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.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry. Time just published a brief piece by Wallace saluting Hamilton as a trailblazer.

The idea of Hamilton attending the NASCAR season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it would seem right for Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — to spend some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).