The date is set for the FIA and Red Bull – but who will win out in Paris?

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There have been many court-room tussles in Formula 1 over the past ten years or so. 2005 saw the FIA appeal against its own stewards in order to disqualify BAR from the San Marino Grand Prix; ‘Spygate’ in 2007 saw McLaren chucked out of the constructors’ and fined $100m; the diffuser debate in 2009 soon defused itself; 2013’s ‘testgate’ was more annoying than anything. The sport rarely gets through a season without at least one visit to Paris for a hearing.

However, 2014 has wasted little time. Just one race into the year, and we have our first court date set. Following Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification from the Australian Grand Prix last weekend, Red Bull appealed against the result and triggered the first case of the season as the team looks to get its driver re-instated in second place.

The Australian driver was disqualified after the team was deemed to have exceeded the maximum fuel flow of 100kg/h on his car during the race, according to the FIA’s measurements. Red Bull on the other hand has its own measurements that the management opted to follow, and the team insists that this was under the limit, making the car legal.

The fall-out of this debacle has led to a few questions being asked and plenty of finger pointing. Essentially, it comes down to a yes or no question: did Red Bull exceed the fuel flow limit of 100kg/h on car #3?

One of the facts that might be working in Red Bull’s favor is that the FIA made a change to the frequency level used to measure the fuel flow on the Saturday night following qualifying. This might suggest that the initial measure was not entirely accurate, and perhaps the change will not have successfully fixed this problem.

Red Bull was not the only team to have reservations about the FIA measure, either. All of the other teams did raise concerns about it.

However – and here’s the kicker – the other teams kept to the FIA measure to ensure that their cars were legal.

The measurement system is also interactive. Teams can see in real time what their ‘figure’ is, and race control (led by Charlie Whiting) issued warnings when they were exceeding the limit of 100kg/h. Red Bull were warned on three occasions that Ricciardo’s car was above the limit, yet the team still ignored the orders.

A big question also comes in Malaysia. The FIA has reinforced its faith in the measurement sensor supplier, but with the hearing set for April 14, a lot can still happen.

In Malaysia, if there is a similar situation, what will Red Bull do? By flouting the limit once again, the team risks getting both of its cars disqualified again (although it would show unbelievable and perhaps misplaced self-confidence). By adhering to the limit, though, would the team not be admitting guilt? That the FIA measurements are the right way to go? That Ricciardo’s car ran illegally in Australia after all?

With two races between now and the hearing, a lot can still happen. The odds are stacked against Red Bull, though, and they have few allies that will come and help.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.