The nature of Daniel Ricciardo’s exclusion from the result of the Australian Grand Prix – after stewards found his car to have fuel-flow irregularities – has led to an element of confusion over the nature of his Red Bull team’s offence. Dan Paddock summarises what has become the major talking point of the opening race of the 2014 season.
Daniel Ricciardo delighted local fans during Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix, as the man from Perth came home second behind the dominant Nico Rosberg, marking his first visit to the podium in Formula One on his debut with Red Bull.
However, it was found following the race that the RB10 of Ricciardo had “consistently” exceeded the fuel flow limit of 100kg/h, and consequently was in breach of article 5.1.4 of the new 2014 technical regulations.
Following an in-depth investigation by the FIA stewards at the circuit, that stretched well into Monday morning, the Australian was officially excluded from the result of the Grand Prix, a decision that has caused uproar amongst fans, and particularly in the local press.
Controversy has surrounded the fuel flow sensor, which is homologated by the FIA, and operated by the team, and acts as the primary measure of fuel flow to the engine at any given time.
Red Bull, who intend to appeal against Ricciardo’s expulsion, found their sensor to be faulty on two occasions throughout the weekend, in both instances the sensor providing unsatisfactory readings.
The first fault was found on Friday, which led the team to change the sensor for FP3 on Saturday morning, while the problem repeated itself again following qualifying, on which occasion the FIA advised Red Bull to fit the original sensor used on Friday.
The dispute is that Red Bull, having been asked to use their first sensor with an off-set, to ensure legality, instead opted to use the readings of their internal fuel flow model during the race, rather than those provided by the FIA homologated sensor.
“These fuel-flow sensors that are provided by the FIA to measure fuel have proved problematic down the pitlane since their introduction in testing,” explained Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner, following Ricciardo’s expulsion from the race.
“There have been discrepancies and they have been unreliable.
“We had a fuel-flow sensor that was fitted to the car that we believed had an error.
“Based on our calculation on the fuel that the injectors are providing to the engine, which is a calibrated piece of equipment and is consistently standard across the pitlane, there is zero variance.”
During the race the FIA observed that the fuel flow on Ricciardo’s Red Bull was too high, and instructed the team to lower this rate in observance with the limit set out by the regulations. However, Red Bull chose not to comply, insisting that they believed the FIA to be wrong, and that their sensor was providing incorrect information, instead relying on the readings of their own internal fuel flow model, a decision that Horner defended post race.
“They informed us [to turn the flow down], and we informed them that we had serious concerns over their sensors,” he said.
“We believed in our reading, otherwise there was a situation where you are reducing significant amounts of power in the engine at a time when we believe we fully comply within the regulations.
“We end up in a situation where, depending on the calibration of your sensor, of plus or minus, it will dictate who is going to be competitive and who isn’t.”
As revealed on Monday, a number of other teams shared doubts over the accuracy of the FIA’s sensors. However, unlike Red Bull, those teams did not ignore the readings given by those sensors, even if those readings did not match their own data, to ensure that they were within the rules.
As a result of the fuel flow irregularities identified, coupled with Red Bull’s failure to conform to the readings given by the FIA’s mandated sensor, the stewards found the #3 car of Ricciardo to not be in compliance with article 5.1.4 of the 2014 technical regulations, and as such also in breach of article 3.2 of the sporting regulations, and as a result the Australian was excluded from the race.
As stated, Red Bull means to appeal the decision of the FIA.
”Inconsistencies with the FIA fuel flow meter have been prevalent all weekend up and down the pitlane,” reads a statement released by Red Bull early on Monday morning in Australia.
“The team and Renault are confident the fuel supplied to the engine is in full compliance with the regulations.”
Images courtesy of Red Bull Media/Getty ImagesF1