Mercedes has approached the FIA to clarify rules and regulations regarding bodywork design and wind tunnel testing by incoming competitors, asserting that Ferrari could be gaining unfairly from its technical partnership with the new Haas F1 team.
Haas is due to make its F1 debut next year, its entry having been made possible in part by a close relationship with the Ferrari team, which will supply engines and technical know-how.
Though an investigation earlier in the season cleared Ferrari of any potential unfair gains made by its partnership with Haas – specifically information gleaned from its use of a wind tunnel -, Mercedes has once again approached the FIA, this time seeing clarification over a number of matters.
Whilst Mercedes does not specifically name Ferrari and Haas in its letter to the FIA, it wants answers to questions over bodywork design, wind tunnel testing, the transfer of knowledge and data and the acceptance of entries.
Core of the complaint is the question over the timeframe from which an incoming team is classified as a competitor, thus bringing it into line with rivals when it comes to regulations restrictions, namely CFD and wind tunnel testing bans. 'External entity' Haas is currently not classified as a competitor yet.
“At what point in time does an external entity become a competitor if entering F1 for the first time,” the letter from Paddy Lowe to Charlie Whiting asks. “At what point in time does a previous competitor become a competitor if re-entering F1, having no registered an entry for one F1 season and at what point in time does a current competitor competing in a current championship season become a competitor for a future championships season?”
Considering areas of the regulations (Appendicies 8 and 6 of the Sporting Regulations) to be 'ambiguous', the letter goes on to ask how 'permissible' it is for one competitor to provide or receive designs, staff, wind tunnel testing and data to another competitor in relation to the current restrictions as laid out in the currently regulations.
Whilst there is no outward blame being levelled at Ferrari or Haas in the letter, Mercedes is expressing its unease over what it deems as a potentially unfair loophole regarding car development. Alternatively, it could be argued that Mercedes may use the clarification as a means of establishing its own similar relationship, potentially with a team like Manor.
With the matter referred to the stewards, a meeting is arrange for today [Saturday], with a decision set to be made ahead of Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.