Hamilton loses pole on fuel error

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Lewis Hamilton has been relegated from pole to the back of the grid for failing to have enough fuel on board. Hamilton stopped his Mclaren on the back straight after his Q3 flying lap (and he was flying) so that he would have enough left to provide the required fuel sample.

The full story’s here, and elsewhere, but McLaren first claimed force majeure, saying unforeseen circumstances caused the short-fuelling. And the nub is that the stewards said “we’re not buying that.”

“The stewards received a report from the Race Director which stated that during post-qualifying scrutineering a sample of fuel was required from car 4, however, the car failed to return to the pits under its own power as required under Article 6.6.2 of the FIA Formula One Technical Regulations,” said the stewards in a statement.

“The Stewards heard from the team representative Mr Sam Michael who stated that the car stopped on the circuit for reasons of force majeure. A team member had put an insufficient quantity of fuel into the car thereby resulting in the car having to be stopped on the circuit in order to be able to provide the required amount for sampling purposes.

“As the amount of fuel put into the car is under the complete control of the Competitor the Stewards cannot accept this as a case of force majeure.

“The Stewards determine that this is a breach of Article 6.6.2 of the FIA Formula One Technical Regulations and the Competitor is accordingly excluded from the results of the Qualifying Session. The Competitor is however allowed to start the race from the back of the grid.”

So, Maldonado on a de jure pole. Not unlike Mark Webber’s asterisk-laden second at Monaco back in 2006 for Williams, but more on that elsewhere

Lewis will start at the back, all qualifying times removed from session. Which is a shame because there’s no way a few liters of fuel accounted for his half-second advantage. The McLaren was surely quickest, but rules are rules – and this one does exist due to a Hamilton precedent in Montreal.

Technical Director Paddy Lowe was quick to apologise on Twitter.

To all our fans: so sorry about this error. We are more gutted than anybody. An amazing performance by Lewis throughout Q, ruined.

McLaren still appear somewhat quiet on their interpretation of force majeure, but I heard whispers on Twitter that it was simply a matter of human error using the new slower refueling system in a hurry with seconds ticking away. If memory serves, Hamilton was last across the line, so no idea quite how close he cut it, but fairly close.

For now, I’d just seen a dry “we accept that they didn’t agree with us” type statement in public though.

Thoughts?

My first one is that no one will dare pull up on their in-lap to save fuel after the race tomorrow, as was the case more than once in 2012.

UPDATE: Here’s article 6.6.2 from F1’s 2012 Technical Regulations, no wonder McLaren’s definition of the error appeared so strangely wooly…

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.

What I couldn’t find was whether the stewards had any flexibility in choice of punishment. They usually do.

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