McLaren have no sympathy for Red Bull amid Flowgate controversy

Gill Ultrasonic Fuel Flow Meter

Gill Ultrasonic Fuel Flow Meter

McLaren has chimed in on the Australian Grand Prix ‘Flowgate’ controversy, and are adamant that the FIA warned teams, as early as Bahrain, that only the approved Gill sensors would be used to measure fuel flow.

After Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified in Melbourne, Red Bull argued that it went its own way with the new fuel consumption rules because FIA’s mandatory sensors were not accurate enough.

However, engine supplier Renault’s rivals Mercedes and Ferrari backed the FIA in the wake of the ruling, while the sensor supplier Gill insisted that it has the full support of Formula 1’s governing body.

Now, Mercedes-powered McLaren says it was aware of some problems with the sensors for some weeks.

McLaren team boss Eric Boullier insists: “The FIA made clear in Bahrain that their sensors were the only reference for the calculation of the flow.

“We knew we had to be extremely careful,” he is quoted by Italiaracing.

“It is true that there were some problems, but it is also true that in the end we were consistent [with fuel flow] during the race and, like almost all the teams, even during the whole weekend,” the Frenchman added.

Ex Formula 1 driver Mika Salo thinks the Ricciardo controversy will not be the only fuel-related rule drama in 2014.

“I believe we will see it quite a lot,” he told Finnish broadcaster MTV3.

Salo said that Red Bull will appeal the disqualification, so “let’s see what the FIA does. The teams have complained about it a lot.” (GMM)

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  • symanski

    Another website put it that Boullier didn’t want to comment on Red Bull and only on McLaren.

    Secondly, that he confirmed that many teams were having problems with the sensor.

    I think it was rather late in the day when the manufacturer was able to claim even a basic level of accuracy. One which wouldn’t have satisfied myself for use in it’s application. Wait for other teams to have issues when they’re trying to get the maximum out the engine and the sensor is reporting higher fuel use than they’re using.

  • Severn

    Given that Ricciardo’s disqualification took points from a rival team and gave points to McLaren, it’s not exactly surprising that they would say this, is it? McLaren are hardly going to ask the FIA to dock themselves points.

    “Salo said that Red Bull will appeal the disqualification, so “let’s see
    what the FIA does. The teams have complained about it a lot.””

    Here’s a crazy thought … perhaps this controversy will force the FIA to do what it should have done long ago and finally fix the wretched fuel flow sensors.

  • Hugo Lafreniere

    What I would like to know, and I don’t know if it’s been posted anywhere else, is just how inaccurate were they?
    I mean, it the device is off by 0.1%, and Red Bull uses this to justify using their own sensor, they have a problem. If it is off by 10%, and it effectively makes a 10% power difference, then I can understand the frustration a little better, but then again, they are just as inaccurate for everyone else – who followed the FIA’s directions.
    Besides, if the FIA lets this fly, it’ll open the gate for teams to claim that past a certain inaccuracy threshold, they are free to ditch the sensor’s reading and use their own. No way.
    The only middle ground would be to allow another fuel flow sensors manufacturer to bid to provide the FIA with a potentially more accurate product. Therefore, teams would be free to chose between sensor brand A, B or C depending on costs, reliability, packaging, etc…
    Just like every other part.
    But Red Bull were warned and ignored the warning. That doesn’t work.

  • Severn

    “just how inaccurate were they?”

    Your questions are all based on a flawed assumption, that the devices may have been “off” but they were all “off” equally, the same amount on every single car.

    “then again, they are just as inaccurate for everyone else”

    And what do you base THAT claim on? Even the sensor manufacturer has not made that claim. What they said was that 92% of the sensors were accurate to within 0.25%. That means 8% of the sensors were less accurate than that.

  • KevinW

    0.25% equates to just 1.6HP, so it is very unlikely this is the variation Red Bull were observing and objecting to. There is also the issue of bench vs. actual instrument error, where location and orientation of the devices is a factor. Time of flight ultra sonic flow meters are very sensitive to low flow speeds, and turbulence, so there may be other factors involved here. Red Bull are not idiots, they are reacting to something serious in their view, or they would have complied like the others.

    As far as all being equal? It is impossible that all of the meters are equal, or that they are all inaccurate in the same direction. Each was supposedly calibrated with a data offset used in the data to accommodate and neutralize the variance between meters. However this has proven to be less consistent than expected… thus the growing distrust.

  • symanski

    I also read that if you have a return line for the fuel back to the tank that you’ve then got two of these sensors inside and you’re subtracting one from the other. That sounds fair, doesn’t it? This is how I believe modern cars operate with fuel pumped to the engine and unused being returned back to the tank.

    But if you’ve got a sensor which is 0.25% accurate and you’re putting ten times the flow through than you need just to keep the system pressurised, then now you’ve got an accuracy of 2.5%.

    However, I read late last year that the accuracy was at 1%. Now that x10 that you need to keep sufficient flow to the engine the sensors’s accuracy drops to 10%.

    What you may have is the fuel delivery system multiplying up the inaccuracy of the sensors. It could be that the inaccuracy of the sensors didn’t cancel each other out but added, so that 2.5% became 5% or worse 20%.

    Although this is pure speculation, without even considering sample rates from the sensors vs rpm.

  • KevinW

    The old days of fuel pressure retun lines is not applied to modern high pressure direct injection. Those systems regulate pressure at the pump, while PWM pulses operate the injectors, so no return line from any downstream regulator exists.

  • symanski

    My understanding is that you’ve got a low pressure circuit from the tank feeding the high pressure pump which then goes to the rail for the direct injection.

    Don’t forget that fuel will at times be up the side walls of the tank! So some system to get fuel out from all angles is required. Although I’m not going to say that I know how it’s done in an F1 car, but I believe older systems had a cup in the middle where fuel was picked up from and continually being filled by the return line from the engine. Whatever system they have it will be on the same principle.

    Although I’m more than happy to be corrected – I like to learn something new all the time.

  • KevinW

    The fuel cells are divided into compartments fed by a low pressure system feeding Into an accumulator chamber. This pushes fuel into the intake of the high pressure pump. The system used does not look or operate like a standard car sysyem. It’s much more like that used in aerobatic aircraft. Although the output pressure is much much higher.