Motorsport: Repeat sensor issues fuel Red Bull's confusion

By Daniel Johnson in Sepang

Australian Daniel Ricciardo. Photo AP
Australian Daniel Ricciardo. Photo AP

Two weeks on from Red Bull's controversial disqualification in Melbourne, there remains a distinct possibility of history repeating itself in today's Malaysian Grand Prix.

In what would be yet another damaging turn of events for Formula One, Christian Horner, team principal, admitted Red Bull could face the same "dilemma" which led to their exclusion over the contentious fuel-flow sensors which again caused a problem here yesterday.

It raises the prospect of another showdown between the team and the stewards over the most complex of technical regulations. The succession of claims and counter-claims have laid the ground for next month's appeal hearing in Paris, which will serve as a test case for the rest of the season.

While vigorously maintaining that his team have done nothing wrong, Horner admits, along with the row over engine noise, the whole saga is bad for the health of F1.

"I think it's not great for the fans," he said. "An Australian driver [Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo] finishes on the podium in his home race, he collects the trophy, the fans all leave the circuit happy that the home boy has done well, and then five-and-a-half hours later the result changes. That's confusing." Charlie Whiting, race director, said later he felt the decision could not have been made "an awful lot quicker".

Horner continued: "There's then a perception that Red Bull have been arrogant with the FIA because they haven't complied with the directives - which have no regulatory value - so of course it's damaging in many respects. It's going to take four or five races before we get a clear picture [of the racing], and hopefully not four or five appeals."

Red Bull blamed the issue in Melbourne on faulty readings from the FIA-approved sensors, and immediately launched an appeal against their driver's expulsion. In addition Red Bull argued that the sensors are "not good enough" for F1 - but the FIA said it was the best technology available.

Horner's preferred option is to scrap the regulation that stipulates a car cannot exceed a fuel-flow limit of 100kg/hour. The stewards, meanwhile, said it would be "very dangerous" to abandon the ruling and could cause accidents. Asked what yesterday's sensor failure could mean for the race, Horner said: "I think we will have that conversation with Charlie [Whiting] beforehand. It will be clear if we do see a variance, what are we going to do? Hopefully we can agree something sensible."

He said he hoped the sensor "behaves" for the remainder of the weekend. And if it does not? "We find ourselves in an awkward situation but we will try to work with the FIA. But again you are faced with the same dilemma as in Australia a couple of weeks ago."

Mercedes drivers set the two fastest times in yesterday's pre-qualifying practice sessions. Nico Rosberg, who won the season-opener in Australia, led the way with a time of 1m 39.008s, a quarter of a second ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton. Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was third fastest but more than a second behind Rosberg's time, indicating the silver cars remain in a class of their own in the early stages of the season. Four-time defending champion Sebastian Vettel was fourth fastest, and his Red Bull team-mate, Daniel Ricciardo was sixth, separated by Force India's Nico Hulkenberg.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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