Daily Archives: May 12, 2012

Hamiton’s penalty: Was it fair?

The smile has surely slipped from Hamilton's face after his disqualification

The smile has surely slipped from Hamilton’s face after his disqualification

Lewis Hamilton’s most recent penalty has drawn as much controversy as you’d expect. The Brit’s demotion to 24th on the grid has ruined his chances of a probable victory, over a fuel issue which probably wouldn’t have cost him pole.

However, others have argued that the penalty was fair – after all, this isn’t the first time McLaren have under-fuelled their car.

Let’s have a look at both arguments…

For

On one side, rules are rules. FIA Article 6.6 deals with how fuel samples are carried out, and it clearly states that “the car concerned must first have been driven back to the pits under its own power.”

Clearly, this was not the case. While Lewis stopped on track with enough fuel for the sample, he should have been forced to go back to the pits like everybody else – and this would have caused him to drop below the limit.

Furthermore, it soon became clear that McLaren were not being completely honest with the media over the incident. After qualifying, Martin Whitmarsh stated several times that the stoppage was not fuel-related, which obviously turned out to be completely false. The problem was identified after Lewis left the pits, and management surely must have been immediately alerted to the situation.

Their behaviour in this case should not have earned them extra punishment, but still reflects very badly on them as a team.

Against

At the end of the day, a very simple argument may be the best one – a 23 place grid drop is extremely harsh for such an infringement.

The extra fuel in Hamilton’s car to bring him back to the pits would have slowed him down slightly, but nowhere near enough for him to lose pole position, as he evidently had it in the bag.

Others claim that since the incident occurred in Q3, the penalty should only drop him out of the top 10 and no further. This would make more sense, as the drivers knocked out in Q2 clearly suffered no loss from this debacle, and therefore shouldn’t gain a place.

Personal opinion

I feel that, at the end of the day, rules are rules. It certainly is a harsh penalty, but in no way unfair.

The half lap of fuel that was required cost him about 0.05-0.1 tenths of a second on his flying lap, well below the gap between him and Pastor Maldonado, but this makes no difference. Whether a car is 1 tenth or 10 seconds ahead, it doesn’t matter – all drivers should have to abide by the same rules.

Put it this way: If Michael Schumacher – in his domination years –¬†qualified 0.5 seconds ahead of anyone else, while using an illegal fuel mixture that gave him an extra 0.1 seconds, does that make it acceptable? Of course not. It’s not a perfect example, as Lewis or the team clearly weren’t trying to break the rules in such a manner, but the fundamental point remains.

If McLaren/Hamilton want fair treatment from the FIA, then they will have to deserve it. All 24 drivers should abide by the rules in the correct manner, and if one breaks the rules, they should be punished accordingly, no matter how insignificant the incident. Look at Sauber – a tiny rear wing radius issue caused them to be thrown out of qualifying in Australia 2011, and they deserved it.

With such a tight and unpredictable 2012 grid, McLaren should know better than to get caught up in such petty incidents – it may cost them the title.

Hamilton thrown out of qualifying for fuel-related stoppage, Maldonado now on pole position

Pastor Maldonado will take his first ever pole position

Pastor Maldonado will take his first ever pole position

Lewis Hamilton has been excluded from Spanish GP qualifying, as the team illegally didn’t fuel up his car to the correct amount required.

FIA article 6.6 states that if a fuel sample is required from a car (all cars in Q3 are required), then “the car concerned must first have been driven back to the pits under its own power”.

Hamilton stopped on track at Campsa corner, about half way through the track. It is understood that he did have the fuel amount required when he stopped, but was instructed to pull over by his mechanics. More than likely, if he had continued on, he would have dropped below the limit.

Lewis will start the Spanish Grand Prix from the back of the grid, behind the HRT of Narain Karthikeyan – who was allowed to race despite being 1.8 seconds outside the 107% rule.

According to Gary Anderson of the BBC, a McLaren engineer “turned the [fuel] tap to ‘drain’ instead of ‘fill’ briefly, realised his error but engineers sent car out.”

This of course leaves Pastor Maldonado on pole position for tomorrow’s race. If he can hold the pace he showed in qualifying, we will be in for a fascinating race.

Hamilton snatches Spanish pole position from Maldonado

Lewis Hamilton will start on pole position for tomorrow’s Spanish Grand Prix.

It was no easy cruise though – Pastor Maldonado was all set to go fastest, until Lewis’ final attempt put him on top. Jenson Button and Mark Webber didn’t even make it into Q3, while Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher opted to stay out of Q3. Here is what happened:

Q1

The track remained silent for several minutes, until Paul di Resta exited the pits 5 minutes into the session. His first lap was disrupted by a slow Marussia, however.

Fernando Alonso went straight out on the soft tyre, setting a 1:24.326 to go on top. Kimi Raikkonen was on the hard tyre, and posted a 1:24.580. Sergio Perez, and then Lewis Hamilton, took over the top spot. Michael Schumacher set the fastest time in Sector 1, but only managed 3rd.

Pastor Maldonado soon went half a second faster than anyone else. His 1:23.380 time put him well on top of the timesheets with 5 minutes to go. The Red Bulls stayed in the pits until the final 5 minutes, both taking on the softer compound. Sebastian Vettel was half a second off Maldonado, while Mark Webber moved into 3rd. Kimi Raikkonen got within a tenth of the Williams.

His teammate Romain Grosjean soon overtook Pastor, improving his time by several hundreths of a second. In the final minute, Lewis Hamilton was briefly in danger of being knocked out, but quickly shot back up to 1st, another half second improvement.

Bruno Senna and Jean-Eric Vergne battled it out to survive Q1, but the Williams driver dramatically spun out in sector 3, leaving his beached car in 18th place for tomorrow. Narain Karthikeyan will appear before the stewards to try to start the race, as his HRT was miles outside the 107% rule.

Drivers knocked out in Q1:

18) Bruno Senna – 1:24.981

19) Vitaly Petrov – 1:25.277

20) Heikki Kovalainen – 1:25.507

21) Charles Pic – 1:26.582

22) Timo Glock – 1:27.032

23) Pedro de la Rosa – 1:27.555

24) Narain Karthikeyan – 1:31.122

Q2

Q2 saw several high-profile shocks, as both Jenson Button and Mark Webber were knocked out of Q2.

Webber decided not to set a lap time in the final few minutes, hoping his 1:22.977 would be enough – which it wasn’t. He will start just behind Jenson Button, who complained of massive understeer in his McLaren.

Like Q1, Pastor Maldonado briefly went fastest, but this time held it, leading Lewis Hamilton. Kamui Kobayashi went 9th, but slowed to a halt at turn 3, and was unable to take any part in Q3.

Felipe Massa was a dismal 17th, just a few hundreths off the Toro Rosso drivers.

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11) Jenson Button – 1:22.944

12) Mark Webber – 1:22.977

13) Paul di Resta – 1:23.125

14) Nico Hulkenberg – 1:23.177

15) Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:23.265

16) Daniel Ricciardo – 1:23.442

17) Felipe Massa – 1:23.447

Q3

Unlike the other two sessions, Sebastian Vettel spent an entire minute sitting at the end of the pit lane, desperate to be first out on track.

However, when the session started, he simply cruised around for a single lap then pitted, indicating he is saving tyres for tomorrow’s race. This tactic was copied by Michael Schumacher, and both cars will start 8th and 9th.

Lewis Hamilton was the first to set a time, with a 1:22.5. It took until the final 5 minutes for this to be challenged, with Nico Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen moving close to Hamilton’s time.

Fernando Alonso went fastest, to the delight of the Spanish crowd. It was short lived though, as Pastor Maldonado caused one of the shocks of the year so far, snatching top spot with just a few minutes to go.

He would have taken pole position, if not for a last-gasp dash by Hamilton to go half a second clear at the front. However, the McLaren was told to turn off his car near Campsa corner, and his car will surely be heavily checked in scrutineering.

Any steward action aside, Hamilton and Maldonado will start from the front row, with Alonso and Grosjean behind. Raikkonen, Perez and Rosberg are 5th, 6th and 7th.

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