Charlie Whiting reveals Red Bull were warned after just five laps of rules breach
Team opted to ignore warnings from Race Control as FIA stand firm over the stewards' decision to disqualify Daniel Ricciardo
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: 26/03/14 1:42pm
Race Director Charlie Whiting has revealed that Red Bull were warned after just five laps of Sunday's Australian GP that their fuel flow system was in breach of the regulations as the 'fuelgate' furore continues to rumble on.
After over five hours of post-race deliberations, and to the consternation of local fans who had cheered on the debuting Red Bull driver to second place in the season opener, Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified by the Albert Park stewards late on Sunday night after the fuel flow on his RB10 car was found to have 'consistently exceeded' the permitted limit of 100kg per hour.
While Red Bull immediately signalled their intention to appeal against Ricciardo's expulsion, describing the FIA-provided fuel sensor as 'unreliable', 'problematic' and 'immature technology', Whiting and the governing body are adamant the team only have themselves to blame after ignoring numerous warnings that they were breaking the rules.
"We advised them twice after qualifying and five laps into the race to take the necessary steps to comply with the regulations," Whiting told The Times. "They chose to use their own calculations to show they complied. If they had followed the advice we gave them at the time, we would not have had a problem and they would not have been penalised.
"If their sensor was kaput, then things would have been different. It is a human thing because they have the ability to do was needed to comply."
The sensor on Ricciardo's car was changed twice over the course of the weekend: once after Friday practice and again after qualifying when the replacement sensor failed and Red Bull were instructed to reinstall the original unit and apply an offset.
According to Red Bull, however, the offset was faulty, triggering a discrepancy between the rate recorded by the team and that of the race stewards.
"We had an issue with the sensor that changed its reading through Friday practice. That sensor was then replaced for another sensor which then failed during qualifying," said team boss Christian Horner.
"We were then asked to put the sensor from Friday back into the car and apply an offset. That offset, we didn't feel was correct and as we got into the race, we could see there was a significant discrepancy between what the sensor was reading and where our fuel flow - which is the actual injection of fuel into the engine - was stated as."
Red Bull's refusal to heed the warnings from Race Control have prompted accusations of arrogance, with the stewards' three-page explanation of Ricciardo's disqualification making plain their unhappiness at the World Champions' apparent intransigence.
'Although the sensor showed a difference in readings between runs in P1, it remains the homologated and required sensor against which the team is obliged to measure their fuel flow, unless given permission by the FIA to do otherwise,' they declared.
'The Stewards were satisfied by the explanation of the technical representative that by making an adjustment as instructed, the team could have
run within the allowable fuel flow...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.'
Meanwhile, regardless of the rights and wrongs of Red Bull's case, the issue - which is set to drag on for several weeks with the appeal not expected to be held until late April - underline what a critical factor fuel will be this year.
Whereas 2013, or at least its first half, was dominated by tyres, this year's pivotal game changer is set to be the fuel efficiency of the 2014 chargers which are limited this year to carrying 100 kg of fuel - compared to 150kg in 2013.
And as Red Bull have subsequently found to their cost, the devil, as ever, remains buried in the detail.
The Stewards verdict in full:
'Decision Car 3 is excluded from the Race Results.
'Reason 1) The Technical Delegate reported to the Stewards that Car 3 exceeded the required fuel mass flow of 100kg/h. (Article 5.1.4 of the Formula One Technical Regulations)
'2) This parameter is outside of the control of the driver, Daniel Ricciardo.
'3) The fuel flow is measured using the fuel flow sensor (Art. 5.10.3 & 5.10.4 of the Technical Regulations) which is homologated by the FIA and owned and operated by the team.
'4) The stewards considered the history of the fitted fuel flow sensor, as described by the team and the Technical Delegate's representative who administers the program. Their description of the history of the sensor matches.
'a. During Practice 1 a difference in reading between the first three and Run 4 was detected. The same readings as Run 4 were observed throughout Practice 2.
'b. The team used a different sensor on Saturday but did not get readings that were satisfactory to them or the FIA, so they were instructed to change the sensor within Parc Ferme on Saturday night.
'c. They operated the original sensor during the race, which provided the same readings as Run 4 of Practice 1, and Practice 2.
'5) The Stewards heard from the technical representative that when the sensor was installed on Saturday night, he instructed the team to apply an offset to their fuel flow such that the fuel flow would have been legal. He presented an email to the stewards that verified his instruction.
'6) The technical representative stated to the Stewards that there is variation in the sensors. However, the sensors fall within a known range, and are individually calibrated. They then become the standard which the teams must use for their fuel flow.
'7) The team stated that based on the difference observed between the two readings in P1, they considered the fuel flow sensor to be unreliable. Therefore, for the start of the race they chose to use their internal fuel flow model, rather than the values provided by the sensor, with the required offset.
'8) Technical Directive 01614 (1 March 2014) provides the methodology by which the sensor will be used, and, should the sensor fail, the method by which the alternate model could be used.
'a. The Technical Directive starts by stating: "The homologated fuel flow sensor will be the primary measurement of the fuel flow and will be used to check compliance with Articles 5.1.4 and 5.1.5 of the F1 Technical Regulations..." This is in conformity with Articles 5.10.3 and 5.10.4 of the Technical Regulations.
'b. The Technical Directive goes on to state: "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 backup system (emphasis added.)
'c. The backup system is the calculated fuel flow model with a correction factor decided by the FIA.
'9) The FIA technical representative observed thought the telemetry during the race that the fuel flow was too high and contacted the team, giving them the opportunity to follow his previous instruction, and reduce the fuel flow such that it was within the limit, as measured by the homologated sensor - and thus gave the team the opportunity to be within compliance. The team chose not to make this correction.
'10) Under Art. 3.2 of the Sporting Regulations it is the duty of the team to ensure compliance with the Technical Regulations throughout the Event. Thus the Stewards find that:
'A) The team chose to run the car using their fuel flow model, without direction from the FIA. This is a violation of the procedure within TD/ 01614.
'B) That although the sensor showed a difference in readings between runs in P1, it remains the homologated and required sensor against which the team is obliged to measure their fuel flow, unless given permission by the FIA to do otherwise.
'C) The Stewards were satisfied by the explanation of the technical representative that by making an adjustment as instructed, the team could have run within the allowable fuel flow.
'D) 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.
'The Stewards find that Car 3 was out of compliance with the Technical Regulations and is therefore excluded from the results of the race.'