Ferrari will replace Mercedes in the upcoming wet 18-inch tyre test at Paul Ricard, as Mario Isola calls the step a surprise but something that they have to adjust with.

The restrictions of the budget cup, and Valtteri Bottas’ accident in Imola, forced Mercedes to renounce the latest 18-inch tyre test. When Toto Wolff mentioned that the Finn’s crash in Imola will have repercussions on his team’s season, it felt like a stretch.

And yet, due to issues in managing their budget cap, Mercedes felt forced to renounce to help Pirelli in the upcoming 18-inch wet tyre test, set for next week at Circuit Paul Ricard in France, on May 25-26.

“We are trying to make the budget cap, which is not trivial and we couldn’t take the costs related to the tyre test and we wouldn’t have been able to send our mechanics on such a long journey,” confirmed Wolff, when asked about it in Monaco.

Pirelli Head of F1 and Car Racing, Mario Isola was surprised by the news, but happy to quickly find a solution to keep his tight schedule running, with Ferrari agreeing to step up. “I am not aware of how the budget cap works and obviously was not aware of this potential issue,” he said to written media in Monaco.

“When Mercedes came to me saying ‘we could have an issue with your tyre testing,’ it was a bit of a surprise. Obviously I’m talking to the FIA to discuss that, because if it is an issue this year, it’s probably an issue also next year, and we have to find the solution.

“This year as usual, we made a plan with a rotation. Offering the test to all the teams, as we do every year. So there was a plan already agreed with everybody. Now with this decision for Mercedes, luckily we have found the availability of Ferrari for this wet test, so we can continue our development plan, as it was predicted, since the beginning of the season,” summed up Isola.

Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto readily agreed to pick up the ball dropped by Mercedes – thanks to no Imola-like crash for the Italian F1 outfit – and they will make the short trip from Monaco to Marseille, before returning to Maranello.

“As Ferrari, we always said that 2022 is somehow our priority over 2021 and testing Pirelli tyres, helping Pirelli develop the new tyres we believe is important for us,” said Binotto. “Luckily enough we didn’t have a crash in Imola so eventually we have some more contingency to Mercedes, so somehow we are happy to accept and support.”

The situation creates a dangerous precedent that, in Isola’s opinion, should be addressed by FIA in their budget cap rulebook. “The tyre testing for Pirelli has to be neutral for the teams,” he said. “The teams are focused on the restrictions due to the budget cap, they are working around that. But the Pirelli tyre testing should be not in this equation.

“I’m not saying that it is easy to make a rule for that, we need to discuss the issue. There is not an easy solution, but I’m sure we will find a solution working together, because it is quite, not strange, but it makes very little sense that if you decided to test you should decide to pull out. Now if there is this implication on the cost cap we have to find a solution. It’s a dynamic world. So every day there is something new, and we will find the solution also to that for sure,” summed up Isola.

The latest test will be the second of three wet tyre tests this year, and the second where Ferrari will be involved. The third wet tyre test is scheduled for the 15th and 16th of September at the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours and will involve Alpine. Mercedes is set to test the 2022 slick tyres in Budapest on the 3rd of August, after having already tested the compounds in Imola on the 20th and 21st of April.

Here’s last test with Alfa, Red Bull and Alpine

Here’s the test at Imola where Mercedes ran

Here’s the full schedule of 18-inch tyre test in 2021

The story was written by Lorenzo Liegi