Analysis: Who was to blame for Red Bull’s Bahrain fuel pump failures – Autosport
It quickly became apparent that the power units of both men were starved of fuel – despite there being plenty of ExxonMobil’s finest E10 in their respective tanks.
In other words something in the fuel system of the RB18 had failed and was not picking up the last few litres that were supposed to get the cars to the flag.
The intriguing part of the story was that F1 fuel systems are now comprised of elements provided by the team, by the PU manufacturer and also by third parties who won FIA tenders to supply standard components to the whole grid – notably two types of fuel pump.
Thus the big question in the aftermath of the race was did one of the generic items fail in both cars, and thus the hugely frustrating double retirement was triggered by something that was not manufactured by Red Bull Technology or Honda?
And if that was the case, was there perhaps something in the packaging around it that the team or its engine partner were responsible for that somehow led to it failing on the two RB18s, and not on any other car?
Potentially such a situation would be very similar to a Pirelli failure which on the surface could be blamed on the tyre company, and yet on further investigation turns out to have been triggered by the way the team concerned operates the tyres.
Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB18
Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
Indeed, Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko implied that the fault lay with a key component from an outside supplier.
“What we suspect is that there are problems with the fuel pump for both cars,” he told Autosport.
“But the fuel pump doesn’t come from us, we just have to take it. And we never had this problem before, that’s the strange thing.”
However RBR team principal Christian Horner was not able to pinpoint any specific failure.
“What looked like a decent haul of points suddenly evaporated obviously in the last couple of laps there,” he said.
“But it looks like a similar issue on both cars. We don’t know exactly what it is yet, whether it’s a lift pump, whether it’s the collector or something along those lines, but we’ve got to get into it and understand exactly what’s caused it.”
In fact Motorsport.com now understands that none of the standard supplied pumps across the two cars were the cause of the retirements, and thus the issue must lie elsewhere.
So how and why do F1 cars feature such standard components in their hugely complicated fuel systems?
In simple terms the fuel travels via a lift pump (or lift pumps) to a collector, then to a primer pump (aka mid-pump) that steps the pressure up, and then from the tank to a high pressure pump that feeds the V6.
As the new regulations were being formulated – originally for 2021 – it was agreed that the primer and high pressure pumps and some associated bits were areas where it made sense to utilise standard parts, largely for cost reasons by avoiding development expense.