Not since Felipe Massa’s appearance on the Interlagos podium back in 2008 has there been such a feeling of anguish and heartbreak for a Formula 1 driver. Having endured a winter from hell, Daniel Ricciardo fought admirably to finish his home race in second place, securing his first podium finish in the sport and making a near-perfect start to his Red Bull career.
And then the stewards came marching in.
Yet they had every right to do so. The new rules have been combed through for the past few years, and those concerning fuel – particularly the 100kg limit – were highlighted as being possible tripwires. Ultimately, Red Bull fell foul of the 100kg/h fuel flow limit – even if their sensors say otherwise – and Ricciardo was disqualified.
Heartbreaking? Yes. Fair? On the face of things, most definitely.
In Australia though, there was a huge cry of injustice. After so many years of bad luck for their home drivers in Melbourne, the curse had finally been lifted, only for it to be put back on again. Some areas of the media are – to put it mildly – outraged.
Richland F1‘s very own Trent Price was in the paddock this weekend, and I had a chat with him last night about the feeling in the paddock. “Last night was intense,” he said. “There were lots of fights between the press. I lost my glasses!”
The most stinging headline came from Herald Sun, a Melbourne-based newspaper that called the decision a “grand farce”. There was certainly a farcical element to the decision, but that was the fact that it took the stewards five hours to come to a final conclusion and actually make a decision. By that point, the teams had packed up, most of the media had gone home, and the man in question – Ricciardo – had also left the circuit.
Of course, we don’t know the ins and outs of the process. Red Bull may have come with a Knope-esque plan of argument and refused to take the FIA’s decision lying down. The team still insists that it will win on appeal, but, as our technical analyst Will Tyson explained, the fact that Red Bull are even using their own fuel flow meter could be a point of contention.
This case is all about ‘facts’, not opinions, though. The facts are:
- According to the FIA’s fuel flow sensor, car #3 exceeded the maximum fuel flow of 100kg/h.
- According to Red Bull’s own measurements, car #3 did not exceed the maximum fuel flow of 100kg/h.
- The frequency for checking the fuel flow was changed on Saturday afternoon after qualifying.
- Daniel Ricciardo finished the race in second place on track.
That final one is what must be taken away from all of this. Therefore, it was refreshing to see the sensationalism of the Herald Sun juxtaposed by the positivity of both the Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian. Both online articles chose to focus on Ricciardo’s fantastic achievement on Sunday evening in Melbourne.
He was the first Australian driver to stand on the Formula 1 podium at Albert Park (officially, that is – Mark Webber was dragged up there following Minardi’s run to P5 in 2002), and he proved that his years of midfield ignominy were purely circumstantial. Given the car (and a car that was supposed to either break down or just be very slow), he can cut it with the very best.
We now have to wait and see what the result of the appeal is. Red Bull will fight this one until the death, meaning that it could be many weeks – or months – until we actually know the result of the 2014 Australian Grand Prix.
All the same: good job, Dan. It won’t be long until you can take that trophy home and stick it on your mantlepiece for good.
Image courtesy of Red Bull/Getty Images.