Whiting: Red Bull were warned
Race Director Charlie Whiting has revealed Red Bull were warned after just five laps of Sunday's race they were breaking the rules.
After over five hours of post-race deliberations, and to the consternation of local fans who had cheered on the debuting Red Bull driver to second place in the season opener, Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified by the Albert Park stewards late on Sunday night after the fuel flow on his RB10 car was found to have 'consistently exceeded' the permitted limit of 100kg per hour.
While Red Bull immediately signalled their intention to appeal against Ricciardo's expulsion, describing the FIA-provided fuel sensor as 'unreliable', 'problematic' and 'immature technology', Whiting and the governing body are adamant the team only have themselves to blame after ignoring numerous warnings that they were breaking the rules.
"We advised them twice after qualifying and five laps into the race to take the necessary steps to comply with the regulations," Whiting told The Times. "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 thing would have been different. It is a human thing because they have the ability to do was needed to comply."
The sensor on Ricciardo's car was changed twice over the course of the weekend: once after Friday practice and again after qualifying when the replacement sensor failed and Red Bull were instructed to reinstall the original unit and apply an offset.
According to Red Bull, however, the offset was faulty, triggering a discrepancy between the rate recorded by the team and that of the race stewards.
"We had an issue with the sensor that changed its reading through Friday practice. That sensor was then replaced for another sensor which then failed during qualifying," said team boss Christian Horner.
"We were then asked to put the sensor from Friday back into the car and apply an offset. That offset, we didn't feel was correct and as we got into the race, we could see there was a significant discrepancy between what the sensor was reading and here our fuel flow - which is the actual injection of fuel into the engine - was stated as."
Red Bull's refusal to heed the warnings from Race Control have prompted accusations of arrogance, with the stewards' three-page explanation of Ricciardo's disqualification making plain their unhappiness at the World Champions' apparent intransigence.
'Although the sensor showed a difference in readings between runs in P1, it remains the homologated and required sensor against which the team is obliged to measure their fuel flow, unless given permission by the FIA to do otherwise,' they declared.
'The Stewards were satisfied by the explanation of the technical representative that by making an adjustment as instructed, the team could have run within the allowable fuel flow...regardless of the team's assertion that the sensor was fault, it is not within their discretion to run a different fuel flow measurement method without the permission of the FIA.'
Meanwhile, regardless of the rights and wrongs of Red Bull's case, the issue - which is set to drag on for several weeks with the appeal not expected to be held until late April - underline what a critical factor fuel will be this year.
Whereas 2013, or at least its first half, was dominated by tyres, this year's pivotal game changer is set to be the fuel efficiency of the 2014 chargers which are limited this year to carrying 100 kg of fuel - compared to 150kg in 2013.
And as Red Bull have subsequently found to their cost, the devil, as ever, remains buried in the detail.