Tag Archives: McLaren

Button takes shock pole position in Spa

Jenson Button caused a huge upset in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix, taking pole position for the first time in over 3 years. The McLaren dominated Q2 and Q3 to sail to pole, and will be joined on the front row by Kamui Kobayashi.

Sauber were the biggest winners of the day, with Sergio Perez 5th. Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton all disappointed in Q3, while Sebastian Vettel didn’t even make it into the top 10. Here is what happened:

Q1

After heading the field in second practice, Charles Pic was first out of the pits. He briefly led the standings, before Nico Rosberg set a 1:51.125.

Most drivers started off on the harder compound, and it showed, as even Lewis Hamilton struggled to get into the 1:49s. Tyre temperature was clearly an issue, as Felipe Massa slid into the gravel, and Narain Karthikeyan had a moment at Pouhon.

A 1:49.401 put Fernando Alonso on top, while teammate Felipe Massa’s lap was ruined by a slow HRT car. Lewis Hamilton, running a high-downforce setup, could only manage a 1:49.6.

Jenson Button, running a low-downforce configuration, then took top spot with a 1:49.250.

With 5 minutes to go, Kimi Raikkonen was out of the pits, and immediately set the fastest middle sector en route to 3rd. The Red Bulls were next, with Vettel and Webber 6th and 7th respectively.

On the medium tyre, Pastor Maldonado inherited top spot, while Rosberg could only manage 14th. Romain Grosjean decided to take on the softer compound, but had a scare at Pouhon when his Lotus oversteered at nearly 150mph.

Rosberg decided to slow down to get clear space for his final lap, and ended up missing the chequered flag, being knocked out of Q1. This sealed the bottom 7, and ensured that Grosjean’s mistake hadn’t harmed the Lotus.

Drivers knocked out in Q1:

18) Nico Rosberg – 1:50.181

19) Heikki Kovalainen – 1:51.719

20) Vitaly Petrov – 1:51.967

21) Timo Glock – 1:52.336

22) Pedro de la Rosa – 1:53.030

23) Charles Pic – 1:53.493

24) Narain Karthikeyan – 1:54.989

Q2

Sergio Perez was first up, setting a 1:48.880. Mark Webber pipped that time by 0.2 seconds, while Alonso went another 5 hundreths faster.

Hamilton and Raikkonen both set fastest laps, then Button slashed three quarters a second off their times, with a 1:47.654.

Bruno Senna was next to have a huge slide at Pouhon, just about holding the car in the right direction. With 3 minutes to go, most cars left the pits for their final runs.

Felipe Massa moved into the top 10, but was 1.5 seconds off Button’s lap. Pastor Maldonado took 9th, Hulkenberg 10th, while Sergio Perez leaped into 2nd place. There was a huge shock, as Sebastian Vettel only took 11th place, 0.012 seconds off 10th position. Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa both disappointed, neither making it through to Q3.

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11) Sebastian Vettel – 1:48.792

12) Nico Hulkenberg – 1:48.855

13) Michael Schumacher – 1:49.081

14) Felipe Massa – 1:49.147

15) Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:49.354

16) Daniel Ricciardo – 1:49.543

17) Bruno Senna – 1:50.088

Q3

The McLarens and Lotuses were out first, followed by Paul di Resta and Pastor Maldonado. Raikkonen was up first, setting a 1:48.205. I t appeared as if Hamilton would go faster, but made a huge mistake and ruined his lap.

Jenson Button went 0.6 seconds faster than the Lotus, while Maldonado immediately abandoned his lap. The track went oddly silent, as the drivers waited until the final few minutes to set their fastest laps.

The track temperature rose as the cars left the pits again, helping the performance of the cars.

Kimi Raikkonen’s final lap wasn’t enough to topple Button, not improving on his previous lap. Alonso, Webber and Hamilton all had extremely poor final laps, going 6th, 7th and 8th respectively.

Kamui Kobayashi took a surprise 2nd, with Pastor Maldonado an impressive 3rd. However, the biggest shock of the day was by far the McLaren of Jenson Button, taking another 0.1 seconds off his time, and taking his first pole position since Monaco 2009.

Sergio Perez will line up 5th, making Sauber the biggest winner of the day. Romain Grosjean was a disappointing 9th, and with his gearbox penalty, Webber will drop down to 12th place on the grid.

Hamilton fends off Lotuses for Hungary win

Lewis Hamilton has taken a well-deserved victory in Hungary, after holding off both Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen at different periods of the race. The Lotuses eventually finished 2nd and 3rd, with championship leader Fernando Alonso 5th. Mark Webber and Jenson Button had poor races, while Michael Schumacher’s race pretty much over before it even begun. Here is what happened:

The first start was aborted, due to an engine problem resulting in Michael Schumacher stalling on the grid. At the second start, Lewis Hamilton held his lead, while Sebastian Vettel hassled Romain Grosjean for 2nd. However, the Lotus held his position, and Jenson Button soon took advantage and moved up to 3rd.

Mark Webber made an excellent start on the medium tyre, leaping up to 7th. Championship leader Fernando Alonso moved up to 5th, while struggling teammate Massa fell to 9th.

Schumacher pitted at the end of the first lap for medium tyres, but his race was completely ruined, after he was handed a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane.

After the opening laps, Alonso began to lose pace, and a sizeable queue of cars began to form behind the Ferrari. Raikkonen in 6th attempted to get into position to make a pass, but a KERS failure meant that the Lotus failed to make a move. Kamui Kobayashi surprised many by taking his first pit stop as early as lap 8, taking on the medium tyre.

The top 2 began to tear away from the rest of the field, going 6 seconds ahead of the dueling Button and Vettel behind. Hamilton managed to eke out a 2.5 second lead, and managed to hold it all the way to his first pit stop.

Button was the first of the frontrunners to stop, and just about held his lead against Vettel, once the Red Bull took on the option tyre. Him and Grosjean were the only frontrunning drivers on the softer compound, and soon began to catch their on-track rivals. Alonso lost out the most at the first stops, losing 5th place to Kimi Raikkonen.

Despite being on the faster tyre, Romain was unable to pass the McLaren, partially due to the nature of the track, and also because of him being unable to close the gap in the DRS zone. Vettel, in the same situation, stated to his team that “I can do much faster than this”, being held up by Button.

With overtaking proving more and more difficult, both McLaren drivers were told to switch to “Plan B” – believed to be a 3-stopper. Button was the first of the two to pit again, releasing Vettel into 3rd, and taking on another set of options. However, he emerged behind Bruno Senna, and got stuck behind the Williams for several laps.

Once Vettel took on new tyres, he emerged easily ahead of Jenson. Having seen what happened, the Lotus team opted to pit Grosjean early, to avoid the same type of incident. Hamilton then pitted, and once the second round of stops had calmed down, the top 3 had closed in to within 3 seconds of each other. Raikkonen inherited the lead, with a 14-second gap between him and Hamilton, although he was yet to make a second stop.

With some searing pace, Raikkonen pushed as much as he could, then pitted on lap 46. He emerged 2nd, only 3 seconds behind Lewis, and with much fresher tyres. Entering the final 20 laps, there was only 6 seconds covering the top 4.

Further back, Pastor Maldonado was battling Paul di Resta for 12th place. As the Force India made a mistake, the Williams driver attempted to out-brake Di Resta, but ended up thumping the Force India off the track to take the position. The stewards took a dim view of the knock, and handed Maldonado a drive-through penalty.

Interestingly, both Raikkonen and Hamilton were informed of KERS issues with their cars, limiting their ability to pass and defend against each other. With 15 laps to go, the Lotus was within a second of the McLaren.

Amidst the battle for the lead, Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes was finally retired. After all the issues with the start, the team soon lost tyre telemetry, and opted to retire the car with 9 laps to go.

Although Raikkonen appeared to have the faster car, he was simply unable to make a move on the McLaren. The gap remained close all the way to the flag, and Lewis Hamilton crossed the line 1.03 seconds ahead of the Lotus. Grosjean held 3rd, with Vettel chasing him down similar to Raikkonen.

Alonso did well in damage limitation, holding 5th against Button, Senna and Webber. Felipe Massa was invisible all race, finishing 9th, with Nico Rosberg 10th in a dismal weekend for Mercedes.

Hamilton storms to Hungary pole position

Lewis Hamilton has taken his 22nd career pole position, and the 150th for the McLaren team. He will start the Hungarian Grand Prix ahead of Romain Grosjean, who qualified 0.3 seconds behind.

Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button were 3rd and 4th, while the Ferrari drivers struggled for pace, while Webber and Schumacher didn’t even make it into Q3. Here is what happened:

Q1

With a scorching 45 degree track temperature, the Lotus cars were unsurprisingly the first out. Kimi Raikkonen’s 1:23.273 was the first fast lap of the day. Fernando Alonso was set to pip that time, but was held up by a Marussia.

Raikkonen soon improved by another half a second. Second-placed Jenson Button could only manage a 1:23.3 for the time being. However, teammate Lewis Hamilton took another 3 tenths off the fastest time.

Felipe Massa made several attempts to set a lap time, but on each occassion was held up by Michael Schumacher. On the fourth lap, he managed to move into 5th, but was held up again on his subsequent lap.

Lewis was the first to move into the 1:21 zone, after 6 laps on the medium tyre. Bruno Senna continued on his good practice pace, taking second position. Oddly, Fernando Alonso was struggling, and was forced to take on the softer tyre to continue into Q2, even if he was beaten by Paul di Resta.

With only a few minutes left on the clock, Button, Perez, Vettel and Webber all were teetering above the drop zone. All but Sebastian went out again to improve their lap times. Vettel was very nearly caught out by a charging Kamui Kobayashi, but survived in 17th place.

Drivers knocked out in Q1:

18) Daniel Ricciardo – 1:23.250

19) Heikki Kovalainen – 1:23.576

20) Vitaly Petrov – 1:24.167

21) Charles Pic – 1:25.244

22) Timo Glock – 1:25.476

23) Pedro de la Rosa – 1:25.916

24) Narain Karthikeyan – 1:26.178

Q2

The Mercedes drivers were the first out on track, Michael Schumacher abandoning his first lap after a mistake at turn 4. Nico Hulkenberg and Felipe Massa quickly went into the 1:21 zone, spurring a stream of fast laps from other drivers.

Again the Red Bulls struggled, initially going 5th and 6th, while the Lotuses took first and second. Soon after, Hamilton slashed another 0.5 seconds off the fastest time.

The Ferraris improved to 2nd and 3rd, Alonso finding it difficult to beat even Massa. After a flurry of activity, Mark Webber was left in 10th place, and Bruno Senna pushed him even further down the order. A dust cloud pulled up by Pastor Maldonado distracted Michael Schumacher, leaving him in 17th place.

Mercedes concluded a dismal afternoon, with Nico Rosberg 13th, and little prospects for the race.

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11) Mark Webber – 1:21.715

12) Paul di Resta: 1:21.813

13) Nico Rosberg – 1:21.895

14) Sergio Perez – 1:21.895

15) Kamui Kobayashi – 1:22.300

16) Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:22.380

17) Michael Schumacher – 1:22.723

Q3

After an impressive Q2, Nico Hulkenberg was straight out on track for Q3 – albeit on the medium tyre compound.

Lewis Hamilton was set to go fastest, but a massive slide at turn 8 ended his lap. In the first 5 minutes, only Raikkonen, Grosjean, Hamilton and Button set times, the other drivers waiting in the pits.

Sebastian Vettel was set for provisional pole, but lost 0.2 seconds in the final few corners. Pastor Maldonado had to carve his way past both McLarens and Vettel, but still managed 4th place for the moment.

Vettel gave up rather quickly in Q3, leaving the Lotuses, McLarens and Alonso to battle it out at the front. The Ferraris found themselves down in 6th and 7th place, Alonso managing to pip Massa. Kimi Raikkonen was only 5th, but teammate Grosjean nearly beat Hamilton, taking 2nd place. Vettel remained in 3rd, with Button close behind in 4th.

But nobody was able to topple Hamilton’s lap. Despite Grosjean’s final attempt coming close, the McLaren had already set another lap, 0.3 seconds faster than his Lotus rival. The race is Lewis’ to lose tomorrow, but the weather may play a huge part in proceedings…

McLaren and Button set world record with 2.31 second pit stop

A new world record has been set for the fastest pit stop in history, achieved by the McLaren team, with the help of Jenson Button.

Button’s second and last stop at the German Grand Prix took only 2.31 seconds, an absolutely incredible record.

The previous record was believed to be held by Ricardo Patrese, at the Belgian Grand Prix in 1993. His Bennetton team apparently did the stop on 3.2 seconds, but there appears to be no footage of the pit stop itself.

However, this time around, the cameras were waiting to capture this record. At the moment, only a low-quality video is on YouTube, but the sheer speed is still clear to see:

Canadian Grand Prix analysis: McLaren nearly cost Hamilton dearly

Formula 1 has set another record – this time it’s 7 different race winners in a row from the start of the season. If this goes on for another two races, then it will be an all-time record for consecutive winners.

But, we were very close to not seeing this new record at all. As viewers noticed on Sunday, McLaren very nearly ruined Lewis Hamilton’s race win…

Another close shave for McLaren

McLaren’s strategy call of a 2-stopper was always going to be risky, considering how well others could conserve their tyres. However, the team appeared to massively underestimate their opponents.

On the pit radio, they stated that they believed that Vettel and Alonso could not one-stop. This risky call grew more and more doubtful, as the duo continued to stay out.

By the time they had realised their mistake, Lewis had a lot of time to make up. Luckily, he was up to the task, and snatched victory in the dying laps. But, even after the Red Bull and Ferrari, Hamilton was lucky Grosjean didn’t win the race.

By falling behind Paul di Resta at the start, the Frenchman lost about 10 seconds, and a (mathemeatically) probable victory. Fortunately for McLaren, his start-line mistake spared their blushes.

Radical Ferrari back on track

A risky strategy left Fernando Alonso in control of the race – and he nearly held it to the end.

The F2012 is already a far cry from the dangerous beast that thrashed its way through the corners in Melbourne. The deficit to the frontrunners was slashed in half a few races ago, and thanks to Fernando’s pace, the Maranello squad are back in contention for race wins.

Unfortunately, this is only the case for one of their drivers. Felipe Massa qualified and started close to his teammate, but ultimately fell prey to the track’s challenging Turn 1.

Still, it has become clear that Ferrari are back in the title hunt. When Alonso led the championship after Malaysia, it was called a miracle. For that to still happen only 5 races later is simply incredible.

HRT’s dash for glory falls short

As the midfield and frontrunners become increasingly assimilated, the trailing three teams lead exceptionally lonely races.

Last weekend, it appeared as if HRT were aiming to change that – albeit briefly. Pedro de la Rosa ran well all throughout Friday practice, qualifying and the start of the race. So much so, in fact, that he was leading the Marussias, Caterhams, and even Bruno Senna.

Clearly, there was more to it than it first appeared. Rumours from the paddock have been circulating that HRT deliberately underfuelled their cars, knowing that their brakes wouldn’t last the distance.

Their suspicions were correct, as De la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan retired within two laps of each other with brake failures.

Still, their possible plan to get some attention appears to have worked. While this strategy won’t be confirmed by the team, it is more than likely it occurred, since De la Rosa was only 2 seconds a lap slower than the leaders before he retired.

Hamilton snatches late win in Canada

Lewis Hamilton took a well-deserved victory at today’s Canadian Grand Prix.

The McLaren driver inherited the lead at the first round of stops, but was forced to work hard to re-take it at the end. Varying pit strategies meant he tussled his way back into the lead with only a few laps left. Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez were blessed with last-gasp podiums, while Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso fell back to 4th and 5th. Meanwhile, Jenson Button had a horrific race, eventually finishing 16th. Here is what happened:

Vettel opens up his trademark lead at the start

Vettel opens up his trademark lead at the start

At the start, Vettel retained his lead to the first corner, while Nico Rosberg went side-by-side with Mark Webber. However, he was pushed wide, and was challenged by Felipe Massa.

The Ferrari driver got the slip on Rosberg on lap 2, and moved into 5th position. The Mercedes was much slower, and held up a massive group of cars. Paul di Resta was next to pass the German driver.

After clearing Rosberg, Massa began to catch Mark Webber ahead, but spun at turn 1, dropping the Brazilian to 12th place.

With damaged tyres, he was the first to pit on lap 13, taking on the prime tyres. 5th-placed Di Resta was the next to stop, releasing a huge stream of cars behind. Despite starting on the harder tyres, Jenson Button decided to pit early to change tyres. It failed to improve his race though, dropping him into the middle of the field.

Massa spins and ruins his race

Massa spins and ruins his race

In the middle of the pit stop window, Hamilton was right up Vettel’s gearbox. To avoid a battle, Vettel was the first to pit. However, it wasn’t enough to stop Lewis from undercutting the Red Bull.

This left Fernando Alonso in the lead of the race. He was next to pit, and he emerged ahead of the battling duo. It didn’t last for long though, as Hamilton used DRS to sail past the Ferrari.

While Hamilton began to push out a lead, Alonso struggled for grip, and fell into the clutches of Vettel. Meanwhile, Button’s miserable race continued – unable to pass Schumacher in 12th, he pitted for another set of super-softs on lap 34.

Further back, Michael Schumacher put a brave move on Kamui Kobayashi for 11th. It was short-lived though, as the Sauber driver used DRS on the back straight to recover his position.

Nico Rosberg stopped again on lap 39, out of sync with the rest of the pack. His strategy saw him 9th, but he swiftly made up 2 places at the expense of Sergio Perez and Kimi Raikkonen.

Lewis Hamilton pitted from the lead with 20 laps to go, but yet another slow pit stop cost him time. Despite this slip, he was instantly on the pace on his new primes. In the battle for 5th, Nico Rosberg ran wide at turn 14, losing places to Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez. Perez sliced past the Ferrari, quickly followed by Nico the following lap. It became clear that Massa’s tyres were shot, and he pitted for the third time.

A DRS failure leaves Schumacher out

A DRS failure leaves Schumacher out

An interesting stategical mix-up meant that Alonso and Vettel couldn’t pit alongside Hamilton, as there was no window in which they could emerge. Because of this, both drivers were ordered to stay out until the end, and they were soon being caught by Hamilton.

With 7 laps to go, Vettel was wheel-to-wheel with the McLaren, but opted to allow Hamilton through, as he pitted soon after. This left Alonso all alone to battle the charging Brit.

With 5 laps to go, Lewis got right up next to Alonso at L’Epingle, and easily re-took the lead. Vettel’s stop meant that Romain Grosjean was up to 3rd. He wasn’t satisfied with that though, and forced his way past Fernando for 2nd place.

Amazingly, it still wasn’t over for the Ferrari driver. With massively degrading tyres, it was easy pickings for Sergio Perez, and the Sauber driver snatched a podium finish on the 68th lap. Despite pitting only a few laps before, Sebastian Vettel found his way past the ailing Ferrari.

There were a few surprise faces on the podium

There were a few surprise faces on the podium

Amidst all the last-gasp action, Lewis Hamilton was able to cruise the last few laps to an amazing victory. He was joined on the podium by Grosjean and Perez, as they both stayed out for over 50 laps. Sebastian Vettel was 4 seconds a lap faster than Hamilton on the last lap, and was 4th. Fernando Alonso led a train of cars home – Rosberg, Webber, and Raikkonen.

Lewis’ win means that we have now seen 7 winners in 7 races, and 6 championship leader changes in the same period.

Monaco GP analysis: Historic season can only get even better

With 6 different winners in 6 different races, we have never before seen such a varied an unpredictable grid. Every race, there are 7 or 8 drivers in with a chance of winning, and nearly as many are in the battle for the championship.

This time last year, we were already becoming certain who was running away with the title. In 2012 however, there is no doubt that it is shaping up to be one of the closest seasons in history.

Heroes to zeroes, and vice-versa

For Felipe Massa, criticism is due where it’s due, but praise equally so. Under massive pressure from the Scuderia after a dismal start, the Brazilian impressed by keeping Fernando Alonso honest on the streets of Monaco.

His pace may have been complimented by Alonso’s conservative driving, but it is still a massive improvement from what we have seen so far.

It’s clear what Ferrari want from him – good, but not great, performances. A driver who can pick up points where Alonso slips, but is otherwise content to finish 5th or 6th. A few more races like Monaco, and Felipe’s season will be back on track.

Pastor Maldonado, meanwhile, has completely wiped out his form from Spain. A thug-like swipe at Sergio Perez in practice left him near the back of the grid, then the Williams driver punted Pedro de la Rosa at the start, ending his race.

It’s hard to imagine that the same driver took the top step of the podium only two weeks ago.

Reputation is a fragile thing in Formula 1, and Pastor may have gone and thrown his away with a single burst of anger. Like the BBC F1 crew commented, to use your car as a weapon is nothing less than disgraceful. After years of safety campaigning, the FIA has thrown it away by allowing such reckless behaviour to go on.

McLaren continue to throw away valuable points

Yet another shocking race for the McLaren team

Yet another shocking race for the McLaren team

Only a quarter of the way into the season, and it is clear that even single points are precious for the frontrunners. With a single race win covering the top 5, the title race could go to the wire.

In such circumstances, McLaren’s dismal form makes them stand out even more. Starting the season with one of the fastest cars, repeated mistakes and slip-ups have cost the team in nearly every race.

Monaco was no exception – Lewis Hamilton was livid after his team lost him a place in the pit stops. He was not informed of Sebastian Vettel’s searing pace up front, and subsequently dropped behind the Red Bull. He claimed afterwards that he could have pushed and stayed ahead, if he was told the information.

He has gone on and stated: “We haven’t had a grand prix weekend where something hasn’t gone wrong” which pretty much sums it up for McLaren.

While Jenson Button’s failures this weekend were largely his fault, Hamilton was frustrated by everything around him, and suffered as a result. It’s so early into the season, and the title may already be slipping away.

Meanwhile, at Sauber…

Just another normal start for Kamui Kobayashi

Just another normal start for Kamui Kobayashi

At the start of the Monaco GP, replays showed Kamui Kobayashi having a more frenzied start than usual. After being clipped by a flailing Romain Grosjean, the Sauber was launched into the air, before bouncing back onto the tarmac, nearly knocking Jenson Button into the barriers in the process.

The replays made it seem spectacular, but the photo attached even more so. That alone was why this extra section was added!

Button leads rain-hit Monaco second practice

Jenson Button was fastest in second practice for the Monaco Grand Prix.

All of the fastest times were set in the first 15 minutes, though, as showers of rain throughout the session disrupted the running.

An early dash on the super-softs resulted in a 1:15.746 for the McLaren driver, ahead of Romain Grosjean and the two Ferraris.

There was a small dry period in between the showers, but it wasn’t enough to encourage much running on the super-softs. The final half hour saw the track being sufficiently wet to require intermediate tyres.

Mirabeau proved to be treacherous – Bruno Senna, Pastor Maldonado, Sergio Perez, Felipe Massa and Heikki Kovalainen all going off there.

Times from FP2:

 1. Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes      1:15.746           14
 2. Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault         1:16.138  +0.392   17
 3. Felipe Massa          Ferrari               1:16.602  +0.856   19
 4. Fernando Alonso       Ferrari               1:16.661  +0.915   21
 5. Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault      1:16.820  +1.074   18
 6. Nico Rosberg          Mercedes              1:17.021  +1.275   13
 7. Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault      1:17.148  +1.402   21
 8. Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari        1:17.153  +1.407   20
 9. Michael Schumacher    Mercedes              1:17.293  +1.547    9
10. Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault      1:17.303  +1.557   19
11. Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes      1:17.375  +1.629   17
12. Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes  1:17.395  +1.649   19
13. Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault      1:17.655  +1.909   18
14. Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes  1:17.800  +2.054   23
15. Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari        1:18.251  +2.505   22
16. Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault      1:18.440  +2.694   23
17. Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:18.522  +2.776   20
18. Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:18.808  +3.062   24
19. Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault         1:19.267  +3.521   23
20. Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth     1:19.309  +3.563   27
21. Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault      1:20.029  +4.283   13
22. Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth     1:20.240  +4.494   19
23. Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth          1:20.631  +4.885   12
24. Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth          1:20.886  +5.140   10

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.

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