With Red Bull formally announcing that they are to appeal to the FIA over Daniel Ricciardo’s exclusion from second place in the opening Grand Prix of the season, it brought to mind other fuel related exclusions. None have been for the same offence, as this is the first year where the fuel flow has been regulated.

In 1984 refuelling was banned, and most of the teams ran with turbo charged engines. Tyrrell were the exception, sticking with the less powerful but cheaper Cosworth DFV. In order to try and remain competitive against the more powerful turbos, Tyrrell had a cunning plan. The minimum weight of the car was only measured at the end of the race, so if they could find a way of adding ballast during the race they could run underweight and remain competitive. Water cooled brakes provided the excuse, with the water tank needing to be topped up before the end of the race, it gave the team the opportunity to add the necessary weight before the end of the race.

Despite the driver’s (Martin Brundle) innocent questions about why they couldn’t simply make the water tank a little bigger so that they wouldn’t need to pit a few laps from home, the team continued with this design. The team were adding lead ballast along with the water so that the tanks could carry the required weight in a smaller volume.

Whether any water actually was used to cool the brakes is debateable, the tank was there just to enable the cars to run underweight. Interestingly they were excluded not for running underweight, but because traces of hydrocarbons were found in the water, and therefore the charge as that the team was refuelling the car. The hydrocarbons got there simply because the team used old fuel drums to store the water / lead mixture before pumping it into the car, these drums had been inadequately cleaned, and small traces of fuel remained. The penalty was banning from the final three races in the 1984 season and exclusion from the results of the entire year.

In 1995 the regulations for fuel were changed. In addition to the chemical make-up of the fuel having to be within certain limits, a sample of the fuel to be used at each race had to be submitted to the FIA in advance of the event. Both Benetton and Williams used Renault engines with Elf as their fuel supplier. The fuel taken to the first race of the season in Brazil by Elf was entirely legal, but it didn’t match the sample previously submitted to the FIA. This lead to the cars of Schumacher and Coulthard (the first and second placed finishers) being excluded from the results. Subsequently the drivers were reinstated after appeal, however the teams did not get their constructors points back as it was deemed to be the teams responsibility to ensure the correct fuel was taken to the event.

By 2005 refuelling was again allowed, BAR aimed to take advantage of this in a similar fashion to Tyrrell had 21 years earlier. The car was built with a ‘reserve’ fuel tank which would remain full of fuel when the main tank was drained after the race for weighing. In this way the car could run some 5.4kg underweight until the final stop for refuelling. The reserve tank was discovered in post-race scrutineering after the San Marino Grand Prix. The penalty was the loss of the ten points scored by the team in that race and exclusion from two further races. The FIA had asked for exclusion from the entire season, so the team could be said to have gotten off lightly.

While none of these events are the same as the offence that Red Bull has been excluded for, it does indicate that at present their punishment is relatively light. Also to bear in mind is what happened to Eddie Irvine when he was banned for a race following being found guilty of causing a three car pile-up taking out Jos Verstappen and Martin Brundle. His team Jordan appealed against the ban, lost and got the ban extended to three races. It is not always wise to take on the FIA unless you are sure of winning. Red Bull may yet regret formally lodging the appeal.

A long time fan of Formula 1 and grass roots motorsport, I am interested in the engineering aspects not only of F1 but the 'men in sheds' who develop homemade specials to take on the products of the big racing car manufacturers.
  • Tom

    As far as appeals go, the worst story I can remember must be from the 1994 British GP where there were obviously political motifs for taking Schumacher out and keeping the season close.

    During the formation lap, Schumacher passed Hill for a bit after Hill braked suddenly. Technically, this was indeed illegal, but this happened often and never has any punishment been dealt, particularly, the same year Mika Häkkinen got away with the exact same thing.

    But in order to keep the championship close, Schumacher was dealt a 5 sec. stop and go penalty.
    Bennetton appealed and as a result, Schumacher was black flagged. Which Bennetton appealed again. Once more this didn’t get them the result they hoped for. Not only was Schumacher disqualified, he was also banned from two additional races.

    Ultimately, because he passed another car during the formation lap for a couple of seconds before getting back in line, Schumacher was punished by not being able to compete in THREE (!!!) of the 16 races. Talking about harsh…this must be one of the most ridiculous infringements I ever heard of, nowhere near of gaining lots of extra hp by tampering with the fuel flow to the engine.

    • Tom

      Actually, I forgot one step.

      First, Schumacher was only handed a 5 sec time penalty.
      Benetton appealed.
      Then he got a 5 sec stop & go penalty.
      Benetton appealed again.
      Then he was black flagged.
      Benetton appealed again.
      Schumacher was disqualified AND handed a two race ban.
      Benetton gave up.

      So really, Red Bull should be very careful when it comes to appealing the FIA’s decisions.

      • Tom

        Sorry for the clutter, but after looking it up again, I still didn’t get it entirely right. Indeed Benetton also appealed the two race ban. But it was upheld…this time without additional punishment though…lucky bastards…

      • UAN

        my memory’s fuzzy – didn’t Schumacher ignore the black flag? Wouldn’t that be the reason for the additional 2 race ban?

        • Tom

          Well, Benetton appealed the 5 sec stop-and-go penalty and didn’t bring Schumacher in while that appeal was in the air.
          Then he got the black flag for not coming in for his penalty within three laps despite the appeal not being processed yet, which Benetton appealed again. Hence Schumacher ignored the black flag because Benetton argued it was invalid. They argued that Schumacher couldn’t be punished for not coming in for his previous punishment, when that previous punishment wasn’t even confirmed yet. Then the first appeal was rejected and Benetton immediately brought Schumacher in for his 5 sec penalty. But the other appeal took until after the race to be rejected…with the additional penalty of a 2 race ban.

          No matter how you look at it, it was a ridiculous punishment for a minor infringement (which I think they even made legal for the next season after all this drama) with the lesson being that you better do whatever the FIA says.

  • Moebius

    Small typo on your article. Refueling was not brought back in 2005, but in 1994, more than a full decade earlier.

    • MIE

      Sorry, I should have made that clear.

  • jeff

    Torro Rosso in 2011, were excluded for fuel compound irregularity. I don’t think they appealed.