UPDATE: Australian Red Bull Racing driver Daniel Ricciardo has been disqualified following his second-place finish in the opening round of this year's Formula 1 Grand Prix in Melbourne.
In an astonishing error by his Red Bull team, Ricciardo has been found to have breached Article 5.1.4 of the FIA's 2014 Technical Regulations that state: "fuel mass flow must not exceed 100kg per hour". (Note: a peak flow reading, not an averaged rate.)
Remarkably, at half-race distance Ricciardo was instructed by the team that he no longer needed to conserve fuel and could press Rosberg, who was then just five seconds in front.
History has however now been snatched away from Ricciardo - so nearly the first Australian driver to take a podium in an Australian Grand Prix.
Unfortunately, the FIA said in a statement that the Renault power unit in Ricciardo's Red Bull car "consistently" exceeded the allowed flow limit during the race.
Under the new rules, the cars are loaded up with just 100kg of fuel for the race. And, ominously, race director Charlie Whiting declared on Thursday that the FIA had a zero tolerance policy on the fuel use issue.
Although clearly on shakey ground, Red Bull is to appeal the decision.
On whether it has a basis for appeal, or not, would appear to rest on the operation of the fuel flow sensor and some difficulties the FIA had earlier experienced in monitoring the fuel flow rate limit on cars.
The issue would appear to turn on changes to the fuel flow sensor frequency. Ricciardo's car had been changed prior to the race in compliance with the directive, but, according to reports, the same changes were not made to Seb Vettel's RB10.
Adding to a cloud of confusion over the issue is that race director Charlie Whiting said prior to the race, “Due to time constraints before the qualifying session the FIA data versions will not be changed ()... the revised monitoring will be processed by the FIA offcar.”
The technical regulations state that a team is to be advised if FIA telemetry detects greater than the allowed fuel use. The Red Bull team had in fact been contacted during the race and advised that the fuel flow rate of Ricciardo's car was in breach.
(This is to give the team the opportunity to correct the matter - to reduce fuel flow to within the limit.)
Curiously, the Red Bull team chose to run its own fuel flow model which was at odds with the information provided by the FIA technical representative, and, unfortunately, also at odds with the rules.
Does Red Bull need another year defending its actions in the attention it gives 'the other driver', whoever happens to be in the seat other than Sebastian Vettel's?
That's a question that will now linger uncomfortably with many Australian F1 fans.
The Steward's Statement follows below:
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.”
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.
Watch for TMR's full Australian F1 Grand Prix wrap-up.