I recalled a story that Jonathan Noble posted at AUTOSPORT a while back in which the FIA’s Charlie Whiting said there would be zero tolerance on the fuel flow limit which is the very issue at hand over Red Bull’s disqualification of Daniel Ricciardo. Charlie said:

“The 100kg is the maximum and, if they go over, they have exceeded the limit and there is no tolerance,” explained Whiting.

“We are confident of the [fuel flow measuring] meter’s accuracy. It will always be correlated with data we have from injectors to make sure there is not a wide divergence, but from what we have seen so far that will not be the case.”

Red Bull maintain that the sensor is dodgy and that they were monitoring the fuel flow rate at the injector instead because they didn’t trust the FIA sensor. Charlie seems to admit that the sensor can be hit or miss:

“It is very apparent right from the beginning whether or not that sensor is going to work,” he said. “It is either very, very good or a long way out, so you can identify whether or not that meter should be used.

“We monitor them all the way through the race and, if we see a fault, we have a fallback solution.

“For example, we would know what the fuel used was at the end of lap 24, and that is the starting point for our new calculation. So we are in good shape there.”

Charlie reckoned the infraction would be a post-race inspection that would reveal it and that it could mean disqualification. In Sunday’s case, it happened during the race and the deliberations were held immediately after the race with a disqualification handed down.

Makes you wonder if the sensors provided to the FIA couldn’t be improved to make sure you don’t get a few “long way out” units doesn’t it? Red Bull argue that the small changes can mean a big impact on performance telling AUTOSPORT:

“We end up in a situation where, depending on the calibration of your sensor, of plus or minus, it will dictate who is going to be competitive and who isn’t.” said Red Bull team boss Christian Horner.

It does bring up a question of flow rate versus total fuel load. If the team used a higher flow rate, would it matter as they only have 100kgs total to use. A reduced flow rate could be very tactical if they were allowed to carry whatever fuel load they wanted but were reduced to 100kgs per hour. This would call for more efficient engines certainly. The answer is most likely int eh symbiotic nature of the MGU-k, MGU-h and the V6 ICE along with the Turbo Charger or TC.

The reduced flow rate is coupled with the total load in order to get the car to the checkered flag. There would not be enough power from the ERS alone to keep the car at pace if they ran out of fuel, that’s not how the system works. They are not independent systems rather they rely on each other to work. Therefore, you need to make sure you have fuel for the entire race in order to generate power to be harvested for redeployment to the drivetrain for added power but not complete replacement power. the reduced flow also limits the overall power output as well.

An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry focusing on technology integration, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • Ed

    I hate the result, but rules is rules.

    • JJ Tyler

      I have a 4 yr old often my wife and her get into disagreements… Remember 4 yr old. Often trying to reason with a 4 yr old is pointless. Red Bull is growing up and starting to think they are smarter than the parents. They (the parents) couldn’t possibly understand how intelligent red bull is. Red Bull is pissed throwing toys out of the pram, and mom is cleaning up and cooking Malaysian dinner. Now we are just waiting for dad to come home from work so he can make the final decision.

      Ohh your gonna be in big trouble when daddy sees this…

      Dad comes in and gives no thought and eats his dinner. Mom is pissed because her punishment went soft and kid thinks the put one over on both parents.

  • TurboPhoenix

    I’m a little bit confused on this whole issue. I thought they were restricted to 100kg of fuel for the whole race, and yet there’s a 100kg per hour limit on fuel flow too? Surely you would be running out of fuel way before the end of the race if you’re consistently exceeding that limit?

    • jeff

      Essentially, yes, which is why so many have feared the racing would be drivers just trundling along like 2011-2013. However, a few points:

      1. Drivers aren’t using full power at all times. Braking, traction zones, the car is using less than it’s limit.

      2. The hybrid systems are being manipulated by the teams to via engine mapping (turning the engine down, H to K energy flow increase) to digitally control output. The ECU, or whatever it’s now called, won’t allow the cars to run out of fuel, as it will peter the fuel load down to meet the regs. The heavily-debated FFM doesn’t allow the the teams to run higher fuel rates, as we’ve just seen FIA will penalize offenders.

      You’ve hit on a point: Why have both regulations? If it’s fuel economy F1’s hunting for, either would work. If it’s limiting max power, the flow limit would be sufficient.

      It’s true, a driver can’t just wind the engine up at full power throughout the entire race, and that’s to the consternation of some. But, reports are the teams were fine on fuel in Melbourne, and it’s a very demanding circuit consumption-wise. Malaysia will be more representative. What’s great w/ the new systems are that drivers potentially can still drive flat out in their cars; the limits the cars present the driver, power-wise, will fluctuate, but at least they won’t be driving below their abilities.

  • jeff

    Both requesting and volunteering clarification: Tom, NC et al please feel free to chime in.

    I believe a lot of fans’ consternation regarding the flow regulators is ambiguity over its flow inaccuracies. As I’ve read it from Tom’s Motorsport Mag article,( ), the meters on showing fluctuating flow figures (except for faulty units), they’re showing differing figures from the teams’ own sensors. The correction factor FIA’s providing isn’t compensation mid-race for fluctuating FFM values, it’s for the teams to correlate the TEAM’s sensors to the FFMs.

    The above is fundamentally different than what many are perceiving as quality control issues on the FFM’s. The FFM’s are not fluctuating, they’re showing a rate constant and consistent w/ the teams’ own sensors, it’s just the ultimate figures are off. Hence, a correction to the teams’ sensors should be easily applicable.

    Why the discrepancy then? Supposition here, but fuel flow rate is a measurement of volume over time. The rate at which each measurement is TAKEN can have an effect on the values. Where the sensor is placed in the induction/combustion/fuel lines can also have an effect.

    Red Bull’s argument that their measurements were more accurate, although perhaps arguable on the sporting side, have no bearing on the technical; FIA mandated they follow flow rates according to FIA’s sensors, and short of Red Bull proving the FFM in question was faulty, they’re dead in the water. And, even in that case, the fact that FIA demanded they reinstall the original unit, told RBR to reduce flow/apply the correction values, yet RBR ignored the rule makers, and I don’t see any justification for RBR’s actions.

    If my understanding and assertions above are incorrect, please let me know; the discussions of the past few posts have been outstanding. I’d like further clarification on the last 2 paragraphs of this post. NC, are you hinting you’d like less restriction on either fuel carried or fuel flow? I’d agree here. I’m having difficulty understanding your viewpoint based upon the phrasing (a dummy moment).

    Finally, some clarification on the Power Units; the post reads as if the ICU and ERS systems cannot operate independently of one another. In actuality, the ICU can, although running at a 150-200hp deficit with the tending turbo lag and brake balance issues would majorly suck for a driver. I tend to think of the PU as a regular turbocharged engine, like one would get in any road car, with a battery pack for additional “Transparent” power and torque, and a 2nd generator to spin the turbo for decreased lag (like an electrical means of variable vane/twin turbo technology). This is wholly inaccurate in terms of the ERS integration and only a portion of its capabilities, but for locomotion purposes paints the general picture.

    All this talk of “33 seconds of boost” and “160hp” doesn’t tell half the story of these systems, how they’re actually implemented by the teams/drivers; why Formula 1 is so daunting (interesting) to comprehend, and why we need decent TV commentary. Rant off.

    • Tom

      Nothing to add really, I think you summarized it nicely.

      From what I gathered, the issue is really with individual spikes of fuel flow that exceed the 100kg/h limit. From a technical perspective, the time intervals you look at really make a difference there. The FIA already increased the length of the time interval in order to give teams more leeway. But Red Bull was still constantly exceeding the limit.

      In another article, I have read that Red Bull tried to adjust Vettel’s engine according to FIA’s demands and something went wrong which was the cause for his qualifying disaster. We know that Ricciardo on the other hand was running the faulty FFM during saturday, so there was no basis for the FIA to demand changes to his engine mapping before sunday.

      Now I’m completely speculating here, but one possible narrative could be that Red Bull tried both: They wanted to play it save with Vettel whose engine was mapped according to the FIA’s demand while simultaneously taking the calculated risk of running Ricciardo above 100kg/h in a mode that they knew their engine worked well with. By the time the FIA demanded changes during the race, Red Bull would then have known that the gig is up, but after Vettel’s experience, they might also have been confident that should they adjust the engine mapping according to the FIA’s demands, Ricciardo would have to retire as well anyway, so they decided to run with it and play the victim, which worked particularly well with Ricciardo being an Australian at his home GP. Had the roles been reversed and Vettel had been disqualified, I doubt we’d hear much fuss about it. Overall, this could be one result of their few testing kilometers, they simply don’t understand the engine well enough to run their cars according to the rules.

  • John Of Cloverdale WA, Australia

    No wonder this sport is expensive. A load of crappy technical rules. Who cares if one driver is heavy footed and another is not. Next they will be running on biodiesel fuel or electric motors with sponsorship from the United Nation’s IPCC. Bring back the noise!

  • Franky GPQ

    Unacceptable. The start if the new F1 era is far from where it should be. The return of the turbo should be much more spectacular. Fine with the 100 kg of fuel limitation but controling the flow to 100kg/hours is killing the show. My god let the teams choose how the will use the fuel. At the current state the show is lacking the expected intensity. We don’t want heavy and slow f1. This is not F1 anymore. Crank the boost and and explode the track records with 900 hp + cars. I never miss a F1 race in the past 25 years…but if this is what F1 is now….

    100kg of fuel per race….5 engines per saison…no limitation on fuel flow (or boost pressure)….the best will win.

    By the way I love the ERS…

  • smedley

    Okay…let me get this right…you cut the size of the fuel tank AND force the teams to regulate (with your sensors) the actual flow of gas into the “power unit”…but we’re (the FIA) aren’t trying change the outcome of anything here AND how dare you EVEN imply that!!

    What about if you’re too heavy with the foot on the pedal and run out of gas…you stop and don’t finish? I know that sounds a little too “simple” in the high tech world of F1 but….

    I watched all 7(!) hours of pre race coverage on SKY and the only thing I heard them mention about the fuel was the size of the tanks being reduced and how the drivers have to be weary of that fact!

    Sometimes I just don’t get this sport.

    About the only thing I’m looking forward to is watching how the Sky Sports crew tries explains this on the F1 Show to the British public already “dizzy” from the changes especially after taking away the second place from the first driver to show REAL emotion on a podium (and everywhere else in the paddock for that matter which, to honest, is VERY refreshing) in a long, long time because of a fuel sensor!

    • jeff

      In Sky’s pre-race coverage, Ted Kravitz fully explained the fuel flow limitations during his 2014 rule-change piece, complete with graphics.

      Anthony Davidson during one of the SkyPad pieces regarding lift and coast also delved into the fuel flow and fuel allotted distinctions.

      Croft and Brundle mentioned prior to lights out.

  • peterriva

    Folks, some of this was made clear prior and during the broadcast of BBC Radio 5’s live coverage (midnight where I am). Jeff has it right… good coverage Jeff.

    But the thing is this: RBR were told they had a flow problem on Friday and Saturday. The car in question? Vettel’s. The other car? Fulty sensor, no runs/stints were long enough to calibrate (Whiting’s words) that car but RBR were warned apparently. the BBC summed it up with a comment like: “There’s some question of the fuel regulations on Ricciardi’s car for today’s race.”

    And then I watched the NBCSN show early Sunday morning… nothing said, no explanation, nada. Big surprise. And Bottas’ run… lord was it exciting on radio, corner by corner, pass by pass, brilliant stuff.

    Oh, and for all real fans out there… the BBC race coverage (radio only!) was so damn exciting, the information so solid, so really like the old days of exciting F1… when I saw the NBCSN coverage, I found myself doing a NY Times Sunday crossword during the event (and – of course – using the DVR to skip all the stupid commercials and tiny window “continuing coverage”).

    • jeff

      Apologies for being tangential And repetitive, but Peter makes a point bearing repeating; much of the misunderstanding and ensuing outrage from us fans regarding rules and results must fall on the broadcasters, in my specific case NBC. The sporting and technical regulations in concept and in individually-applicable real-world scenarios (Ricciardo and the FFM) requires explanation and extrapolation. Whilst we all have access to the information if we follow the internet rabbit-hole, unpacking the sometimes-dense lingo during a live-televised event can be beyond the layperson’s abilities.

      Therefore, the live-media outlets must divide that bridge and sadly, many fall short. Tom used a hypothetical analogy explaining fuel flow I found noteworthy. I’m paraphrasing Tom, so apologies if wrong, but it went these lines:

      “The FIA noticed a fuel flow irregularity on Daniel Ricciardo’s car in which the Red Bull was using fuel at a rate faster than than the 100Kg/hr allowed. Red Bull has been notified that they must conform to the FIA limit or suffer a penalty.”

      That is an easily-understood statement that would inform us watchers, both the specific situation on the Red Bull, and also that there’s a technical regulation limiting the flow, that the technically illiterate or ambivalent can digest.

      As Peter illustrates, w/o explanation and analogy, the pit decisions, rules and regs, driver abilities, all of if is lost upon the viewer, depending upon his/her interest level and racing knowledge. Little surprise so many are angered by situations they understandably misunderstand.

      Like Peter, I’ve been lost and bored in the few races I’ve watched on IMO substandard broadcasts. Making a point of watching a different provider’s coverage of the same race at a later date, I’ve found my involvement increased, confusion decreased, and anger at certain race incidents absolved (Schumacher pole penalty Monaco).

      My opinion, if F1 is going to lose fans over regulation changes, it’ll be more the fault of the broadcasters failing to illustrate the changes rather than the changes themselves. We all hate what we don’t understand.

      Peter, I’ve never listened to a streaming Radio broadcast, but sometimes choose to do so for baseball games if I’ve work; I’ve found that, if the broadcasters are good (Go Jon/Dave/Kruk/Kuip), it can be even more involving than TV. Must try it some time if unable to catch the live Sky/Beeb coverage. Which do you prefer, Sky or Beeb? Me the former, but Lazenby I want to strangle.

  • peterriva

    Thanks Jeff… BBC all the way for me… McNish’s comments (during the live broadcast which I stream in New Mexico) were very telling, for example, as the engines were likened to those he drove at le Mans… he had insight into how they work which illuminated their complexity catch his comments again here:
    The amount of the work load for the drivers is astounding. The degree (increase in cost Todd!) of all the engineers relaying settings and operating parameters to the drivers equally frightening.

    • jeff

      Thanks for the link; really great stuff. I’d forgotten Mcnish officially joined BBC’s TV broadcasts as well; need to check it out. No doubt his ERS experience w/ Audi endurance will illuminate just how symbiotic the systems are, and what a driver must cope w/ at 150+ mph .

      • I second the plugging of the 5Live podcast. It’s one of the fixtures in my podcast aggregator. Now I just need to find out how to stream the BBC commentary during the race…

        • The 5 live crew do a great job of it. Good folks. :)

          • peterriva

            I use InTune Radio on my tablet. Works fine. ANYWHERE (and that’s key).
            The BBC’s iPlayer cuts you off.

        • jeff


          Note, I’m not advocating any improper, illegal, or uncouth activities… That being said, if you’re in the States, you can use what’s called a VPN service provider; it will allow you to stream the radio, internet player, and so on from an international broadcast channel.

          Again, I’m not saying you should or should not; it’s something I’ve “heard” some people do. :) A friend who’s unplugged used it for Sochi, and worked great for her.

          In truth, I want to try some radio, as Peter suggested; be just the thing for analysis different from my normal SkyF1 preference.

  • Tom

    So, I finally found the official requirement sheet by the FIA, which should bring to rest all the assertions about the fuel flow meter being unreliable:

    Here are two key points:
    – The repeatability from one measurement to another under steady state conditions shall be no greater than +/‐ 0.25% uncertainty.
    – The device shall have an accuracy of no less than ‐1/+0% for post filtered instantaneous flow measurement (<0 mean that the sensor reads lower than reality)

    In other words, the uncertainty is marginal and the accuracy if at all only errs IN FAVOR OF the teams. The FIA did test the fuel flow meter in question twice, before and after the race, and it conformed to these requirements both times. So really, Red Bull has no excuse but a hunch after some issues in FP1 which never turned up again and which led to the FIA examining the sensor only to find nothing and to fit it back into the car.

    The more info I find on this, the more obvious it appears to me that Red Bull digressed the rules deliberately, either out of hubris or because they couldn't run the engine with a different mapping (the latter being my pet theory for now). In either case, they did F1 a great disservice. All this bickering, (ab)using Ricciardo in order to goad on the Australians, confusing the fans with misinformation, etc…looking back, the FIA could have saved themselves a lot of trouble by simply black-flagging Ricciardo. That wouldn't have made it appear to be so mean, to disqualify this nice bloke after getting on the podium in his home GP with an inspiring drive.

    • jeff

      Tom, subsection 2.1, it’s stating the meter is to measure both volumetric and mass flow. As the volume will vary according to temperature; is the meter taking an amalgam of the 2? And, as the regulations seem to indicate the meter will prioritize volume over mass measurements (subsection 5.1), do you think this accounts for the specific correction factors each team must employ, as in DI engines I’ve read most mass flow meters are measuring by weight?

      I agree, the tolerances allowed actually favor the teams, so what the Hell are Red Bull arguing about. It’s why I dislike the team; a certain hubris I can’t abide. Confidence bordering on arrogance via I respect (get well Michael); Red Bull is just arrogant, to me. And yes, the fallout is fans arguing the FUNCTIONAL merit of a device instead of the actual on track action. Lame.

      • Tom

        2.1 also says that the device measures temperature as well, it should therefore be rather trivial to take changes in density into account automatically. Or maybe I misunderstood your question…do you mean the fallback sensors that the teams operate?

        Anyway, at this point, I don’t trust any story about correction factors that change on the fly during races. So far, that has only been conjecture. What I could possibly see is that the FIA identifies a car where the peaks in fuel flow exceed the limit and they provide the team with a correction factor for their own injection system which would make the car legal…once.

        Like in the case of Ricciardo, the FIA contacted Red Bull in lap 5, so they were obviously aware of the issue from the start and from what I can tell, things didn’t change throughout the race.

        • jeff

          Thanks for clarifying; I missed the temperature relay portion of 2.1.

          I did mean the teams’ sensors regarding static correction values; by correction values I meant where the FIA and team sensors read differently, and FIA suggests the team induce a correction on the team’s sensors for correlation. We’re on the same page.

  • Steven M

    Other teams had problems with the flow sensors, yet RBR are the only ones that exceeded the allowable flow rate Hmmm… This smells of flexi wing again, it clearly flexes more than it should, but the FIA cant quantify it on the test rig, but that doesn’t mean its not flexing when running. RedBull got caught cheating again, but this time the FIA was able to quantify it. Not only that, they were told through out the race to reduce the flow, yet the never complied.
    Perhaps they thought that because the driver was Australian, racing in Australia and they didn’t win, that the FIA might look the other way…
    You can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you cant fool all of the people all of the time.

  • peterriva

    “Not only that, they were told through out the race to reduce the flow, yet the never complied.”
    Now, that I didn’t know. I wonder exactly who at red Bull was told… investigative journalists, sharpen your probes!