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Flow-gate: Red Bull got off lightly

NEWS STORY
19/04/2014

Along with disqualification from the Australian Grand Prix, the FIA's International Court of Appeal has also ruled that Red Bull must pay the costs associated with the appeal process.

Earlier in the week the Court of Appeal upheld Daniel Ricciardo's exclusion from second place in the Australian Grand Prix for fuel flow irregularities. However, Red Bull can consider itself lucky to have got off relatively lightly after Mercedes asked for the penalty to be increased.

Mercedes took part in the appeal proceedings as a third party, which is allowed under the FIA's Judicial and Disciplinary Rules, and forwarded its submission to the court on April 8. McLaren, Williams, Lotus and Force India attended as observers.

In its submission Mercedes asked "that the Court not only confirmed the penalty imposed on (Red Bull) but that a more severe sanction of a ban of no less than three races, plus disqualification for a further 6 months, suspended for a year", be imposed.

Mercedes argued that "if (Red Bull) is correct, this would mean that every team could ignore the Technical Directives and the FIA measurement systems; for instance, the measurements of the car's weight and many other measurements that are made before, during or after a race."

Mercedes submission echoes sentiments from within the paddock in which a number of teams felt Red Bull had blatantly attempted to circumvent the regulations, but while the Court of Appeal did side with the stewards of the Australian Grand Prix and confirm the exclusion, it stopped short of any increased punishment.

What the process highlighted were some rather eyebrow raising decisions made by Red Bull during the Australian Grand Prix. The report produced by the Court reveals that the team first acknowledged and adhered to the FIA's instruction to reduce its fuel flow, only to then wilfully ignore them when performance began to suffer. "(Red Bull) asked its driver to apply the correction and turn that engine's settings down," the report states. "Since, according to (Red Bull), this caused a loss of power of 0.4 seconds per lap, an internal discussion took place within (Red Bull), and after just seven laps, most of them having taken place while the safety car was on the track, (Red Bull) instructed its driver to turn the (engine) back up."

By doing so Red Bull was effectively thumbing its nose at the FIA, trusting that its own calculations would prove it to be correct. Indeed that point is more or less confirmed as the report acknowledges Paul Monaghan, Red Bull's Chief Engineer, saying during the race that he "would defend before the Stewards the (team's) decision not to follow (the FIAs instructions)."

It was this point the Court, and Mercedes, was especially critical of with the German team stating the calculations were less than accurate. "The test provided by (Red Bull) to demonstrate the accuracy of its method, does not replicate race conditions, such as fuel burning or vibrations," Mercedes counsel, Mr Paul Harris QC, claimed, going on to call the results "imperfect."

It's a point the Court agreed with, saying in its summary that "(Red Bull) did not prove that its fuel flow model estimates the fuel flow (very) accurately and/or more accurate than the (Fuel Flow Sensor) and does not find any element in the present case that could prove that (Red Bull's car) did not exceed the fuel mass flow limit."

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Paul RB, 21/04/2014 11:40

"I agree completely with the comments from GoodPublicity and by that token disagree profoundly with the comment by Dreadnaught. F1 purports to be the pinacle of motorsport engineering yet the FIA demands the use of a piece of equipment that by their own admission is of questionalble functionality and reliability. Whilst RBR clearly went out on a limb with their chosen path, and paid the price, they do not need to rubbish the FIA over the FFR sensor, the FIA does a perfectly good job on its own. And as for the meddling by MB, this is just one more example of the descent of F1 into the pit of murky and vindictive politics. Ultimately, F1 will destroy itself. I'm also puzzled that MC finds the Court's statement about fraudulent attitude as extraordinary. What's difficult to understand about such a conclusion? "

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2. Posted by GoodPublicity, 20/04/2014 14:50

"The FIA International Court of Appeal's judgement on Daniel Ricciardo's Albert Park disqualification reveals how amateurishly F1 is run. Clause 6 states:

"Two practical issues were identified by the FIA during the development and testing of the FFM [fuel flow measurement] SENSOR. In some cases, the FFM SENSOR would stop providing any FFR [fuel flow rate] at all or the FFM SENSOR would include a significant negative offset from actual FFR due to the fact that the FFR SENSOR initialises at an incorrect level and, as a result, understates the actual FFR."

There you have it - the FIA approved a mandatory a piece of equipment that it knew was unreliable. The subsequent ad hoc recalibrations are completely unacceptable for a professional sporting series.

No self-respecting car club would tolerate such incompetent administration, which is an insult to the world's top racing drivers and teams.

The only way to restore credibility to the World Drivers' Championship is to annul the results of the races held using the existing FFS, and to suspend its use until either it is reliable or a reliable alternative is found."

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3. Posted by 4-Wheel Drifter, 19/04/2014 21:05

"Friends:

Just two things to remember whenever disputes are settled in court: (1) it's NEVER about justice or fairness; it is ALWAYS about money. (2) The loser ALWAYS pays more than the winner. Mercedes Benz has invested a huge amount of time and money in F1, to say nothing of their reputation as a manufacturer. Renault, by contrast, has "chickened out" by doing no more than supply engines (or as the current term of are appears to be, "power units." And their sales will hardly suffer because they are supplying inferior power units to Mercedes Benz. On the other hand Mercedes MUST win a manufacturer's title this year and whether it is Lewis or Rosberg who take the drivers championship is of little consequence. So they HAD TO prevent Red Bull from getting points in Australia and they must continue to do everything in their power to insure that neither Red Bull nor Renault get enough points to threaten their current lead. Do not imagine that the fact that Red Bull is an Austrian concern or that Seb is a German driver matters in the least. Money talks and money is listened to and money wins. Always. Hollywood is where you go for dreams of fairness and sport, not F1."

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4. Posted by Dreadnaught, 19/04/2014 20:52

"The FIA have missed an important trick. It was not simply that they defied the FIA, they then went to considerable trouble to rubbish them and the product and in so doing stirred up a hornet's nest and very definitely damaged F1."

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5. Posted by BobW, 19/04/2014 20:25

"Mercedes are really ones to talk. They walked away from their direct violation of FIA rules with nothing more than a hand slap."

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6. Posted by scf1fan, 19/04/2014 18:39

"My opinion of MB just went down; way down. Fail at an appeal for your traffic violation, get thrown in prison for six months and lose your livelihood for a year . . . (Good thing they weren't the third party on their "illegal testing" violation last year!) Perhaps I spoke too early when I said that I was glad that MB stuck with F1 . . . "

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