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.