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.

Merhi confirmed for WEC return with Manor at the Nürburgring

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CEFC Manor TRS Racing has confirmed that Roberto Merhi will return to the FIA World Endurance Championship for next month’s 6 Hours of Nürburgring, replacing Jean-Eric Vergne.

Merhi previously raced for Manor in both Formula 1 and the WEC, making his most recent appearance with the British marque at last November’s 6 Hours of Bahrain.

Merhi’s last racing outing came in the Formula 2 double-header in Spain and has flirted with a move into Formula E, but was confirmed on Wednesday to be making his racing return at the Nürburgring on July 16.

Merhi will deputize for Vergne in the No. 24 Oreca 07 Gibson while the Frenchman is in New York for the city’s inaugural Formula E event.

FIA to re-examine Vettel/Hamilton Baku clash

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The FIA has confirmed that it will re-examine the clash between Formula 1 title rivals Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix to see if further action is warranted.

Vettel and Hamilton made contact twice behind the safety car in Baku, with the second incident deemed to be an act of dangerous driving on Vettel’s part.

The FIA stewards in Baku handed Vettel a 10-second stop/go penalty for the clash – the harshest available penalty besides disqualification – but faced calls to issue a stricter punishment post race.

Hamilton said that the incident set a dangerous precedent for F1 and wider motorsport, but Vettel believed his rival deserved a penalty for allegedly brake testing him.

On Wednesday, the FIA confirmed that it would be re-examining the incident in a meeting on July 3, with a verdict set to be delivered ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix.

More to follow.

Wickens not interested in full-time IndyCar switch despite practice run

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Robert Wickens is not interested in making a full-time switch to the Verizon IndyCar Series in the near future despite his practice run-out at Road America last weekend for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Mercedes DTM driver Wickens was called up for Friday practice at the KOHLER Grand Prix in the No. 7 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda after Mikhail Aleshin was unable to make it in time due to immigration issues.

Aleshin was able to return to the United States in time for Saturday’s final practice and qualifying at Road America, with Wickens stepping back down.

The Canadian got his first taste of an Indy car in a car swap with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe in March, paving the way for his practice appearance at Road America.

However, Wickens is not looking to make a full-time move over to IndyCar anytime soon despite enjoying his run-out, with his focus lying with DTM.

“Not really, to be honest,” Wickens said when asked if IndyCar was something he would like to move into in Mercedes’ ‘Tales from the Paddock’ press newsletter.

“I just want to race cars. That’s the main thing. I have no urge to leave the DTM at the moment.

“Everything is going well, and I’m really happy with Mercedes.”

Wickens also went into detail about how rapidly things moved with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, having only been told the day before practice that he was required for the running.

“I planned on having a relaxing weekend at home, but on Thursday afternoon I got a call from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, which is the team that we did the ride swap with involving James Hinchcliffe back in April,” Wickens said.

“They asked if I could go to Road America and fill in for Mikhail Aleshin who had immigration issues. Fortunately, Toto [Wolff] was happy for me to do it and I was able to jump on a plane and get to Wisconsin.

“We didn’t get to the hotel until about 10pm on Thursday, and Free Practice 1 was on Friday morning very early. It took some getting used to.

“The practice itself was fun. The track was really good. It would be amazing to have a DTM race there one day.

“I definitely wanted to do the full weekend, but the full-time driver got his immigration stuff sorted and he made it to the race track by Friday night. My duties were finished, but it was still a really fun Friday.”

Force India’s Celis gets FP1 appearances in Austria, Hungary

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Force India youngster Alfonso Celis Jr. will make his first Formula 1 race weekend appearances of the season next month, taking part in first practice for the grands prix in Austria and Hungary.

Celis, 20, joined Force India as a development driver ahead of the 2016 season, enjoying six FP1 run-outs across the course of the year.

The Mexican driver returned for 2017, taking part in pre-season testing and the running following the Bahrain Grand Prix in April.

Force India confirmed on Wednesday that Celis will return for FP1 in Austria next week, before also featuring in practice in Hungary at the end of July.