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Secret?

FEATURE BY MIKE LAWRENCE
29/05/2013

There have been protests filed about the Pirelli test at Barcelona. Nothing is helped by journalists calling this test secret, which implies subterfuge.

On Sky TV the commentator, David Croft, not only assured viewers that the test had been secret, but that it transgressed the sport's sporting code. That was stated as fact. That is no way for a journalist to behave, it is up to the FIA to decide.

I live not far from Goodwood and, until 1981/2, it was a popular test circuit for F1 teams. Standing in my garden, I could tell from the engine noise what category of car was being tested and how hard it was being driven. At the time, even F1 cars had silencers because there was a 105 decibel limit.

How far do you suppose that a current F1 engine. pulling 18,000 rpm, can be heard?

There is no such thing as a secret test on a validated circuit. How many people do you suppose that Barcelona had to employ during the tyre test? The circuit has all manner of other facilities: a skid pan, kart track, mini bikes, helicopter rides. Every major circuit is run as a year-round facility.

Mercedes F1 is reported to have run a car for 1,000 kms on behalf of Pirelli who wanted a top team to evaluate its tyres. The test was on behalf of Pirelli though doubtless Mercedes also learned from it.

You cannot run an F1 car for 1,000 kms in secret. Any journalist who thinks that is plain daft. Pitpass put the word, 'secret' in inverted commas. The test may prove to be of dubious legality, but secret it was not.

Most F1 teams are based in a corner of England's East Midlands. Personnel can move from one team to another without moving house or interrupting their children's schooling. Friendships are formed away from the track. People from different teams live in the same villages, drink in the same pubs and form friendships.

A guy from Mercedes F1 might have had to cry off a pub quiz, darts or a cricket match because he was staying on in Spain for a three day test. The test may not have been publicised, but no way was it secret.

Pirelli may be an Italian company, but its F1 operation is run from England.

Mercedes F1 was the only team not to pack up and return home after the Spanish GP. The Pirelli people stayed behind as well. This would have been noticed. After a race, the drill for packing the transporter and heading back to base is as organised and as disciplined as a tyre stop. There are ferries and planes to catch.

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