The FIA has ruled out stepping in to sort out a dispute over the location for winter testing ahead of the new regulations for 2017. While many teams want to simply run in Barcelona as per usual, tyre supplier Pirelli, backed by Mercedes and Ferrari, want testing to take place in Bahrain. That is because Bahrain would almost guarantee good, warm-weather testing and no rain, but many teams object to that plan on the basis that it will cost hundreds of thousands of euros extra. Red Bull also says it makes no sense from a logistical point of view. “It is madness to test new cars six hours away (from Europe),” Dr Helmut Marko told Auto Motor und Sport. “A year ago we had a problem with a front wing with Kvyat and did nothing for a day before a new one came to Spain. But in Bahrain you would have to wait two days at least,” the Red Bull official insisted.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has proposed to end the standoff by turning to Pirelli and the FIA for guidance, but Charlie Whiting ruled that out. “This is a decision to be taken by the teams,” the F1 race director said. “If there is a majority for one of the two places, they can come to us and we will have the last word.”
Although it is Mercedes powered, Force India has indicated it is not willing to budge over the Bahrain issue. “Why do Pirelli need to go to Bahrain?” sporting director Otmar Szafnauer wondered. “What are they afraid of. When Pirelli came into formula one, replacing Bridgestone, that was a much greater leap of faith than now. But Barcelona was good enough.”
And Force India deputy Bob Fernley said Pirelli is already getting the opportunity to test with Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull’s 2015 test cars in Abu Dhabi. “What else do they need to find out in March?” he asked. “You can’t change the compounds before the season anyway, and it takes 9 weeks to have them developed and baked.”