Tomorrow (Monday) the appeal against Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification from second place in the Australian Grand Prix will be heard.
The Court of Appeal, an independent body, tasked with resolving issues like this by the FIA, will be the centre of a lot of attention as this case will be important for the governing body to assert its authority, which has been challenged by Red Bull’s approach in Melbourne to the technical and sporting regulations.
Depending on who wins, it could affect the way that the technical side of the sport is administered as, if the FIA loses, the use of Technical Directives (memos from the FIA Technical Delegate to all teams with updates and methodologies) could be changed.
There is also the wider question of the use of fuel flow meters in F1, with some teams keen to get rid of them or modify their use.
With the Mercedes chassis and power unit package so far ahead in the new technology race, all the teams chasing them are looking for any angle to gain ground.
With the sensor on Ricciardo’s car “drifting” in its readings during the race in Melbourne, and the FIA judging that the fuel use was above the maximum permitted rate, the team was instructed by the FIA to follow a back up procedure during the race, but instead chose to use its own measurement system.
Prior to the start of the season, the FIA had issued a technical directive which explained the methodology for use of the sensors and the required procedure in the event of problems. Red Bull ignored this, arguing that a technical directive is an opinion, not a binding regulation.
Assessing this will be central to the outcome, as will the FIA’s argument that it is not at the team’s discretion to run a different fuel flow measurement method.
Red Bull will seek to prove that at no time did they exceed the maximum fuel flow rate, but the FIA’s argument is that as Red Bull’s alternative measurement system had not been calibrated against a known FIA sensor, by an FIA supplier, then it is not within the technical regulations.
The FIA stewards excluded the car because it did not comply with the technical regulations during the race, due to Red Bull’s choice of back up methodology and because it is the competitor’s duty to ensure that the car complies at all times.
The suggestion was that this was Red Bull challenging the authority of the FIA, part of an ongoing friction, which is also tied up with criticism of the general direction of these hybrid turbo regulations, which was articulated in detail by it’s design guru Adrian Newey in Bahrain.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner believes that his team has a very strong case and that as the two following races have unfolded, events have demonstrated more information about the use of the fuel flow sensors which helps their case.
“As more races have progressed, issues have become more evident, new evidence has come to light and new understandings have come to light,” he said. “Hopefully we can present our case fairly and get the second place Daniel deserves from Melbourne.”