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Maldonado Pole After Hamilton Penalised

By Mav | 13 May 2012 | 6 Comments | 2,926 views

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.)
Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
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.

Race Prediction
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

1. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:21.707
2. Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:22.285
3. Alonso Ferrari 1:22.302
4. Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:22.424
5. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1:22.487
6. Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:22.533
7. Rosberg Mercedes 1:23.005
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
11. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:22.944
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
17. Massa Ferrari 1:23.444
Q1 cut-off time: 1:23.380
18. Senna Williams-Renault 1:24.981
19. Petrov Caterham-Renault 1:25.277
20. Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault 1:25.507
21. Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1:26.582
22. Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1:27.032
23. De la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1:27.555
      Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1:31.122

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

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  • saltire

    I do think that Lewis should have had a penalty but that penalty should have been fastest time removed from Q3. I wonder what the penalty would have been for being unable to provide the necessary sample if he had driven back to the pits?

    Because McLaren did the same thing in Canada 2010, causing the rule change that bit Lewis yesterday, the team didn’t have a leg to stand on. The repeat offence may be part of the reason for the excessive penalty. However, it seems totally unfair that a driver is so heavily penalised for a teams’ mistake, they should have fined the team heavily if they wanted to make an issue of it.

    Should Narain have been allowed to start? I think not, if his own team-mate could manage to be 3.5 seconds faster than him the issue isn’t with the car but with the driver. What’s the point of having such a rule if it isn’t enforced?

    The FIA really need to sort out their penalties system, there should be a defined tariff for each misdemeanour, not a range of possible penalties which are open to interpretation and abuse.

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  • Cicero

    Can you imagine this penalty being applied if Schumacher had been the driver or it had been a Ferrari ?

    Look back at disputes over the last 10 years and see where the bias lies

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  • Bec

    Can I point out that it wasn’t Hamilton who was directly penalised, it was Mclaren, first for the breach in regulations, and then for multiple attempts to mislead the stewards.

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  • Cicero

    I think the whole penalty system need overhauling. If you look back to Schumacher days when it was blatant bias on very dangerous driving which went unchallenged. The Ferrari camp achieved some “interesting” decisions over the years also.
    Sometime, the ridiculous safety car fiasco has to be sorted out. Good racing becomes a farse and soul destroying for the drivers. Get your act together!

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  • Mav (author)

    Can I point out that it wasn’t Hamilton who was directly penalised, it was Mclaren, first for the breach in regulations, and then for multiple attempts to mislead the stewards.

    No, they were penalised for the breach in regulations. McLaren’s explanation was deemed inadequate.

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  • Vira

    If they are punishing the “Team,” then why does Button get almost no penalty for the same things? Also, when Button drove Hamilton off the track, they penalized Hamilton (even though the Mclaren team hurt themselves already).

    Last Season, Hamilton had 10 total penalties, where the highest of anyone else was 5. Even if you take away the “No Action” penalties, Hamilton still had 7! Even worse are the strange circumstances in which he gets penalized. The same thing could have happened to any other driver–and often has–but only when Hamilton does it do they care.

    Apparently the color of your skin is still a penalty in F1. Hamilton! Come to NASCAR! Where even the worst offenders (like, Kyle Busch) get fair penalties! We’d be glad to welcome the best driver in Formula 1 to our tracks!

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