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

Fuel

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)