Following Daniel Ricciardo and Red Bull’s disqualification from the Australian Grand Prix for a fuel-flow infringement, it has become apparent from the Twittersphere that some fans are slightly confused as to which rule was broken and just why the exclusion occurred.

It was all going so well. Photo credit: Red Bull
It was all going so well. Photo credit: Red Bull

This seems to stem from the two main rules regarding fuel for 2014. Unfortunately the commentary teams haven’t explained these in much detail as yet, despite their crucial importance this season.

We at the Sett briefly touched on this when explaining how the engines powertrains worked, but thought it would be a good idea to break down exactly what has caused the popular Aussie to have that massive grin wiped out.

The two main rules regarding fuel for 2014 are:

  • Cars can carry no more than 100kg of fuel during the race without refuelling.
  • The FIA will provide a sensor for measuring fuel flow rate to the teams for each car. The rate must not exceed 100kg per hour at any point during the race.

It is this second rule that Red Bull has fallen foul of. The 100kg per hour fuel flow rate works like the miles per gallon on your road car; what the FIA are basically saying here is: “you can go racing but your car must not go under X miles per gallon at any point.” A bit of quick maths would also tell you if they used 100kg per hour of fuel constantly they would run out before reaching the end.

The fuel flow rate sensor is purely for recording what the value of the fuel flow rate is in real-time for the teams and the FIA technical delegates to monitor; it does NOT have a way of stopping the maximum defined fuel flow rate being exceeded.

On track. Photo credit: Red Bull
On track. Photo credit: Red Bull

According to the FIA stewards report, it seems Red Bull have not been happy with the reliability of the FIA-supplied fuel flow rate sensor and decided to use their own “internal fuel flow model”.

The FIA contacted the team during the race as they were noting real-time values in excess of 100kg per hour at various points from the FIA-supplied sensor. They gave the team a chance to correct this (as this would result in a performance benefit as well as breaking the regulations) but, according to the FIA, “the team chose not to make this correction.”

It appears that the disqualification comprises of exceeding the maximum fuel flow limit despite being given a chance to correct the situation during the race, as well as running the car against their own “fuel flow model” instead of the FIA-supplied fuel flow rate sensor without the direction of the FIA.

The full FIA stewards transcript which the above explanation is based on can be read in detail here.

It also appears that other teams have made allowances for spikes in the fuel flow rate limit value so that they would not go over the stated maximum, as reported by journalist Adam Cooper:

Red Bull have appealed the decision but this could roll on for a month, leaving the result of the first race of the season unclear for some time.