A little spat

Red Bull Racing ended up with egg all over its face in Abu Dhabi when Sebastian Vettel was sent to the back of the grid when it was found that there was not the mandatory litre of fuel required form sampling. The team argued that Vettel stopped out on the track after Renault engineers saw the fuel pressure dropping and warned the team. The decision was then taken to stop the car. The stewards accepted this argument although rival teams were suspicious that it had all been done to make sure there was enough fuel in the tank. When the tank was checked it was clear that there was insufficient fuel onboard and so Vettel was punished.

The irony of this was that Vettel might have finished the lap with the fuel he had and if the car had not been checked – there is a random selection of the cars involved – he would have kept his grid position and probably won the race on Sunday.

Red Bull blamed Renault, which was probably not the smartest thing to have done as the French company while enjoying the success of Red Bull, is less than happy with the team’s deal with Infiniti, that gets far more coverage when Red Bull wins that Renault does.

Renault has since responded by saying that Renault has checked all the numbers and that these say that there was enough fuel onboard, which means that the fault must lie with the refuelling equipment, which the team supervises.

54 thoughts on “A little spat

  1. It seems random (not normally and F1 trait) that only selected cars have to supply the fuel sample. Why not make ALL cars supply the sample at the end of qually or is this too much work for the scrutineers? Are there any physical checks on teh cars after qually?

    1. I agree. Or alternatively they should at least sample every car and then do the tests at random so they have the samples should questions arise (just like they do with blood samples for athletes).

      1. Sample the top 10 consistantly as those are the ones that benefit the mos and have placed. A periodic thank you to Joe for keeping things interesting with detail oriented topics for fans instead of the bullshit bandwagon headlines.

    1. +1. I’m very interested to hear that Renault aren’t happy. I thought the Infiniti branding -was- the marketing payback for RBR’s quasi-works status.

  2. This “little spat” combined with the deal with Fernandes to have Caterham push development of the Alpine brand and build cars together might lead some to think Renault are already looking for better options than having RBR as their works team.

    That said, I am pretty sure they would not want RBR to choose another company as engine supplier (not sure either Ferrari or Mercedes would really be interested in supplying their biggest competitor currently though.)

  3. Do they really cut the fuel that close? A liter weighs 1 kg at the most. I’m just amazed at how carefully everything is checked and measured. Have you ever written about all the technology, or know of a trustworthy source for such info?
    Have you written about in your GP+ magazine? (I’m a new subcriber, so I have access to 2011 and 2012 issues)

    1. I thought fuel weighted less than water? 1 litre of water weighs 1kg, so 1L of fuel would weigh less than 1kg, like 200g less…

  4. Why would Renault be unhappy that Infinity gets more coverage? It’s their brand, and they made the deal together. Or did Red Bull insist to use the Infinity brand?

      1. According to Renault’s 2011 annual report (chart on page 3) they own 43.4% of Nissan and Nissan owns 15% of Renault. Carlos Ghosn is the CEO of both Renault and Nissan. They might call it an alliance, but that does not exclude ownership.

          1. You don’t necessarily need to own 50 percent to control a company. The Renault-Nissan alliance is not an alliance of equals. For one thing Nissan’s 15 percent share of Renault does not come with voting rights.

          2. Indeed. 30% of the voting rights are usually considered sufficient for effective control, however, which is of course a different thing.

            And sure enough, it’s pretty obvious in this case that the CEO of Nissan couldn’t have signed the Infiniti deal without the approval of the CEO of Renault.

  5. “Red Bull blamed Renault, which was probably not the smartest thing to have done as the French company while enjoying the success of Red Bull, is less than happy with the team’s deal with Infiniti, that gets far more coverage when Red Bull wins that Renault does.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but Infinity is the luxury vehicle arm of Nissan, a company 43.3% owned by Renault, and both share Carlos Ghosn as CEO. I’m pretty sure Renault set up the whole Inifiti sponsorship deal with Red Bull, so I find it very had to believe that Renault have anything to get upset over in that regard.

    That said, the saga has looked a bit unsavoury and it is strange that so much public blame is being traded between the two.

    1. Correct… Renault wants the Infiniti brand to be pushed for promotion arround the world. Give you the US example… Renault does not sell a car im US but pushes Nissan and Infiniti, in competition with Honda – Acura and Toyota – Lexus….

  6. It seems strange to me that RBR are the only team who seem to feel this need to publicly absolve themselves of their part in mistakes by pointing fingers at suppliers. A bit reminiscent of primary school pupils going “It wasn’t me miss!”.

    McLaren’s fuel pumps have failed, Williams has had KERS issues, Lotus have had the same alternator failure RBR did. And yet none of these teams mentioned the manufacturer or supplier of these parts in their press releases. It seems a bit counter productive, to say the least and not very fitting with the “team-sport” ethic championed by everyone in F1, including RBR.

  7. Isn’t Infiniti part of Nissan, which is in turn owned by Renault? Surely the link with Infiniti came about becuase of the relationship between Red Bull and Renault therefore why would they be unhappy about it? It’s all the same bottom line after all.

  8. It’s indeed disturbing that Red Bull can blame their engine partner for such a big mistake and that nobody has anything to say about it. I wonder how Renault can accept to supply engines free of charge and then be treated like this! It’s totally wrong in such circumstances to say: it’s not my fault, it’s their fault!

    1. Wait… Renault supplies engines free of charge? Interesting. To be fair, Renault cost RBR two races by providing faulty alternators. What goes around comes around.

  9. Wasn’t` that the whole point of the Infinity deal? Renault owns infinity after the tie up with Nissan, and this was used as a tool to launch the Infinity brand outside the US…

  10. Infinit is owned by Nissan which has the strategic partnership with Renault (They each own 35-40% of each others business). I thought that was all above board with Renault no?

      1. It’s not reggie Renault it’s engine Renault, almost a separate entity.
        I have never heard any of the Red Bull team use the full name of Red Bull Renault, so maybe they think they don’t need to bother. But I bet they do next race just to remind us that they blame Renault. I have also read that the telemetry showed enough fuel but, it had been under filled by the team, the zero point was wrong.

  11. Renault has since responded by saying that Renault has checked all the numbers and that these say that there was enough fuel onboard, which means that the fault must lie with the refuelling equipment, which the team supervises.

    I don’t understand this; if there was enough fuel on board, then why was not enough fuel found on board?

  12. Can’t we have some juvenile speculation about Renault still being somewhat indebted to the FIA since having recieved the very mildest of suspended sentences ref Crashgate at Singapore 2008.

    And Vettel winning in Abu Dhabi would have made for less tension (viewers) in the final 2 races. And Alonso is the only challenger. And FIA is also an acronym for…

    That’s got to be more fun to speculate about than listening to RedBull and Renault debating via the press who can and can’t measure fuel accurately.

  13. Renault say there was enough fuel on board. But that doesn’t make sense. If there was then there would be no problem.

  14. With Renault obviously establishing an arguably closer relationship with Caterham (staff going there, the Alpine tie up, versus Infiniti getting to stick Seb’s name on some 4X4’s), will this tension possibly lead to RBR’s engines being rebadged as Infiniti’s with the Japanese brand picking up the tab?

    With Infiniti having their branding on the car more prominently than Renault surely this was always going to come up as an issue. It was a bit of a strange move in the first place really…

  15. Infiniti was initially set up for the USA market, where Toyota has Lexus, Honda has Acura and so on. Nissan/Datsun wasn’t a big seller in North America apart from the Patrol 4X4.

    1. Horner gave an infinity to Bernie as a gift in 2011 when they arrived at Milton Keynes. Doubt Renault knew that either.

  16. Infinity is not carrying the renault brand, surly this is a conflict of interest, lets say Mclaren, with mercedes brand on the engine cover and bmw on the overalls, looks silly and this would put mercedes nose out of joint, so i can simpathise with renault and joint parnerships are a very strange affair as to when renault is the constructor not infinity, it seems that infinity is raining on renault parade and redbull wants the cake and eat it. If williams grands prix team become a force again, im in no doubt that renault could favour williams and this redbull renault/ infinity spat may not be over by a long shot?…

  17. The headline says it all.
    Two races to season end.
    No news on driver selections.
    All adds up to slow news day.

    Your abacus must be off Joe – adding 1 + 1 and not getting a viable answer.

  18. As others have pointed out, had Vettel pulled over just a few hundred meters earlier, he’d have easily had a full liter of fuel still in his tank. Given the FIA’s initial decision, he would have received no penalty at all.

    Had he had that 5 ounces of fuel, he would have started on the 2nd row, even after purposefully parking the car in the final qualifying session. This in sharp contrast to Hamilton, who after doing the same earlier this season was sent directly to the back.

    It was a close run thing, 5 fluid ounces of fuel were the only barrier to the start of another huge rules inequality imbroglio.

    Is the FIA too embarrassed to say why the initially decided not to penalize Red Bull? Perhaps they’re hoping this will all go away and the question will stop being asked?

      1. Actually Joe, it’s not entirely clear.

        Are you saying that in blaming Renault for the error, Red Bull convinced the FIA the error was force majeure – even though, as it turns out, Renault were very likely not to blame at all?

        It now seems entirely clear that Red Bull made exactly the same sort of mistake that McLaren made earlier in the season. It wasn’t force majeure, Red Bull simply under-fueled their car. They made the same bone-headed error as McLaren did earlier this season.

        Worse, in blaming Renault, Red Bull seemingly LIED to the FIA with the specific intent of avoiding a penalty. That alone would seem to demand a large penalty in and of itself.

        The part unexplained? Why did the FIA go along with the charade?

        My guess? It’s the end of the season and Vettel is fighting for the championship. The FIA are loathe to penalize championship contenders with just a few races to go. The FIA are equally loathe to point the finger at their own ineptitude, so one doubts they’ll penalize Red Bull for their flagrant lie to the officials.

        1. You make a mistake in thinking of the FIA as one unit. Stewards do not answer to anyone (these days) so looking for conspiracy theories is a waste of time.

          1. Charlie heavily influences steward decisions, the head of the FIA heavily influences Charlie. That de facto chain of command certainly leaves room for conspiracies to prosper. While the initial ruling could perhaps have been a case of ineptitude, the subsequent lack of punishment for lying to the FIA seems far more likely to be conspiracy.

            The stewards don’t rule in a vacuum. Charlie is always there to clarify matters. Why would Charlie Whiting allow the stewards to be suckered by a false statements from a team? It was either conspiracy or ineptitude, pick one.

            Why, once the statement was proven false, would the FIA fail to punish the team for lying to the FIA? In the days of Mad Max, such a self-serving lie might have had Red Bull looking down the barrel of a rifle.

            The FIA still has the power to penalize teams for lying to their officials. The fact that nothing is being done speaks for itself.

              1. Tosh? What part are you questioning? All of it? Ok, point by point.

                Red Bull blamed Renault, Renault has now disclaimed all blame.

                That Red Bull lied to the FIA scrutneers is now a fact. The only question remaining is whether they did so on purpose in order to lessen their penalty, or whether the lie was an innocent mistake.

                You’re suggesting Max Mosley would have allowed such a lie to stand? I suppose it would depend on his mood towards that particular team at any given time, but we all know Max sent down very severe penlites for far lesser infractions. Thankfully, the FIA is a great deal more sane these days.

                Do you believe a team should be able to get away scot free when caught red handed lying to the scruteneers? I’m not calling for an automatic penalty, but at the very least a thorough investigation is more than warranted.

    1. It’s not that simple. The FIA would have calculated how much fuel would have been used to return to the pits and subtracted that from the volume remaining. They would still have been short. They or their refueling machinery screwed up, they didn’t have enough fuel and received the appropriate penalty.

      1. Really?

        What is your source for this? What you’ve written sounds logical, but I’ve seen absolutely no indication than any such calculation was made, or was planned to be made.

        Such a calculation would have required Vettel to have 3 or more liters of fuel in his tank. Meaning he wouldn’t have been 15% of a liter short, but 3.x liters short. As I said, it sounds logical, but I’ve seen no evidence to suggest that the FIA follows that practice.

        1. There’s talk that the stewards did the subtraction for Lewis Hamilton in Barcelona (I’m not sure if this is true, but I believe James Allen reported it as such on his blog and lord knows he’s a more reliable source than I) but to my knowledge no-one in the circus has made that claim in Vettel’s case.

          Notably however, the stewards in Barcelona did not accept McLaren’s claim of Hamilton stopping under “force majeure” and yet the Abu Dhabi stewards did accept that Vettel was stopped due to “force majeure”.

          The reasoning in the Hamilton case was that the fuel load was under the control of “the competitor” (the team-driver ensemble) and therefore it was a sporting mistake. That such a case was not used against Vettel implies that the stewards may have accepted claims that a malfunction was to blame, as this would be considered out of the control of “the competitor”.

        2. You ask a good question. Rule 6.6.2:

          6.6.2 Competitors must ensure that a one litre sample of fuel may be taken from the car at any time during the Event. Except in cases of force majeure (accepted as such by the stewards of the meeting), if a sample of fuel is required after a practice session the car concerned must have first been driven back to the pits under its own power.

          Even in a case of force majeure where the car is not driven to the pits the sample must be available; I guess I am just hopeful logic is applied by the FIA and that fuel that would have to be used to get to the pits isn’t allowed to be counted in the sample volume – possibly a wistful thought. I haven’t been able to find any official ruling as regards a fuel use calculation. I don’t think the situation has arisen.

          No calculation was necessary, as the fuel sample volume was insufficient in either case. Maybe the FIA needs to clarify the rule.

  19. It’s late in the day to chip in, but didn’t Red Bull stop Sebastian on track to get noticed, be penalized, then elect to start from the pit-lane so they could re-gear him from his pole-position get away from the pack gearing to a gearing that could allow him to pass other cars. I know a lot of trouble to gain a position but with the championship so tight worth the effort in case the low-fuel level was scrutinized.

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