Red Bull were in Paris today to appeal Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification from the Australian Grand Prix in March. He was disqualified due to his car exceeding the 100kg/h fuel flow limit, but Red Bull claim that the FIA’s sensor failed and that they needed to revert to their own measurements as a result. The FIA says that Red Bull’s calculations were incorrect and led to Ricciardo exceeding the limits, in breach of the rules.
After Ricciardo was disqualified, Red Bull announced that they would appeal the decision. Today was the day of the appeal and here’s what happened:
Under Judge Harry Duijm, Red Bull lawyer Ali Malek opened Red Bull’s argument, questioning the FIA’s right to disqualify Ricciardo. He argued, as Red Bull have done since the initial Stewards investigation after the Australian GP, that the FIA sensor was not working properly. Malek also pointed out that there is no rule which says that the fuel flow measurement must be done through FIA apparatus – which would mean that Red Bull can use their own measuring equipment.
Sebastian Bernard, a lawyer for the FIA, responded to this by saying that there can only be one official measurement. “If each one measures at will, because he is of the opinion that the official measurement is wrong, we have anarchy,” Bernard said. He then pointed out that the faulty readings from the FIA sensor was during the first two practice sessions on the Friday. After the faulty readings, the team knew what margin of error the equipment had. So, when the sensor failed on the Sunday they should have calculated the margin of error and used this as the true flow rate, rather than reverting to their own measurement.
An FIA representative then stated that Ricciardo was only complying with the regulations for five laps – four of which were behind a Safety Car. He believes that Red Bull used their own readings in order to gain an advantage.
Mercedes’ lawyer Paul Harris stood next and stated that the new evidence showed that Red Bull broke the rules in order to gain an advantage. He said that using the Red Bull’s sensor had benefited Ricciardo by 0.4 seconds per lap. He asked Red Bull if they would allow Mercedes to measure their own fuel flow, believing that they could have gone even faster if they had done so. He also asked if everyone should use their own scales in case the FIA’s scales are unsatisfactory.
Red Bull’s chief engineer Paul Monaghan then took to the floor and referenced an FIA statement which pointed out how Red Bull had used the FIA sensor in Malaysia, and how the margin of error was the same in Malaysia. Monaghan said that the two races are completely different as they were run in different weather conditions and temperatures.
The FIA asked Monaghan if his team directly measured the flow rate. He said that Red Bull do not directly measure the flow, but use the opening time of the injectors, injection quantity, fuel density and fuel temperature to calculate the flow, which Monaghan says leaves a margin for error of one percent.
The FIA then asked Monaghan why Red Bull accepted the reading from the FIA sensor during the Safety Car period but not before or after said period. Monaghan said that the inconsistencies of the sensor led to the replacement of the first sensor with a second one on Saturday – which then failed to emit a signal. This prompted the team to then start taking their own measurements. He said that on the Sunday they fitted the first faulty sensor and that they then noticed that it was giving incorrect readings, which is why they used their own measurements again during the race. Monaghan says that the team is allowed to use their own data if the sensor fails, in accordance with FIA rules. He also returned to the topic of using the FIA flow rate sensor in Malaysia, and said that a 20 degrees difference in water temperature greatly affected the temperature of the injected fuel and subsequently the flow rate.
Mercedes’ Lawyer, Paul Harris, stood to cross-examine Monaghan and asked him why Red Bull didn’t use their third flow rate sensor, the one they fitted in the replacement chassis. Monaghan blamed the margin of error on the FIA sensors, or the “correction factor” as he referred to it.
“Suppose that the sensor provides incorrect values that are adjusted by the correction factor,” he says. “Then the delta would still have been the same between the FIA measurement and our measurements over the entire race. On lap 37 we made a significant step in this delta. Though the engine data, such as exhaust temperature, lambda value, ignition timing and fuel temperature are the same.” This, Monaghan says, proves that the FIA data from the race was incorrect.
Renault’s David Mart is called to give evidence. He said that Renault thrice calculated the margin for error, using different temperatures each time, and the margin for error was 0.4%. However, he did follow this up by saying that in extreme conditions, the margin for error could have reached 1.5%.
Mercedes’ Paul Harris reminded Mart that the FIA told teams to use a correction factor of 1.015% and that doing so would get rid of any incorrect readings. The FIA then asked Mart why he had not used the correction factor, to which he replied that the legality of the car lay with Red Bull. When asked if he had his doubts, Mart replied that he did, but added that everyone had doubts as they were using brand new regulations.
The Red Bull lawyer stood up and asked Mart if anyone in the team had changed the input parameters in order to affect the fuel flow reading, to which Mart said no one had done so. Newey then stood in and explained that he doubted the reading on the FIA meter, and had he used the meter, the team would have been severely affected performance wise.
Paul Harris then quizzed Newey, putting a hypothetical scenario where a rival team ignored the reading of the FIA meter and used their own readings. Newey responded by saying that if that team had sufficient evidence to prove that the FIA meter was faulty, then that would be acceptable in his eyes. Harris then asked if Newey would believe it if they challenged the FIA scales, to which Newey said he would if the measurement error was big enough.
The FIA’s engine expert, Fabrice Lom, then took to the stand. He explained the differences between the FIA fuel sensor and how the teams measure the fuel flow using their own calculations. He explained why there might sometimes be deviations between the FIA reading and the measurement by teams. Then he stated that his opinion was that the Red Bull third sensor worked flawlessly.
Lom then explained that the sensor in Malaysia and the sensor from Melbourne gave the similar readings, the only difference due to the different weather conditions. He argued that if the two sensors gave almost the same readings, then it could be assumed that the one in Melbourne worked too. The Red Bull lawyers disagreed with this assumption. They asked Lom how the FIA sensor changed it’s deviation from 1.3% to 1.8% on lap 37 of the Australian GP, to which he said a sensor could deviate slightly but will inevitably return to the correct reading.
Lom presented the court with a chart showing Ricciardo’s lap-by-lap fuel flow. He, again, points out that Ricciardo was only within the limits between laps 13 and 17, and that in the 12 laps beforehand, he was using between 100.5kg and 100.8kg per hour (above the 100kg per hour limit). This increased to 101.1kg while he defended against McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen in the final four laps. He then showed the figures if the correction factor was not applied, and these figures spanned from 99.02kg to 103.37kg.
The Red Bull lawyer stood to ask Lom how many sensors have failed. Lom replies with three in Melbourne, four in Sepang and five or six in Bahrain, adding that the reasons for the failures in Bahrain have been diagnosed and fixed. He further explained that the sensors either transmitted correctly or did not transmit at all. Lom was asked about the number of false correction factors. He said that they were 5 percent in Melbourne and 1.5 percent in Sepang. He went on to mention that – in some cases – while installing the sensors, the threads for the fuel feed lines was drilled so deep that the measurement section was damaged.
Ali Malek brings up an issue in Bahrain where Toro Rosso were forced to reduce the flow rate by 2.9% to stay within the rules due to a sensor alarm in qualifying. This incident was subsequently made redundant as an argument as the FIA remind him that they have fixed the issues from Bahrain, which, in turn, were unrelated to the issues seen in other races.
After this, time was wasted as the two sides disagreed over the value of a technical directive and the possible errors in measurements of the FIA sensor. Red Bull then returned to the issue with the sudden increase of flow rate. Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner presented Lom with diagrams of same, and Lom said that he could only see a short-term increase, not a general increase. Keeping with the tradition of arguing the same argument, the topic of discussion returned, again, to the sensor in Malaysia. The FIA argue that this proves that the fuel sensor worked fine in Australia while Red Bull disagree and point their finger at the warmer weather in Malaysia corrupting data to support that argument.
Red Bull’s lawyer, Lazarus, then points out that although they exceeded the limit at times, overall they stayed below the required limit. Lom argued that this cannot be used as an acceptable justification, and that the teams must remain below 100kg/h at all times.
Evan Short then took to the stand for Mercedes. He immediately pointed out that a fuel sensor can measure fuel flow accurately while a team calculation can be, at best, an approximation. Red Bull accused Nico Rosberg of exceeding the fuel flow limit temporarily during Qualifying, which Short admitted had happened, but also said that the issue was rectified immediately.
Red Bull subsequently accused Short of doubting the expertise of their witness, Paul Monaghan, which Short denied. He clarified that he disagreed with Monaghan’s argument due to a personal experience which would contradict Monaghan’s viewpoint, but he did not doubt his expertise.
After a thirty minute lunch break, the court resumed and Malek once again gave Red Bull’s stance on the matter – that they did not cheat. He wished to express that his clients did not mean to undermine the authority of the FIA. He continued that they would only be doing so if the technical directive was a binding rule, but that this is not the case. Therefore, one can argue with the directive. Malek reminds the court that the rules allow the teams to put into use a back-up (i.e. the calculations done by themselves), should they feel that the FIA sensor has failed. He believes that the team has proven the failure of the sensor and the validity of their calculations. Malek also contested the accusation that Red Bull were simply doing what they wanted to, despite the rules. Red Bull’s other lawyer, Lazarus, pointed out that the FIA have failed to prove that the FIA sensor was working correctly.
Lazarus then criticised Lom for being unable to explain the reason for the sudden increase of flow rate on lap 37, putting it to Lom that he has only offered speculation. Furthermore, he revealed that Red Bull hold reservations over the accuracy of the FIA calculations, saying that they have only used the fuel flow peaks, and not the averages. This, Red Bull believe, would naturally increase the apparent flow rate, rather than the true flow rate, especially given the Safety Car period.
Sebastian Bernard, a lawyer for the FIA, took over from Red Bull. He opened by addressing Red Bull’s belief that technical directives are not rules. While he accepted that they are not rules, he pointed out that they are there to clarify the rules for everyone so that everyone is on a level playing field. He jokingly pointed out that if everyone was to interpret the technical directions in different ways, they would be in the wild west. He asked why Red Bull have the right to go against the FIA while the other teams stay within the rules. Bernard continueed to say that if they wish to contest the FIA rules, they must bring absolute proof. He said that Red Bull’s argument so far has not convinced them. He closed his argument by saying that teams cannot pick and choose what rules to play by. If the FIA feel the need to issue a directive, he says, then it must be important and must apply to everyone.
Mercedes’ Lawyer, Paul Harris, again accused Red Bull of defying the instructions of the officials. This, they claim, has defied the idea of fair competition. They remind Red Bull that they called for severe punishment for Mercedes at the FIA International Tribunal over the tyre-gate scandal last June. He mentioned the BAR two-race ban for running with illegal cars in 2005. In that case, BAR blamed a software issue, as Red Bull are doing now. For this reason, Harris called for a stricter penalty, especially if Red Bull are to break the rules again.
This brings the hearing to a close as FIA Secretary General Jean-Christophe Breillat announces that the judgement may not be delivered until tomorrow evening. Here is the verdict.
Additional reporting by Michael Schmidt and Bild.