There may be the ‘greatest technical change to F1 for a generation’ but after the Australian Grand Prix we got a good, old-fashioned F1 political rumpus.
Even before the event, Ferrari chief Luca Montezemolo was railing against the potential for fuel flow “trickery”.
With extraordinary prescience (or maybe a tip-off from the team after testing) he told Ferrari fans: “Such an important set of changes to the regulations is bringing some grey areas, for example fuel, software, consumption. In these (matters) I am fully expecting the FIA to be vigilant - as I’m sure they will be - to avoid any trickery, which has also taken place in the past but must not happen any more for the good of this sport.”
And before the start on Sunday, Race Director Charlie Whiting said that teams who went over either the 100kg fuel allowance, or over the maximum fuel flow rate would receive zero tolerance.
In the race Daniel Ricciardo’s fuel flow consistently went above the 100kg/hour maximum, meaning that he had a power advantage not enjoyed by the rest of the field.
Here’s what the FIA had to say: “The FIA technical representative (Jo Bauer) observed through telemetry during the race that 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 give the team the opportunity to be within compliance.
“The team chose not to make this correction.”
“Although the [original] sensor showed a difference in readings between runs in FP1, 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.”
Here’s what Christian Horner had to say afterwards: “These fuel flow sensors that have been fitted by the FIA to measure fuel (flow), have proved problematic through the pitlane ever since their introduction at the start of testing. There have been discrepancies in there and they’ve been unreliable and indeed I think some cars may have run without them during the race or have failed during the race itself. “
So instead of Red Bull using the FIA kit, they ran their own system, backed up by data from the fuel injectors which Horner says will prove that they did not exceed the limits.
Basically what Red Bull are saying is that the FIA kit is rubbish, theirs is much more accurate, and despite the rules requiring them to use FIA equipment, they didn’t. What’s more, they think the FIA may have allowed other teams to get away with not fitting them… No small claim.
If Red Bull win their appeal it will be a small miracle. And if they do succeed in flouting the rules and flouting the FIA’s authority you can imagine Luca Montzemolo going ballistic. The normally politically sure-footed Christian Horner may need to do some pretty swift reversing, because this looks like a train crash. However what is still puzzling is that the FIA were looking at one set of data that said the fuel flow was too high during the race, while the Red Bull team were looking at another set that said it was correct.
This one could run and run.