Mercedes tore into rival team Red Bull at an appeal court hearing Monday over the disqualification of Daniel Ricciardo at the Australian Grand Prix.
Red Bull argued that race officials should not have stripped Ricciardo of his second-place finish, and the 18 points that go with it, for breaching Formula One’s new rules on fuel usage.
Representing Red Bull, lawyer Ali Malek argued to the International Court of Appeal in Paris that a fuel sensor used on Ricciardo’s car was ‘obviously unreliable’ and that his disqualification was based on a ‘flawed and incorrect’ interpretation of F1 rules.
At the March 16 race, officials for governing body International Automobile Federation (FIA) ruled that Ricciardo’s car ‘consistently’ exceeded fuel-flow rules which restrict usage to no more than 100 kilograms per hour at any time.
Lawyer Paul Harris, acting for Mercedes, argued to the court that Red Bull was in ‘flagrant breach’ of F1 rules.
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Harris accused Red Bull of knowingly and repeatedly ignoring instructions from FIA official Fabrice Lom to turn down the fuel flow to Ricciardo’s engine, because the team did not want to slow down its Australian driver.
Harris said FIA-approved sensors that teams are supposed to use to measure their rates of fuel usage are ‘rigorously tested and rigorously calibrated.’ He also argued that Red Bull’s own alternative system which the team used to measure Ricciardo’s fuel use is not ‘100 percent’ accurate.
“Red Bull thinks it is entitled to pick and choose between the measurements,” Harris said.
FIA lawyer Jonathan Taylor argued to the court that the ‘essence’ of sport is that all competitors abide by the same rules.
“A team cannot pick and choose,” he said.
Red Bull confirmed to the court that it initially turned down the fuel flow in Ricciardo’s car during the race, because Lom asked the team to do so. But after that affected Ricciardo’s performance, slowing him by as much as 0.4 seconds per lap, Red Bull engineers decided to turn the rate of fuel to his engine back up again.
Red Bull did that because its engineers decided that the fuel flow sensor in Ricciardo’s car was supplying faulty readings and that the team’s own measurements were more reliable.