D-Day for Red Bull, Ricciardo and F1 2014


Monday sees the FIA's International Court of Appeal hear Red Bull's case against Daniel Ricciardo's disqualification from the season opening Australian Grand Prix.

The 2014 regulations might be different, very different, but in many ways it's the same old story as the sport's 'hidden heroes' - the lawyers - prepare to take centre stage once again.

Just one race into Formula One's bright and bold new future it's business as usual as those that make the rules go head to head with those that push them to the very limit.

Whilst for many the Cinderella stories in Melbourne revolved around the performances of Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat, not to mention Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo's drive to second was another major contributor to the feelgood factor surrounding the season opener.

Not only had the Red Bull driver become the first Australian to make it to the podium for his home race, his performance, in the wake of a dreadful pre-season showing from the Austrian team, indicated that all was not lost.

However, whilst many thought the dream turned sour five hours after the event - when the popular Australian was finally disqualified - fact is the writing was on the wall during the race when the stewards were already exchanging emails with the team over its decision to use its own measurements in terms of fuel flow as opposed to the official version.

Whilst the shock of Ricciardo's disqualification was still setting in, it emerged that problems with the official fuel flow meters had emerged during pre-season testing prompting Red Bull and others to look at alternatives. However, in the wake of the Melbourne disqualification, whilst the Austrian team spoke out about the unreliability of the FIA's meters, rival teams, though suffering similar problems, opted to side with the governing body, if nothing else in order to see the world champions start the season on the back foot.

Heading into Monday's hearing, team boss Christian Horner insists he is confident.

"We have got a very strong case," he said, according to Reuters. "As more races have progressed, issues have become more evident, new evidence has come to light, or understanding has come to light, so hopefully we can present our case fairly and get the second place back that Daniel deserves."

Though unwilling to reveal exactly what that "new evidence" might be, Horner is adamant that a technical directive sent out by the FIA before the start of the season had no regulatory value.

"Technical directives are opinions, they are not regulations," he said, in the wake of the season opening race. "That's what the confusion is with this. I think people are not understanding that the rules within the technical regulations are explicitly clear. We did not break those. We are very confident that we can demonstrate that we complied with the rules at all times.

"If you look at the facts, it's a very simple case. The rules are very clear. Technical directives are not rules. Did we break the rules or not? It's as simple as that."

Such a raft of new rules was always going to prove controversial in a sport where more often than not the real competition is far away from the track. However, with Red Bull showing no sign of backing down, and its rivals each with their own agenda, Monday might not be the end of it all no matter which way it goes.

And while the lawyers, once again, look to prove the real champions, we can probably expect many more such controversies over the coming months.

While success with the appeal would delight Ricciardo and his fans, it would be a bitter pill for McLaren, whose drivers were both promoted to podium positions in the wake of the stewards decision, and Mercedes, which would see its ever improving rivals in second position in the Constructors' Championship, albeit with half as many points.

Chris Balfe

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Published: 13/04/2014
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