Red Bull and the FIA lock horns once again in fuel row

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The on-going saga surrounding Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification from the Australian Grand Prix looks set to be one of the main talking points in Malaysia this weekend after Red Bull suffered yet another fuel sensor failure on its RB10 car.

Ricciardo was disqualified from the opening race of the season in Australia after his car was deemed to have exceeded the maximum permitted fuel flow of 100kg/h, but Red Bull stringently denied this. The team insisted that although the FIA homologated sensor did suggest that the team had broken this regulation, its own sensor (a more sophisticated one, in the eyes of the team) showed that Ricciardo’s car was indeed legal.

The saga took another twist on the Thursday when the team suggested that its argument against the ruling – set to be heard at an appeal on April 14 – lies in the wording of the technical regulations. The team believes that the rules state that the FIA sensor is merely the suggested form of measurement from race director Charlie Whiting, and not the ‘definitive’ guide, meaning that the management was entitled to use their own sensor as the final reading.

On Friday, team principal Christian Horner confirmed to the media that Ricciardo had suffered yet another fuel sensor failure during the first practice session, and he reached out to the FIA to hold talks in order to avoid another saga like the one that unfurled in Australia.

“We had a signal failure on Daniel’s car this morning, so we obviously have replaced that for this afternoon’s session,” Horner explained. “I haven’t had the results of that.

“We find ourselves in an awkward situation, but it is one where we will try to work with the FIA, but again you are faced with the same dilemma as Australia a couple of weeks ago.”

A number of other teams did raise concerns about the FIA’s readings in Australia, but all bar Red Bull chose to remain within the guidelines set regardless.

In an unscheduled press conference held on the matter, Charlie Whiting made clear that the regulations are written to be stuck to, meaning that only the FIA’s reading is valid.

“Article 5.10 makes it quite clear in my view that the only way the fuel flow will be measured is with the homologated sensor,” he explained. “To me, it is perfectly clear.”

The dilemma Red Bull now faces is how it continues throughout the course of the weekend. Should the team elect to flout the FIA’s reading once again, it would risk having both cars disqualified again come the end of the race in Australia. However, adhering to the guidelines and the FIA measurements could severely undermine the team’s argument when it comes to the hearing in Paris next month.

Formula 1 is never short of controversy, but this is a particularly early start given that we are just one race into the new season.

F1 2017 driver review: Kimi Raikkonen

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Kimi Raikkonen

Team: Scuderia Ferrari
Car No.: 7
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 7
Best Finish: P2 (Monaco, Hungary)
Pole Positions: 1
Fastest Laps: 2
Points: 205
Laps Led: 40
Championship Position: 4th

While this may have statistically been Kimi Raikkonen’s best campaign since his first year back in F1 in 2012, there is a good case for it being one of his most disappointing to date.

Raikkonen’s continued role at Ferrari has been questioned on a number of occasions, but the Finn looked capable of answering his critics heading into 2017 after impressing through pre-season testing as he appeared to get to grips well with the new-style cars.

But we soon grew accustomed to the same old story: flashes of potential, but otherwise an underwhelming, unsatisfactory campaign that saw Raikkonen be dwarfed by his teammate, Sebastian Vettel.

Raikkonen’s charge to his first pole position for over eight years in Monaco gave hope of a popular win, only for Ferrari to play its strategy in favor of title contender Vettel – why wouldn’t the team do so? – to leave him a disgruntled second.

While Vettel was able to impress at the majority of circuits, Raikkonen only looked strong at tracks that were unquestionably ‘Ferrari’ tracks, such as Hungary and Brazil. Like Vettel, Raikkonen should have racked up a good haul of points in Singapore, only for the start-line crash to sideline both Ferraris before they even reached Turn 1.

Again there is the question of ‘what could have been?’ in Malaysia had it not been for the spark plug issue on the grid, yet in Japan, Raikkonen was nowhere, finishing behind the Mercedes and Red Bulls.

Finishing just five points clear of Daniel Ricciardo despite having a much faster car for the best part of the season and the Red Bull driver’s own reliability issues sums up the disappointment of Raikkonen’s campaign.

He should have been an ally for Vettel in the title race by nicking points of Lewis Hamilton, much as Valtteri Bottas was doing for his Mercedes teammate. Instead, Raikkonen seemed to be tagging along for the best part of this season.

Season High: Pole in Monaco, his first since the 2008 French Grand Prix.

Season Low: Finishing a distant P4 at Spa – a circuit he made his own in the 2000s.