The largest group of private shareholders in Mercedes have called on the company to leave Formula 1 if it is punished for its role in the so-called 'Pirelli-gate' tyre testing scandal, Autocar has learned.

The controversy surrounds a test that the tyre manufacturer carried out using Mercedes’s current car. The three-day test that took place in Barcelona in the week after the Spanish Grand Prix, with both Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton driving. Previous tests conducted at Pirelli’s behest have involved teams using older cars.

The International Tribunal in to the event will take place in Paris this Thursday.

Michael Muders, manager at Union Investment, said: "Mercedes-Benz must get out of F1. The company spends hundred of millions here, and it doesn't bring anyone anything."

Although the timing of the news of disgruntled shareholders is clearly aimed as a warning to the F1’s rule makers to be lenient in their actions, Autocar understands that the controversy has stoked up a long-standing unrest among Mercedes shareholders at the brand’s involvement in Formula 1.

Earlier this year the Mercedes F1 team was reorganised, with a greater breadth of shareholders and new management being brought on board, which was interpreted by many observers as the firm preparing to exit the sport if its results didn’t improve.

Speaking at the Detroit motor show, company boss Dieter Zetsche told Autocar: “In F1, you see pretty quickly if you succeed or not, and if the results are up to your expectations. For Mercedes those expectations must be that we are up there at every race competing for victory.”