Maldonado Pole After Hamilton Penalised
Williams’ Pastor Maldonado pulled out a surprise front-row qualifying run in Spain with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso an almost equally surprising third. However, the Circuit de Catalunya had one more twist up its sleeve when the quickest man in qualifying, Lewis Hamilton pulled up shortly after the beating his rivals by almost six tenths of a second. A fuelling error meant that the McLaren driver could not make it back to the pits and still provide sufficient fuel for FIA testing. After hearing the team’s arguments, the stewards excluded Hamilton from the session, meaning that he will now start from the back of the grid.
McLaren have once again let down one of their drivers. Hamilton should have been confidently fighting for the victory tomorrow, instead he faces a fight through the pack in the hope of points. It may not be easy either as having gone through and taken part in Q3, he holds a fist full of used tyres. The reason for penalising Hamilton is clearly outlined in the rules: “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.” McLaren cannot have too many arguments on that foot even if the fuel shortage in this case was not the difference between pole and slower time. However, the penalty itself seems completely out of proportion. Hamilton had already negotiated Q1 and Q2, returning to the pits in each case. While an advantage could be gained from low-fuelling why should all of a drivers’ qualifying laps be scrubbed from the record? That doesn’t happen in the event of a driver taking a short-cut. The result is that Hamilton starts behind twenty-three drivers slower than him through no fault of his own, two of which couldn’t even be bothered setting a time in Q3 and one which failed to make the 107% mark (or even 110% for that matter.)
Curiously, the rule doesn’t apply to the race – in just the last race Sebastian Vettel failed to return to the pits after taking victory. Should Kimi Raikkonen now feel aggrieved that Vettel gained an unfair advantage?
Why does it always seem to happen to Hamilton though? I’m still mystified as to why, after Nico Rosberg’s aggressive move in front of Hamilton and Fernando Alonso in Bahrain, it was Hamilton’s overtake off the track that was the main topic of discussion in the drivers’ briefing. It’s not even as if someone hasn’t gone off track to overtake before – but things only seem to get discussed when Hamilton does it.
Pastor Maldonado on pole? Fernando Alonso on the front row is surprising enough but the Williams driver failed to reach Q3 in the last three races. Not that it was all plain sailing for Williams and Ferrari as Bruno Senna failed to make it through from Q1 after spinning out into the gravel while Felipe Massa had his ‘Big Book of Excuses’ out once again after he only went one place better. Will it be a platform for a Williams victory though? Or merely a moment of glory?
Mark Webber and Jenson Button missing out on Q3? Senna missing out on Q2? Take your pick. At least Button can take some measure of satisfaction from the fact that missing out on Q3 meant that the team couldn’t mess up his day too.
McLaren, McLaren, McLaren. Enough said.
Oh I give up! Lotus certainly have the race pace, as does Sebastian Vettel who also has an extra set of new tyres at his disposal. Meanwhile, Ferrari have generally gone better on Sunday than during qualifying – now Alonso finds himself in a position to exploit that. And after that, you can’t rule out Maldonado completing the job.
Qualifying Lap Times
|8. Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||No time|
|9. Schumacher||Mercedes||No time|
|10. Kobayashi||Sauber-Ferrari||No time|
|Q2 cut-off time:||1:22.904|
|12. Webber||Red Bull-Renault||1:22.977|
|13. Di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:23.125|
|14. Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:23.177|
|15. Vergne||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1:23.265|
|16. Ricciardo||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1:23.442|
|Q1 cut-off time:||1:23.380|
|23. De la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1:27.555|
107% time: 1:28.363
|Sector 1||Sector 2||Sector 3|
|Hamilton||22.616 s||Hamilton||30.751s||Maldonado||28.321 s|
|Raikkonen||22.652 s||Perez||30.935 s||Hamilton||28.340 s|
|Grosjean||222.737 s||Kobayashi||30.945 s||Alonso||28.430 s|
What are your predictions for the race? Should Hamilton have been penalised? Was the penalty too harsh? Should Narain Karthikeyan be allowed to start after missing the 107% qualifying mark by such a significant margin?
Photo: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes