Christian Horner, boss of the Red Bull Racing team has today explained what their case will be based on at the April 14 appeal hearing into Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification from the Australian Grand Prix. And he says that the team is very confident it will be able to prove that it didn’t break the rules on fuel flow.
“We are appealing on the grounds that we are extremely confident that we have not broken the rules, that we haven’t exceeded the 100kg/hour of fuel that is permitted to be utilised by the car and the engine,” he said.
“Our whole case is on the fact of which reading is correct. We have a [FIA] sensor that is drifting and isn’t reading correctly versus a fuel rail that we know is calibrated and we know that hasn’t varied throughout the weekend. We haven’t broken the Technical Regulations. That we haven’t exceeded the fuel flow limit and that the sensor, which hopefully we will be able to demonstrate in the appeal, is erroneous.”
Although Technical Directives – the secretive documents issued by the FIA to teams to clarify and update interpretations of rules on complex technical areas – are considered by many F1 teams to supersede the technical regulations, Horner said that his team doesn’t see them that way, that they are more of an “opinion”.
The role of Technical Directives in governing F1 will be tested at the appeal hearing.
However the key point here is that even if Red Bull can demonstrate that its own readings were more accurate than the FIA approved sensor, the FIA will argue that the rules do not allow a competitor to take matters into its own hands when measuring something fundamental to the running of the car. He must follow FIA guidelines, as all the other competitors did in Melbourne.
As the stewards’ statement spelled out in Melbourne, “Although the sensor showed a difference in readings… it remains the homologated and required sensor against which the team is obliged to measure their fuel flow, unless given permission by the FIA to do otherwise….it is not within their discretion to run a different fuel flow measurement method without the permission of the FIA.”
Red Bull’s owner Dietrich Mateschitz has made some vague threats this week to quit F1 over this issue and over his general frustration about the new hybrid power train rules. The company has pumped billions into F1 over the last 15 or so years and the team is committed to the sport until the end of 2020 in a bilateral agreement with FOM.
Mateschitz is using a tactic employed to great effect over the years by Enzo Ferrari, who frequently threatened to leave the sport, even building an Indycar once to add some spice to his threat. The tradition has been continued by current Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo, who faced down Max Mosley at the end of his FIA presidency over Budget Caps – and won.