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Red Bull lock horns with FIA on opening day

Red Bull face a showdown with the FIA's technical gurus as Formula One's new era began in controversial fashion.

Nico Rosberg celebrates his Australian GP victory. Credit: Getty Images
Nico Rosberg celebrates his Australian GP victory. Credit: Getty Images

Just over five hours after Daniel Ricciardo had thrilled his home crowd in finishing runner-up to Mercedes' Nico Rosberg in the Australian Grand Prix on his debut for Red Bull, the 24-year-old was disqualified over a technical fuel infringement.

Within minutes of the FIA's decision being announced, the team notified motor sport's governing body of their intention to appeal, due to be confirmed within the next 96 hours by the Austrian motor sport federation, under whose auspices they operate.

The latest set of regulations, to accommodate the introduction of the new 1.6-litre V6 turbo-charged power units and the various accompanying energy-saving devices, are highly complicated and technical.

Cars now start with a maximum 100 kilograms of fuel, as opposed to 140-150kg in previous seasons, and operate with a fuel flow rate of no more than 100kg per hour. Ricciardo's car, however, was found to consistently exceed that rate, and as a clear breach of the FIA regulations he has been excluded from the race result, now provisional until after a Court of Appeal hearing.

In layman's terms, the fuel-flow rate is monitored by an FIA sensor. There have been accusations, however, that the sensors are faulty and have been providing misleading readings.

Red Bull, of their own volition, chose to use their own sensor to determine the fuel-flow rate which had not been cleared by the FIA.

The FIA race director Charlie Whiting has confirmed Red Bull were warned twice about the matter after qualifying, and again five laps into the race, but chose to ignore the directive.

As an FIA statement read: "Regardless of the team's assertion that the sensor was at fault, it is not within their discretion to run a different fuel-flow measurement model without the permission of the FIA."

The Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, though, has described himself as "extremely disappointed" and " quite surprised" with the stewards' decision.

Horner added: "Through the appeal process it will be quite clear the car has conformed at all times with the regulations and we've fully complied with the technical regulations. These fuel-flow sensors that have been fitted by the FIA have proved problematic throughout the pit lane since the start of testing.

"There have been discrepancies in them, even unreliable, and I think some cars may well have run without them during the race itself, or even failed during the race itself.

"We had a fuel-flow sensor fitted to the car that we believe to be in error. We wouldn't be appealing if we weren't extremely confident we have a defendable case. It's just extremely disappointing this has happened. It's certainly no fault of Daniel's. I don't believe it's the fault of the team. I believe we have been compliant with the rules and the documents and investigation that will be submitted within the appeal will demonstrate that."

Horner claims there was an issue with the sensor that changed its reading through Friday practice, which was replaced on Saturday but failed during qualifying.

Horner added: "We were then asked to put the sensor from Friday back in the car and apply an offset which we didn't feel was correct.

"As we got into the race we could see a significant discrepancy between what the sensor was reading and what our fuel flow, which is the actual injection of fuel into the engine, was stating. That is where there is a difference of opinion."

Whiting, however, claims Red Bull had the opportunity to avoid the storm that has since unfolded.

"We advised them after qualifying and five laps into the race to take the necessary steps to comply with the regulations," said Whiting.

"They chose to use their own calculations to show they complied. If they had followed the advice we gave them at the time, we would not have had a problem and they would not have been penalised. If their sensor was kaput then things would have been different. That happened with Sergio Perez's Force India car - the sensor broke - and they used their injection model with an offset and that was fine."

The race was dominated by Rosberg who finished 24.5 seconds ahead of Ricciardo, the duo joined on the podium by Kevin Magnussen on his F1 debut with McLaren. The 21-year-old became the first Dane to finish in the top three, and was followed closely home by team-mate Jenson Button who had started 10th.

The race was less successful for Rosberg and Ricciardo's more illustrious team-mates as both Lewis Hamilton and reigning champion Sebastian Vettel retired due to technical issues after three and six laps respectively.

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