saw it.
“I can't really comment on the penalty that they suggested as I think that is entirely down to the tribunal, but the thing we could probably do with a bit more clarity on, is that the tribunal referred to the mitigating circumstances in choosing the penalty and we couldn't really see very many. The mitigating circumstances didn't look terribly mitigating. Perhaps that's something that will come over time with the process.”