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FEATURE BY MIKE LAWRENCE
24/03/2014

Just when you thought that Formula One had become dull, the FIA hit its stride with a new reason to disqualify a driver. The beauty of Ricciardo's disqualification is that nobody watching the race could have guessed it. He did not cause an accident, or speed in the pit lane, in fact he did not put a foot wrong, but still the rule book was thrown at him.

It is unlikely that many people outside the teams even knew there was a fuel flow regulation. We now hear that the FIA Stewards and Red Bull were in an ongoing dialogue backstage, but this does not help the fans. Tens of thousands of the home supporters went home believing that their man had come second, and they were cheated.

We who watched at home were also cheated, but we had not dug deep into our pockets to witness a sham.

We have a rule about fuel flow, which is not something that occupies most of us. Red Bull claims that the sensor was faulty and will appeal. The FIA Stewards seem like they stand on firm ground, but I doubt if they can muster as much technical expertise as Red Bull and an appeal will be argued in an FIA court. We may have the result of the race some weeks from now and Bernie wonders why the TV ratings are falling.

The first race of a new formula and F1 is in its default position of protest and lawyers.

To say that sound was disappointing was to use understatement, it was like watching a Fred Astaire movie in mute mode. When the cars entered the pitlane, they resembled elderly diesel taxis with dodgy big ends. Be thankful for that, there once was a move to have cars powered only by battery in the pitlane.

Bernie is said to be seeking to redress the issue, but it is difficult to see how this could be achieved without a major technical rule change which only the FIA can make having consulted with its various subcommittees. As we know, these are all people who put the good of the sport before any advantage they may have found.

To put engineers in charge of drafting new regulations is like putting studio technicians in charge of a movie. Their job is to deliver what the director requires, they do not write the script.

I have no idea what Bernie thinks he can do. Maybe put a bit of cardboard so it rubs against the wheel spokes. Maybe use some of the battery power to transmit racing noises.

He has made a commitment and I am not sure that it is one he can achieve.

The organisers of the Australian GP are reported to have lawyers combing their contract to see if there has been a breach since sound has always been an implied part of the F1 experience.

You used to be able to buy a 45 rpm vinyl record of a V16 BRM revving up. For the complete experience, you would put it on your turntable and heat a sheet of metal on which you would drip Castrol 'R'.

Noise is important as the FIA will discover once Formula E gets under way, and implodes, leaving a lot of people out of pocket. Formula E will fail because we are tuned to hearing the grunt of an engine and that gives us important clues. We cannot visually discern speed with any accuracy above 27 mph, which is the maximum speed a human can run. This is undisputed science.

We are told of the enormous benefits of electrical cars, but we don't watch races to be educated in some future technology. We watch motor racing because we enjoy it. Even if we only watch on TV, we are choosing to commit time to that and not to any other activity.

The backers of Formula E talk about today's teenagers being prepared to think differently. They could have tried distributing a silent X-box racing game to see what the reaction would be.

Even before the lights turned green in Melbourne, I believe a record was set with three cars starting from the pit lane due to mechanical malfunction. Boffins are hard at work to ensure improvements and I have no doubt that the position will change within a few races. Some things we are stuck with, however and one is confusion.

Towards the end of the race it looked like Magnussen might make a challenge on Ricciardo, accord to the BBC commentary. Apparently, he was building up his battery power, though that was only a guess since we had no hard information. On-screen technical data was absent.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Iori, 03/04/2014 19:57

"Pitpass USED to be my number one go to site for all things F1 but over the past 3 years it has slowly decended my list of reliable sites for F1 info and unbaiased writing. There are 7 or 8 sites that get my attention now before pitpass and this article probably sums up why, very very poor. I suppose sham just sums it up."

Rating: Negative (-2)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by bfairey, 03/04/2014 10:58

"You are half right F1 is NOT a sport it is entertainment, bums on seats and all that."

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3. Posted by gturner38, 02/04/2014 20:17

"OK, we're supposed to be upset because a driver was disqualified for something the fan couldn't see as if this is something new. Did we have the same outrage when Button and Sato were disqualified for potentially running underweight or when Williams and Toyota were disqualified for running oversized brake ducts? There's nothing about that that is new. Say what you want about the noise, but disqualifications for technical infractions as are nothing new."

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4. Posted by Superbird70, 01/04/2014 23:31

"Nice article. Looking at the Gill website and the specifications for their fuel sensor it is interesting to see that for 52% of the meters have an accuracy of +/- 0.1% and 92% of the meters have an accuracy of +/-0.25%.

If the timing for the last Grand Prix had the same specifications (0.1%) Hamilton and Vettel's times would have been indistinguishable. Using the poorer specification Rosberg and Alonso would have had the same problem.

The fuel flow meter also doesn't measure the mass of the fuel directly. That is calculated by using the density of fuel that each team would have to supply and then converting the units.

It's simply amazing that just weighing in the fuel and letting them go at it wouldn't be sufficient to provide good racing. You run out of fuel too bad, design a better motor or better way to manage the energy recovery system.

I wish they had just said "turbos, 1.6L, 4,6,8,10 or 12 cylinders" go design."

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5. Posted by Bmep, 30/03/2014 20:27

"Being a fan for the last 19 years I am incredibly disappointed. High tech? Nothing wrong with high tech but people seem to forget that F1 is a sport and in every sport the emotional part is a big factor. These engines don't sound good. They don't get my pulse racing.

I don't buy the road relevant argument. Most road cars will not have V6 engines and the few who does will still be nothing like the F1 engines. Most roadcars have inline fours and HERS and KERS can be used on those as well. There is nothing that says they must use a V6 for development, the systems work on any ICE. They could have shrunk the V8 to 2.2 or 2.0 :s and used the same technology, admittedly they would have had to lower boost pressure and the engine would have been peakier but it still the same. That way they could have kept some of the glamour and still badge their roadcars as "With F1 technology" if that's the goal.

Real greenies do not like motorsport and never will, at best they are indifferent, at worst they outright hate it and that would not have changed to a large extent even if they had gone full electric.

There is a reason that some engines are regarded as mechanical works of art and others not, it's not always about the most efficient solution or the latest tech. If that were the case we could go full electric and do away with the drivers."

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6. Posted by Lezza, 27/03/2014 4:21

"Absolutely spot on - keep at it, Mike."

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7. Posted by VC10-1103, 26/03/2014 16:50

"Great piece Mike. As a follower of F1 since 1969 and present at BH in '76 I know exactly what you mean. The eco friendly formula is a farce when you you consider the great fleet of support vehicles that attend every GP - the team trucks, TV trucks, Paddock club trucks and so on. It would be interesting to see the %age fuel saved over a weekend by the new formula compared to last year.

Bring back the days of one transporter and a support caravan per team. "

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8. Posted by raven49, 26/03/2014 15:01

"A very good article. Like Mike I have watched F1 for over 50 years and currently pay a premium to watch F1 in the US. If F1 popularity is declining there may be more than one reason. I agree the noise from the new engines falls short but an artificial change to make them louder (add a speaker to a wing end plate, perhaps) is ridiculous.
The maximum fuel limit is fine but then there should be no need for a flow limit. As some already suggested, the RPM limit doesn't help. Some of what has been bothering me has been mentioned. There may be a couple of other items that might be turning off interested fans such as myself.
1. F1 has been a technological peak for auto racing. Engineers should be able to innovate. Real breakthroughs come from setting broad restrictions such as maximum fuel loads, engine displacement, minimum weight and dimensions. F1 is expensive and always will be. This years changes sure caused a lot more expense with little return on investment
2. I have enjoyed the commentary of Hobbs, Machette et al for a while as there was real experience talking. The last couple of years the commentary has been reduced to banter between friends. Hobbs saying "push lad, push" is getting old. They have lots of data in front of them and saying the "Mercedes is faster down the straight" with no other info doesn't say much. They can see someone come out of the pits with a harder tire and then say he should catch up to someone with older softer tires with mentioning any lap or sector times. I am paying to watch the race so it is better to just mute them now. Sometimes, you wonder if they're even watching the race when they contradict what I am watching myself.
3. So far at least, the tires don't seem as though they will control the race this year. A requirement the last few years should have been to reduce the debris first so people could go offline without fear, then work to design the hardness levels desired. After a very few laps, the tracks have assumed a "dry" line such as happens on a drying track where slicks don't dare go offline.
4. Giving Q3 teams an extra set of tires for qualifying isn't enough. Limiting tires is gong to limit track time during practice.
5. AS for the fuel flow fiasco, it is hard to feel sorry for Red Bull since they've won everything in sight the last few years, but it's happened before. And, the difficulty with the fuel flow sensors should be available to the fans - we're not idiots. Why the secret? As it is no one really says much about any problem that occurs. IF the FIA issued part has problems (90% accurate within 0.25kg/hr and 52% accurate within 0.10 kg/hr) we should know. Why don't the commentators talk about this and point out what it means. One car could run at 100.25 kg/hr and another at 99.75 kg/hr under worst case scenarios. Is that acceptable. In a sport where 1 kg of fuel could mean 0.1 sec/lap, it very well might be. Steve Machette could do very well explaining that.
6. If Red Bull can prove they did not exceed 100 kg/hr at any time, I believe they should be reinstated. The fans should also get the numbers. That they were notified isn't enough. We're all paying for more.

"

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9. Posted by GrahamG, 26/03/2014 8:53

"A well reasoned article with a lot of very valid points.
Why didn't anyone have the foresight to unify the engine formulas for LMP1 and F1, it would have spread costs and introduced some innovation into F1. OK the equivalence might have needed a bit of tweaking, but LMP1 manages to combine innovation with pretty close racing.
F1 is just artificial now - limits on everything and the reaction to any glimmer of good racing is to introduce even more regulations."

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10. Posted by hodgledog, 25/03/2014 23:19

""To say that sound was disappointing was to use understatement, it was like watching a Fred Astaire movie in mute mode."
my worry is that they are setting us up for an all electric f-1 with no sound at all. the screeching tires and the sound of the crowd are things i can do without while watching f-1. the "enviro-mentals" have been inserting themselves into motor sport for years now...its only now that i start to realize the damage to the sport they are causing."

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11. Posted by kiwi2wheels, 25/03/2014 22:12

"Another excellent summation, thank you Dr Lawrence.

Red Bull's $$$ resources and Porsche technological resources should be able to blow those f---wits at the FIA out of the water when the appeal goes to a real court.

I have ceased to watch this farce any more. Perhaps all who feel the same should email Ron Walker ( AGP promoter ), as it would be useful to him as proof , when he takes the morons to court for breach of contract.."

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12. Posted by Spindoctor, 25/03/2014 20:48

"No argument with the general thesis. Historically the rules were fairly imprecise, laying-down boundaries. More recently, and in concert with Bernie's drive towards ever greater commercialisation, the rules have become increasingly prescriptive. There seems to be a good case for ascribing causality.

Once a certain level of complexity is reached, ONLY the engineers can draft or subsequently implement and enforce them. Returning to RBR and poor young Riccardo's disqualification it's symptomatic of what happens under these circumstances.
As Mike Lawrence suggests we need to return to rules made to encourage sport, and we need to leave engineers solving the problems this would throw up."

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13. Posted by GeorgeK, 25/03/2014 16:28

"A nice read, thank you Mike!
Contrary to some of your observations the F1 sky is not falling, at least not totally.

The FIA have stubbed their toe in one major area; considering the sweeping changes this year, additional testing time should have been allocated.

We can now consider this the "shakedown" portion of the season when the numerous glitches become identified and resolved.

Regarding Ricciardo's exclusion, I think everyone is on board with the mystery of the process, but the reason can't be disregarded. They were WARNED during the race, but took a course that went badly for them.

I have to wonder what the real reason behind the appeal is, it has to be more than just the Melbourne exclusion."

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14. Posted by MES, 25/03/2014 13:58

"Damn well said Mike and I'm right there with you at 55 years. This isn't motor racing. It's pure b---
s---, drivel for, by and about technocrats. I'd as soon watch for melting ice on a freezing day. Thanks a lot FIA. Yes cars and circuits are safer, but rules makers have turned F1 to crap! Yes, thanks for nothing. "

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15. Posted by ClarkwasGod, 25/03/2014 13:08

"I agree with everything Mike wrote EXCEPT Ricciardo's disqualification. Leave aside the fuel flow sensor for a moment. During the race, RBR was warned by the FIA that the fuel flow was too high. They were aware of the consequences of ignoring that, but chose to do so. On that basis alone the decision was correct. Now the sensor may, or may not have been accurate. But it is, at present, the homologated instrument of refererence for the particular rule governing maximum permissible flow rate. If they disagreed with the readings, RBR should have complied, and then argued the case with the FIA afterwards. DR might have lost 2nd place by turning the flow rate down, but he would, at least still be in the record book, and RBR would be in a far stronger position to argue their case. Right now they are behaving like spoilt children (from the owner down), and bringing the sport into even more disrepute than the new rules have done."

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