Inside Line: Dear Mr Todt why do we need these Ultrasonic Fuel Flow Meters?


Ultrasonic Fuel Flow Meter produced by Gill Sensors

Dear FIA President, Mr Jean Todt

As an ardent fan of Formula 1 for over forty years I have never really been bothered by technical aspects of the sport, as long as the cars looked good, made a noise and were very fast, I was happy. My passion for the sport is more for the heroes with the helmets on the out of sight bits that make it all work.

However of late, your organisation has forced me to increasingly pay attention to the technical aspects of the sport, which I have tried to do despite my limited capacity for understanding the under-the-skin complexities of Formula 1.

But this weekend, at the opening grand prix of a brand new era I feel compelled to write this letter to you as an utterly confused and somewhat disillusioned die-hard Formula 1 fan.

I have a list of things that are upsetting such as the lack of beautiful noise, and the ridiculous lack of testing which meant we started a season totally unprepared and much more…

But really these appear to be minor gripes relative to my real concern: which why in the hell have you enforced these Ultrasonic Fuel Flow Meters (UFFM) while you have a 100 kg fuel restriction in place for Formula 1.

Gardena water flow meter

Gardena water flow meter

My understanding is: you have set a fuel restriction of 100 kg maximum fuel to be used during the course of a race by each car which to me means that if a driver is ‘on it’ for the entire race he may well run out of fuel, his 100 kg quota gulped down before the race ends – which in itself is at odds with the ethos of Formula 1, but this is an issue for another time.

The ‘run out of fuel because you were going too fast for too long’ concept is simple to understand for fans, and no doubt simple to monitor and police by officials: watch the crew pour in 100 kg of fuel, watch them close the cap, if the car makes it to the finish line the all good, and if it runs out of fuel that’s the team’s problem. Simple, game over.

But instead you decide to complicate matters by forcing teams to add this UFFM gadget (which is eerily similar to the Gardena gear I have hosing my garden) and this thing supposedly measures the amount of fuel flowing through to the engine and the limit should be no more than 100 kg per hour.

Now why do you even need this device? Is running out of fuel not restrictive enough for drivers and teams? Can they not self-impose the amount of fuel they want to use during the course of their race as a part of their strategy?

Because if they go overboard and try push too much they risk running out of fuel – not rocket science, and easy for guys like me to understand, even if we don’t agree with the fuel economy formula.

Thus the need for this UFFM, is in my mind – and apparently a huge majority of fans and even well connected F1 insiders – totally unnecessary. And to add insult to injury the units used for this purpose, supplied by Gill Sensors, are not even 100% accurate!

Jo Bauer letter Ricciardo disqualified Melbourne

Jo Bauer’s report to the FIA Stewards in Melbourne

Maybe we are all stupid but the need for the UFFM has to be explained, particularly to young Daniel Ricciardo who had his biggest day spoilt by your UFFM at work. If he started the race with 100 kg of fuel, and crossed the finish line a couple of hours later then in the minds of many he did no wrong.

In fact we must applaud him if he was burning fuel big time, then reigned in his pace to get to the finish. This is clever, this is strategy, this is good driving, this is racing, this is Formula 1.

Furthermore I question why your stewards in Melbourne took six hours after the race to come to the decision to disqualify Ricciardo while technical delegate Jo Bauer reported: “During the race car number 03 has exceeded consistently the maximum allowed fuel flow of 100 kg/h.”

If this was happening “consistently” during the race why was car number 03 not black flagged? Explanation required.

Charlie Whiting confirmed after the race, “We advised them [Red Bull] twice after qualifying and five laps into the race to take the necessary steps to comply with the regulations.”

For the record – and here believe I write on behalf of millions of F1 fans – we are not alone when I ask for you guys to keep it simple, a certain Bernie Ecclestone appears to agree with us.

“The whole regulation, to me, seems a bit of a joke. If something is controlling the amount of fuel you are using during a race, there is no need to say how much fuel you can have at the start. If you use too much you are going to run out of fuel. It seems to be that simple and if it isn’t, it should be,” says Bernie.

Although there are numerous questions I personally want to pound you with regarding what you are doing to the sport we love, but the most pressing one right now – in the aftermath of Australia – is why an insignificant piece of plastic has been able to have such a significant impact on the first race of the 2014 season, and tarnished your all new turbo era?

Formula 1 races should not be decided in courtrooms. The FIA is accountable for this and we as fans, who are the heartbeat of any sport, deserve an answer to this question. I await your response with anticipation, but won’t hold my breath waiting for your reply.

Best wishes

Paul Velasco
(This letter was emailed to FIA at 09:00 am GMT)

Content on by: staff & contributors, Reuters syndication, GMM service, Getty Images, Formula 1 teams, sponsors & organisations.

  • =El Presidente=

    I think the main matter was the fact that RedBull changed a (or the) Gardena-computer, without notifying the proper people, and that they refused to comply to the calibration-instruction given by the tech. representative of “Gill instruments”. .

    Agree or disagree, but not complying to the FIA is just waiting for some sort trouble.
    I think RedBull denied to comply to expose a real problem, but i don’t think they will get out of the dsq. But they might cause just enough of a stir to get those things ridden.

    I also proposed before that they should just fuel the cars under watchful eyes, seal the lit, and done. If you make it to the finish your finished. done. (the FIA should make an open forum where we can bash them xD)

  • =El Presidente=

    The reason for those silly meters, im thinking now, might be road-technology. Since governments ask better numbers, and more and more data (the governments hunger for data is always growing bigger) so i can imagine that fuel-restrictors sound like beautiful music to the ears of politicians with wet dreams about all kinds of control xD (and of course the FIA is the same species as governmental beings) 😛

  • Bjørnar Simonsen

    Written by a Red Bull fan. Not to take seriously. We need flow meters because a team like RBR will do anything to bypass restrictions.

  • Resultant Asteroid

    I particularly liked these parts:
    – “Although there are numerous questions I personally want to pound you with regarding what you are doing to the sport we love”
    – “I await your response with anticipation, but won’t hold my breath waiting for your reply.”

  • pengmalups

    Why is that you guys are pissed off when someone like Red Bull is dominating F1? This is not Red Bull’s problem but rather the other teams. If you are consistently the 1st honor student in school, does it mean you are cheating or you are doing something crazy to excel? It means you did your homework and the others didn’t. Or they are just not as smart as you. But do you need to act stupid? No.

  • Bjørnar Simonsen

    “f you are consistently the 1st honor student in school, does it mean you are cheating or you are doing something crazy to excel?”

    It could mean either/or. Impossible to say without further investigation, but if I knew the person, i might be able to get a feeling of which one of those it is.

    RBR have shown to consistently be on the edge of legality, and sometime crossed it. I’m merely adding 1 +1.

  • pengmalups

    Yes you are right. It could be that you are cheating in school but it’s not your problem if you are not getting caught. For the past 4 years, FIA is constantly monitoring all team’s performance and design and that includes RBR. If they are constantly in the edge of legality then that means they are squeezing every bit of idea they have in mind which other teams are free to do as well. If they don’t then that’s not RBR’s problem. This is why they have succeeded for the past 4 years.

  • McLarenfan

    I agree with the whole of the letter but must also state I have asked the FIA numerous questions via their Twit account I even accused them of being parasitic money hungry blood suckers because the Double Points is just so they get more money from drivers and teams! So far I have not had a single response. Do not hold your breath because if I did I would be with my maker.

  • Bman

    On average formula 1 races are roughly 90 minutes long. One must deduce then that if you start with 100kg of fuel you must make it last longer than 1hour anyway. To do 90 minutes they need to “average” 67kg/h
    So why the hell can’t they go like hell and then try conserve or vice versa. This fuel flow meter is just because the FIA is scared of the power these engines could generate in qualifying. Imagine the spectacle, cars with 1500+hp slugging it out engines that could actually have enough fuel to reach the 15000rpm limit..

    I want this fuel sensor banned, in a sport where these machines are completely purpose built, why have a part on the car that frequently goes wrong and currently serves no purpose…..because the F’g.FIA says so… I want cutting edge, not cutting hedge..

  • bobmendon

    Some rules were made to be broken.

  • JohnWhitling

    Perhaps you could enlighten us as to how RB have been cheating. They have always checked out within the rules that I can remember, though I admit I haven’t been cataloging such things. One thing you can say about RB is that they clearly understand what makes an F1 car fast while many other teams are kind of in the dark on it.

    Care to weigh in on the double diffuser issues in 2009??? Now THAT was outright cheating, right at the time the rules were written!

  • ufgrat

    Dear Mr. Fan:

    First, the FIA Formula 1 World Championship Series is in fact, a sport. It is a competition, and like most competitions, there are rules. Just as a soccer team is only allowed to bring 11 people to the field at any time, there are limits on how teams can compete.

    First, the engines. Insanely high-revving V8 engines, as implemented by F1, are technical masterpieces, but irrelevant to any engine manufacturer. This, among other things, is why Honda, BMW, and Toyota left F1, and why Renault was considering it. When 4 of your 6 engine manufacturers leave, or are considering leaving your sport… you change something. Or the sport dies. Everyone says they don’t want to see F1 become a spec series, but if everyone’s running a Ferrari engine, it’s a spec series.

    Second, the fuel limits. The engines have had a 33% reduction in capacity (2.4L -> 1.6L). The fuel tanks have also had a 33% reduction in capacity (150kg -> 100kg).

    The V8 engines had a natural flow restriction, in that they had an RPM limit. Without features like direct injection, variable-valve-timing, variable exhaust/intake geometry (aside from their speed, these engines were pretty simplistic), 18,000 RPM meant the max amount of fuel is automatically limited.

    The V6 turbos, however, have no such limits– The more you spin the turbo, the more gas you ram into the engine, the more power you get, so the flow meters are there to provide a level playing field. I agree that they need to be more accurate, but they’re ultrasonic so as to not alter the fuel flow, and that’s not as easy as it sounds.

    Everyone hates DRS, but (apparently) has no problem with the driver pushing a button to get an extra 200 HP for a second or two by exceeding the fuel rate limit. Of course, that isn’t what Daniel Ricciardo’s car did– it just exceeded the limits by a little bit every time he gassed it, so he had more HP than any other car on the track (Note that Ferrari and Mercedes both apparently dialed back their fuel consumption to comply with FIA warnings).

    I’m sorry you can’t deal with change. I’m sorry that the sport you love has to evolve to survive. I’m sorry (for you) that the new era of F1 emphasizes “smart” racing, and puts more of the burden back on the driver to get the best out of their car.

    But personally, I think it’s going to be a fun year. Even with the rules. We’ve seen silly rules in the past, and we’ll see silly rules in the future. But ultimately, 10 out of 11 teams complied with the rules this past weekend, and one didn’t. That’s not fair, and the FIA’s decision (and most of that 5 hours was probably spent talking about your complaint, because they knew it would cause a category 5 @$%storm) reflects that.

  • Robbel


  • Voice Man B

    Well said, Paul.

  • Bjørnar Simonsen

    I find it ironic how you claim i said they have been cheating, and then make that same claim against another team.

    I never said they cheated outright, because i do not have the evidence to back it up. That they “crossed the edge of legality” is a proven fact though, with the holes in the floor as one example, and there are several instances where they have been ordered to remove or alter parts which had been raced and scored points with, without any further consequences.

  • surya kumar

    I see one good point in this letter. The fate of the race has to be decided on the track and not in court rooms. Couldnt have said better.

  • Severn

    Those are all good points by Paul Velasco, but he never even mentioned the worst things about these new sensors. They are not accurate!

    Every single sensor in each car has an different “offset”, a fudge factor, a number by which its reading is adjusted in order to, hopefully, bring its readings into compliance with the ACTUAL fuel flow rate as measured by the engine maker.

    All the teams and the engine makers have access to the true fuel flow rate on their cars. But now they get punished just because the FIA’s fuel flow sensor is a piece of rubbish?

    The FIA should NOT be involved in measuring the fuel flow rate at all. But if they insist on doing so they damn well had better learn how to do the job properly.

  • Severn

    “what Daniel Ricciardo’s car did– it just exceeded the limits by a little
    bit every time he gassed it, so he had more HP than any other car on
    the track”

    That is simply untrue. His car never exceeded the fuel flow limits, and the more intelligent RB haters don’t try to claim that it did. The smarter RB-haters argue instead that it does not matter if Ricciardo’s car exceeded the fuel flow limits. Which is still a dumb argument, but since it cannot be proven factually false it’s smarter than the silly claim that his car exceeded the fuel flow limit.

  • Richard Kneller

    I would be worried about that potential power with the issues they are having with stability and braking right now ….

  • Luka Anicic

    “…he never even mentioned the worst things about these new sensors. They are not accurate!”

    Read the article. Read hard.

  • Severn

    That they “crossed the edge of legality” is a proven fact though, with the holes in the floor as one example,

    They did not “cross the edge of illegality” (if you want to say “violated the rules”, why don’t you say that?) with the hole in the floor. the floor was examined and found to be in compliance with the rules. A few races later Whiting changed his mind and that which had been within the rules suddenly was outside the rules. The rules themselves did not change.

  • Dave Bates

    Hi all, I,m not a tech guy but it appears pretty obvious that these flow meters are not required. It is for the ” rules people ” to allocate the 100kg of fuel to make it equal for all cars, and the responsibility of the teams to control the flow of fuel to get them past the chequered flag. This would introduce team tactics and would easily be undertood by fans such as myself. It would be great to see cars cross the line & then start to cough & splutter as each one had used their quota of fuel. We could see tactics where drivers could use a richer mixture in order to gain track position, & then grow their car to 10 foot wide,! Or predict rain or safety cars into stratagy, maybe some teams would be happy to use only 90 kg of fuel ( to save weight ) but have the mixture on a leaner setting. Who knows the amount of permutations ?
    I think the big question on this subject is ” why do the FIA need their fingers on the controls ? How long will it be before they do not need to contact the teams in order for the flow rate to be reduced ? ! They can maybe have some super control panel that they operate by themselves, what a dream senerio to play with the remotes and control the racing & manipulate the results as they see fit. I agree that the FIA has a responsibility to all teams & the spectators to make sure the rules give an equal playing field to all cars, but this meddling with cars during the race seems quite unacceptable. Who knows, maybe a computer could be used to control these flow rates to all cars, we could manipulate the perfect race to pull in the crowds !
    Please, FIA, get your sticky fingers off the controls, do the job that you do well & control the rules that make all things appear equal, and please leave the racing to teams who do their jobs very well. Just my opinion, but the DRS zones were the 1st form of control by FIA rules, why not the drivers decision when to use the extra few HP. ? when they see fit.
    I am waiting impatiently for the Red Bull appeal, & if the FIA win this case then it seems pretty obvious that the control of fuel flow, & thus the power of performance over each car & the results of the race will be controlled by the FIA without any forms of appeal. kind regards Dave Bates.

  • ufgrat

    No, actually, his car *did* exceed the flow limits “As determined by the FIA”.

    The rules plainly give the FIA the authority to make that determination. The flow meter was found to be off by a small amount, and the FIA instructed Red Bull to apply a correction. Red Bull instead decided to rely on their own methodology for determining flow, which contradicted the Officially Mandated Device. The FIA warned Red Bull (and Mercedes) that the Official flow sensor showed they were exceeding corrected flow limits– Mercedes complied, Red Bull did not.

    I admit, I’m not a fan of Vettel, or Horner, or Marko… I actually like Ricciardo, however, and this was a crappy thing for the team to do to him. That doesn’t really make me an “RB Hater”, and I’m going off the FIA documentation.

    What’s your source for saying he didn’t exceed limits? That would be useful in the appeals process, so please, share!

  • Robbel


  • schumi

    I think most people are missing the point.
    The purpose of the meter is to restrict the flow of gas up to a maximum limit.
    Therefore, we won’t be seeing cars coasting and then going flat out or the opposite during the race. At least, we won’t have huge fluctuations in power output unless they mess it up.

    As such, teams and drivers will have to find a way to run their cars at a more constant engine power mode throughout the race. And this is better for the spectacle.

  • Formula Future

    From another die-hard fan. This article has a lot of sense. And Formula 1 is something else than what we are witnessing:

    F1 is pure speed, flat out racing, fast drivers driving at their limits, great looking cars, cutting-edge circuits, bone shaking engine sound, fertile field for innovative engineers, yet with security for drivers and spectators.

    F1 is not: nursing tires, managing fuel loads, cruising around, producing ugly cars as a result of narrow minded too limiting regulations, paying drivers, lack of testing.

    I would bet 2014 will produce an even poorer record in audience than 2013, and I’m certainly not happy about this.

    How do you think football fans would react if the FIFA would limit the number of times a player can shoot the ball during a match? You gotta be kidding FIA people.

    At this point I stand by, waiting for the day F1 will be F1 again, or look forward to a new Formula created to serve the former purpose of F1.

    Thumbs down to FIA.

  • Robbel


  • McSerb

    Clearly, Ricciardo fans and Red Bull fans are not interested in the truth. They just want the points. The matter is EXTREMELY simple. Renault engines, right before the engine freeze, had about 160 hp less than Mercedes engines. That would translate into a speed advantage of 10-30 km/h on the straight (for Mercedes), depending on the kind of straight and corner you are exiting. The whole world saw (except some Red Bull fans) that Magnussen in the McLaren (with a Mercedes engine AND using DRS) had no chance of overtaking Ricciardo. Now how do you think that was possible according to the existing laws of physics ? Simple. McLaren were obeying the maximum fuel flow rate while Red Bull were not. IF MCLAREN HAD ALSO IGNORED THE RULE then the power advantage of the Mercedes engine would have easily enabled Magnussen to overtake. In other words, Red Bull BROKE the rules to get more performance from the engine than it actually has. It is their way of breaking the engine freeze rule (they have mastered the art of breaking rules). Christian Horner said himself that they would have lost a lot of power if they had used the FIA fuel flow sensor. Well, every other team DID lose a lot of power because of it. So just shut up. Even if you could get the points back then every team would have the right to CHEAT THE SAME WAY and you would go back to the 160 hp deficit. This year will not be all about one man called Adrian Newey. Finally, there is more to Formula 1 than just aerodynamics. Thank God the nightmare is over.

  • Severn

    Childish AND long-winded is not an attractive combination.

    “Renault engines, right before the engine freeze, had about 160 hp less than Mercedes engines”

    Neither is making stuff up. (a) there was no “engine freeze” and (b) Mercedes never had about 160 hp more.

  • Dave Bates

    wow & this is only the 1st race of the season. Imagine throughout the year when a Ferrari or Williams or whover ! are leading the race by 2-3 seconds. There are only 3 laps to go & the FIA inform the leading team to reduce the fuel rate. So the team adhere to rules & back off the pace therefore missing out on a podium. Then FIA discover their sensors have malfunctioned due to being mis calibrated by heat vibrations and a whole host of problems that can render a sensor useless. This is discovered 5 hours after the race, So who is the winner.This is when only 1 car is affected by a bad sensor, what if all the leading cars have issues ? For the sake of F1 credibility I do hope that these sensors are 100% correct at all times and on all cars for every race of 2014, or otherwise i will just not trust in the results. In Aussie i happened to rate the Williams & Bottas,s incredible racy run through the field. But what if the FIA Sensor was faulty and giving him more fuel than he should have ? i,m guessing that the team would not complain, and i,m sure that the FIA would not want the negative publicity. Why 2 rules for the same goal ? ie that of limiting the maximum amount of fuel in a car per race. what is more equal than an FIA measured 100kg for all cars at the start, and wait and see who the rabbit & tortoises are ! who will cross the line with a cough & splutter !

  • McSerb

    a) There WAS an engine freeze at the end of February, but it IS quite
    possible Red Bull (and Renault) ignored that rule too.
    b) How many horsepower more DID Mercedes have according to you ?
    83, 57, one, none ?
    Try offering some facts and figures instead of your fanboy support.

  • Robbel


  • schumi

    No it’s not a restrictor but it makes sure the restrictor works properly.
    Anyway, that’s not the point.
    If you have more than 100kg/hr flow you have a clear advantage. Isn’t that obvious? Why are all these people writing thousands of lines on irrelevant stuff? I don’t get it….

  • Evod Yban

    Dear Paul Velasco

    The limitation on fuel flow is required to limit the power produced by engines before they become a safety concern.

    With the re-introduction of turbos this year, an unlimited fuel flow would allow teams to force more and more air and fuel into the engine with the potential to produce massive horsepower figures. The previous turbo era in Formula 1 shows this.

    In summary: the fuel flow limitation is in place as a safety measure as opposed to a fuel economy measure.

    Best wishes
    An F1 fan who knows about the last turbo era in F1, despite not being around for it.

  • McSerb

    Correct, at the end of the season. DURING the season reliability issues, etc. may be fixed, but there can be NO PERFORMANCE UPDATES. Since such engine updates are forbidden, Red Bull tried to pull the fuel flow stunt, which DOES give additional performance to the engine. I expect the FIA to let them get away with it. Otherwise, no Renault powered team can be competitive and Ferrari seem to be struggling too. Since there is no other way to make things interesting, the rules will probably be bent, but if Mercedes also alters the fuel flow we get back to their original engine advantage. No wonder even Formula 1 officials said we will have an engine Formula this year.

  • Robbel

  • Tim Watts

    Evod although I dont disagree. What is the issue of having more power. When it comes down to it they have a certain amount of fuel and cant use any more that will restrict the power.In Qualiy I think the more power then better. For the first time in years the drivers look like they have to drive the cars and thats a great thing. In terms of the letter I would agreed 100% its spot on