Daniel Ricciardo’s exclusion from the final classified results was Red Bull’s punishment to playing dare with the rule book. Unfortunately, although they have good reason to head up an appeal, their efforts may well be in vain.
The FIA made it very clear before the season commenced that they would punish any team that breached the fuel flow limit of 100kg per hour, even by the smallest of margins.
The fuel flow sensor for all the cars is supplied by the FIA but it has been a problematic component during testing. There are slight variations between the sensors although they are all individually calibrated so that their readings fall into a known range. Red Bull, however believe that the sensor used throughout the weekend was completely unreliable so opted to ignore its readouts during the grand prix, using just the internal fuel flow management system as a guide to conform to the regulations.
Whilst the team state that their data suggests that Ricciardo was within the fuel flow limit throughout the race, the regulations clearly state that the homologated fuel flow sensor is “the primary measurement of the fuel flow”, with the internal management model only used if the sensor fails (a likely occurrence given their unreliability).
The FIA sensor onboard Ricciardo’s RB10 was reading heavy fuel flow, exceeding the 100kg per hour limit, frequently during the race. When this type of event occurs, the FIA tell the team immediately that they are aware of the flow rate and take action accordingly shoul there be a fault with the sensor: “If at any time WE consider that the sensor has an issue which has not been detected by the system WE will communicate this to the team concerned and switch to a back-up system.”
On multiple occasions the FIA technical representative for Red Bull instructed the team to reduce the flow rate. However this instruction was ignored as they were sure that the homologated sensor was incorrect, instead placing reliance upon their own internal flow rate monitor.
And here lies the illegality of it all. The stewards’ ruling regarding this final piece of information read: “That regardless of the team’s assertion that the sensor was fault, it is not within their discretion to run a different fuel flow measurement method without the permission of the FIA.”
Red Bull will appeal the decision because they have data that demonstrates that Ricciardo’s car complied to the fuel flow limit – from their own management model. However the rules are the rules, and they failed to follow the FIA’s guidance. It’s harsh and perhaps a little unfair given that the sensor was already known to be unreliable, but it has cost Red Bull dearly.
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic and Red Bull/Getty Images.