McLaren’s mistake costs Hamilton too dearly


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Cast your mind back ten races ago to qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix.

In the dying minutes of the session, Lewis Hamilton sat in his garage, unable to return to the track as McLaren had not been able to get enough fuel in his car in time. It was a costly mistake which left him fourth on the grid instead of in contention for the front row.

In qualifying for this weekend’s race in Spain, McLaren not only repeated that mistake – but compounded it with another one. Having failed to put enough fuel in his car in time, McLaren then sent Hamilton onto the track.

It’s not clear whether the team member who failed to fill the car up properly alerted them before the car was released. But they certainly found out in time to tell Hamilton to stop the car while it still had enough fuel in it for the FIA to take the mandatory post-session sample.

In doing this McLaren failed to satisfy another part of the rule book: article 6.6.2 of the technical regulations, which states:

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.

For avoidance of doubt, “a practice session” includes the qualifying session. Note also that drivers may stop their car immediately after the race to ensure they have enough fuel in – as Sebastian Vettel did in Bahrain three weeks ago – but cannot do so in qualifying.

McLaren have no excuse for not being familiar with this rule – the second paragraph was inserted in the June 23rd 2010 update to the technical regulations, just over a week after Hamilton had been reprimanded for stopping on his way back to the pits after taking pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix.

Again, this was because he did not have enough fuel in the car – a mistake McLaren have now made at least once every season in the last three years.

When Hamilton came to a stop at Campsa, McLaren initially blamed an unspecified technical problem. But the radio message to him at the time – saying he was on pole position “for now” – was a clear sign they were concerned about their compliance with the rules and had worked out what the likely penalty would be.

A disproportionate punishment

Hamilton’s all-too-frequent encounters with the stewards were documented here last year. On this occasion he was not the one to blame.

According to the stewards, McLaren sporting director Sam Michael “stated that the car stopped on the circuit for reasons of force majeure”. They ruled that: “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 therefore found McLaren in breach of the technical regulations. The standard penalty for this is to be sent to the back of the grid, as happened to Sebastien Buemi at the Nurburgring last year.

McLaren made a mistake, their attempt to explain it away as “force majeure” was flimsy, and the stewards applied the rules as they are framed. But put in perspective it’s hard to view this penalty as anything other than completely disproportionate to the offence.

Hamilton was given the same penalty Michael Schumacher received at Monaco in 2006, when he deliberately parked his car on the track to prevent other drivers from beating his pole position time.

A calculated act of cheating such as that clearly deserved a harsh penalty to deter repeat offenders. Unlike that offence, McLaren’s error today was a careless oversight, as the stewards’ report makes clear.

The rules should allow for a distinction between a driver consciously deciding to break the rules in an unsporting way, and someone neglecting to put enough fuel in a car – the two infractions are a completely different order of magnitude.

There is no reason to expect that Hamilton’s car did not conform with the rules when he set his earlier lap times. The option to delete his final time, which was set after the botched refuelling attempt, would have been a proportional punishment for McLaren’s mistake.

Hamilton’s penalty has already provoked a strong reaction from readers. The root cause is two phenomenon we have become used to seeing: yet another blunder by McLaren in the pits, and a disproportionate response from the stewards.


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Image © McLaren/Hoch Zwei

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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163 comments on “McLaren’s mistake costs Hamilton too dearly”

  1. I think the main reason for the harshness of the penalty is that the rule Hamilton and McLaren broke was a technical, rather than a sporting one.

    Effectively Hamilton’s car failed scrutineering – the penalty for which is exclusion from the session.

    In addition to that I expect the Stewards took a dim view of McLaren’s attempt to pull the wool over everybody’s eyes – as Keith says in the article, McLaren had plenty of time to bring Lewis into the pits as they knew he was underfuelled, but chose to leave him on the track, knowing he’d be in violation of the rules. They then tried to explain it away with a flimsy appeal to “force majeure.” Nonetheless the main reason for the penalty will be the inflexible attitude to violations of the technical regulations.

    1. Just re-read the piece, ignore “as Keith says in the article” from my comment, because that’s not what he says! Though it is my view.

    2. but did the car fail scrutineering, or just break the rule that it should get there through it’s own power

      1. Technically it is the same thing.

    3. Ken (@myxomatosis)
      13th May 2012, 9:44

      The car did not fail scrutineering. They were able to collect the amount of fuel they needed for testing. The rule they broke was the one that states that the car should get back to the pits under its own power.

    4. It got me thinking: what was the correct course of action for McLaren? What is the correct course of action for any team in similar situation? Imagine that your driver has just completed the best lap in Q3. But you also realize that the mistake has been made. Someone in the team miscalculated the amount of fuel or made a mistake while refueling the car. You see there’s no way that the car can make it to the pits and still have the required fuel sample. What’s the best course of action?

      Safely stop the car on the track? It will result in disqualification.
      Make it to the pits but burn the fuel sample? Disqualification.

      What should you do? Maybe send a coded message to the driver, telling him to spin and stall the engine? And as much as it frightens me, I think it would be the best choice. Have a code word which tells the driver to spin and stop the car. The driver can’t simply start the engine again and drive away to the pits and you have the necessary sample.

      That’s what you have to resort to if you are facing a ridiculous regulation. When a small and really insignificant miscalculation can invalidate the whole session. I think that this rule needs to be revisited as soon as possible.

      1. The situation simply wouldn’t arise, because teams are aware of how much fuel is in the car at all times, and would have realised very quickly after Hamilton leaving the garage that he was underfuelled. The correct course of action would be to abandon the flying lap and pit the car instead.

      2. The action is simple to me … Why Hamilton didn’t destroy his gearbox ? It would have been a “force majeur” and I’m sure it’s easy to do for them. He would still have the fuel for the sample.

        Wonder if he would have received only the 5 places penalty for gearbox change or if they also look if the remaining fuel is enough to go back to the pit (not sure about that). There is a force majeur and there is one liter for analysis, you’re in the rule and face a much kinder penalty.

        1. I think destroying your own gearbox is a bit much, and I wouldn’t like teams doing things like that to escape punishment. Besides, they only have a certain amount of gearboxes per year.

          I saw a comment on James Allen’s website asking why he didn’t just keep driving, and James said the fuel sample tests are completely random, so it would have been a much better idea to take the risk of hoping there’d be no sample taken. But I suspect the FIA would always check to see if there was at least 1 litre, even if they didn’t test it.

          1. “I saw a comment on James Allen’s website asking why he didn’t just keep driving, and James said the fuel sample tests are completely random, so it would have been a much better idea to take the risk of hoping there’d be no sample taken.”

            But that would have been a deliberate attempt to cheat, rather than a foolish mistake.

            By stopping on the track Mclaren made sure that everyone was aware of what they had done.

          2. The problem is he couldn’t even reach the pit back, so they decided to stop with a liter left rather than with nothing left to show that they conform to the rules … But it doesn’t seem it makes any difference.

            I’m surprised nobody is mentioning sabotage yet, we already had spy affairs in previous years, why not some sabotage from Ferrari hearing than McLaren was very strong this year, could have been an option to have so much things going wrong around in McLaren

          3. @nigel1

            But that would have been a deliberate attempt to cheat, rather than a foolish mistake.

            Well, they lied about force majeure, so they did try to cheat a little. But that’s why this is a bad regulation. Stopping the car seems to be the best thing from the ethical standpoint, but this rule does not encourage honesty. The best choice for the team in my opinion would be the least ethical, as I said: spinning the car and stalling the engine, maybe driving into the gravel trap. After that, if I’m not mistaken, the driver wouldn’t be allowed to re-start the engine and drive the car to the pits, plus there would still be enough fuel in the tank.

      3. You realise you’ve made an error which results in disqualification and you cop it sweet.

    5. I totally agree. In this case the Stewards had no choice but to punish McLaren and Lewis just happens to be the driver in the car. Like this great article says, McLaren’s mistake is costing Lewis and I add Jenson. It’s good to hear Lewis say “we lose as a team and win as a team”. It kind makes me less upset in some way.

  2. Very good summary.
    a Q3 dq would have been the max punishment that would have been fair. Don’t really get this.
    They should change their mind imo. But they won’t be big enough to swallow their pride

    1. though the penalty is harsh n hamilton is not to be blamed.. i really hope this wound make Mclaren to stop such silly mistakes in future ..

    2. Nope! Even that sets the wrong precedent! Imagine drivers fighting for P8-10, who will then try to run on the bare minimum fuel to get them the extra tenths, knowing even if they fall short on fuel, the worst they’ll do is P10.
      I’m surprised why the teams just don’t build a little slot into the fueltank to hold onto ~1L when the rest runs out.

      1. Didn’t Honda do that and get in trouble for it or something?

        1. My mistake, just looked it up. It was BAR and it was because they were using fuel as balast

      2. Drop Valencia!
        13th May 2012, 12:30

        even if they did that,, lewis would’nt have made it back and been disqualified. They should have abandoned the flying lap.

  3. I agree the punishment was a bit OTT, but when that rule was put in place because of something mclaren and hamilton did in the past, I have no sympathy for the mclaren team, maybe a bit a bit for hamilton if it was a genuine mistake. As soon as he pulled over after setting that time I knew they were in trouble, and rightfully so.

    Just got to hope they can get something out of what can now only be described as a horrible weekend for mclaren

  4. Rules are rules and this particular rule is like Hamilton’s weaving on main straight in Malaysia. One year he got a warning and next time he got penalized. But I do agree annulling all his qualifying times is a harsh punishment – I guess they wanted to send a message underfueling cars won’t be tolerated anymore.

    1. This rule only came into effect after the 2010 Canadian qualifying blunder, so a warning pre-rule cannot be taken into account. The penalty, I agree is in keeping with the rules but very harsh for the driver.

  5. I must say the response to this is incredible. I don’t even think there were this many comments when the BBC sold out to Sky.

    Regarding the punishment, I can understand the decision, but I think that deletion of his fastest time would have been the correct choice. As far as I understand, a fuel sample was taken from the car and was legal, and the car was not underweight. Therefore, I see no reason why they couldn’t have said that he broke the rules on his final lap, therefore his final lap will be deleted. The fuel was sampled and there was nothing wrong with the fuel, he got back to the pits on his previous lap so that was clearly a legal lap.

    1. Wow, quite a shocker. Good article/take on it @keithcollantine. It is clear from these facts McLaren needed to be punished for this, esp. since the rule was changed when they last underfuelled Hamilton, but back of the grid seems really out of here harsh.

      Bit sad after that great lap too, how often have pit(wall) mistakes to cost them after a great drive by their driver. Disappointing. Sam Michael has his work cut out to sort the pit wall out, I think.

      Then again. MAL on pole position for the race, another Williams pole, this time with a good race result possible. And ALO on front row – are late ticket sales going through the roof in Spain? I sure hope so!

    2. I think Lewis is his own worst enemy, he is the reason this rule is in place because he has done this before..or rather the team has done this before..that being said every race so far this year a mclaren error seems to cost Lewis dearly..Perhaps a new team for 2013 season??!! Is there an underlying message!!

      1. I think Lewis is his own worst enemy.

        Except it wasn’t his fault in the least bit.

      2. What, really? How is Lewis his own worst enemy, not sure the drivers responsibilities now include fueling the car!

      3. let’s get one thing clear. Neither Canada 2010 or this incident had anything to do with Lewis himself

      4. how can he be his own worst enemy when a mistake he did not do on his own …more so committed by someone else on the pit garage results in a monstrous punishment for the driver?the stewards and Charley Whitting are just acting like robots who can not think beyond reasonable doubts and also they must show some human face in all this.
        a deletion of the lap time set during this under fuelling fiasco and perhaps a hefty financial fine on the team should have been spot on.

      5. Lewis is not the one that fuel’s the car. Take those blinkers off.

      6. @mosbourne1122

        I think Lewis is his own worst enemy, he is the reason this rule is in place because he has done this before..or rather the team has done this before..that being said every race so far this year a mclaren error seems to cost Lewis dearly..Perhaps a new team for 2013 season??!! Is there an underlying message!!

        No Hamilton hasn’t, the team have though and before it was not illegal. Not seeing your point at all.

  6. I think Hamilton’s punishment is perfectly fair.
    McLaren one of the oldest teams should know the rules by now, they would have known that the little fuel they would have put in the car would have been insufficient, so what they should have done is either put a bit more in or sent him out eariler, told him to be very conservative and then do one hot lap, thus having enough fuel to get back.
    I don’t see why people are complaining that it is always Hamilton that gets the penalties, it is quite frankly an error within the team and if they make a mistake it is their fault, they should not get sympathy. If they don’t agree with the rules then on their head be it. If it was a Force India who this happened to we would not have a half the comments about it being unfair because a lot of people probably would not care as much, but if Hamilton makes mistakes on his own accord it is his fault, if the team make mistakes or know they don’t have enough fuel it is their fault.
    It is correct that McLaren were punished because they would have known that by the end of the Hot Lap they did not have enough fuel and that is breaching a rule thus disqualification, and correct me if I’m wrong but did Sam Michael say it was force majeure, which he would have known was not the correct term in this cause, so I think trying the go for the angle of saying it was another issue also condemed a tad of lying which is also not good in this sport, Sam Michael has experience he should know what these terms mean and when it is correct to use them.
    Rules are rules no team should avoid them, people will say the FIA are leanient towards Ferrari, they are not, maybe it is just Ferrari don’t make mistakes like this or maybe Ferrari can make a better case, there is not point denying it McLaren were in the wrong and they knew they were.

    1. Wow..strong opinion..don’t you think though that under fueling should be a slightly softer penalty than changing gearbox or engine? At the end of the day I am an F1 fan and to see the fastest guy penalized and sent to the back of the grid can’t be doing F1 any favours..! Its just an opinion..!

      1. Changing a gearbox or an engine is more lenient, because it is not always the teams fault. Failing to uphold the rules, is a different matter whatsoever. It is harsh, but not unfair. Remember the case with Sauber’s disqualification at last year’s Australian GP…

    2. I don’t think anybody is denying the fact that an error cost McLaren, and rightly so, team must be punished. I would also go as far as to say that Sam Michaels frivolous claims should be considered when deciding severity oif the punishment. But what is questionable is the severity of the punishment in perspective to the eniteire F1 rulebook. Is this a greater offence than a gearbox change? which results ina 5 place drop. Is this a greater punishment for dangerous driving resulting in a drive through, because unless Lewis gets some divine intervention he will be way off the pace after just a few laps. The reason iit angers me isn’t because it’s Lewis, I would feel the same about most drivers, what angers me is the short sightedness of the steward and the rules in actuall detracting from the race and the season in part what may have been a great race. It just seems excessive and unfair on the paying (and yes most of us are now paying) F1 fans.

      1. But not everybody in the world pays for F1. But rules are rules you can’t go around putting a blind eye to them. I understand about gearbox penalties but I think that the reason they result in a grid drop is because they are common occurances, so if they were not common we may see people go to the back of the grid, if this happened more then a more leanient penalty may have been used, but as this has happened to them before and they pleaded force majeure when they knew it was not, they deserved the penalty.
        One question, will Hamilton have to start on his Q3 tyres?

        1. sazvele, I fully agree that a punishment was deserved. But I find it incredible how strongly you are supporting this draconian punishment. If the stewards had applied some discretion (maybe they aren’t allowed to) then deletion of his fastest time would seem fair, would it not?

          Did Sam Michael lie? Or did they initially think that there was a defect with the refuelling rig, only to later find out it was human error? And in either case, if McLaren had announced to the media that it was human error before they saw the stewards, the stewards wouldn’t have listened to their explanation, so it makes sense that they only told the whole story first to the stewards. The team cannot be criticised for only announcing to the media the headline reason they were intending to present to the stewards. (If you disagree, imagine this being a court case…the same process should be followed in order to obtain a fair hearing).

          Finally, just because gearbox failures are more frequent than refuelling errors, does that mean they deserve a lesser punishment? It is still a technical infringement which breaches a technical regulation. The important thing here is that the punishment must fit the infringement – as Keith points out in the article, was this really as bad as MSc trying to prevent any more flying laps in Monaco? Surely deletion of either his fastest time or a 5 place grid penalty (whichever is the greater punishment) would be a fair and proportionate response?

          And as a post-script – I am a huge McLaren and Hamilton fan, but this is not about the team or the driver, it’s about a fair response to a simple error and I would feel the same about any driver or team.

  7. I don’t think the stewards decision was entirely disproportionate to the mistake that Mclaren did. Remember, this is not the first time Mclaren has done this mistake (Canada 2010) and their attempt to explain it as “force majuere” was somehow reminiscent of their behavior in Australia 2009.

    Considering those two incidents in conjunction with what Mclaren did yesterday, it must be said that the stewards had to give the harshest penalty possible. I hope after this Mclaren will not make that mistake again.

    1. Should previous incidents really have an effect on the punishment of current ones, or should each incident be viewed on its own? I’m not sure, possible discussion point there.

    2. Ken (@myxomatosis)
      13th May 2012, 9:51

      “I hope after this Mclaren will not make that mistake again.”

      Should individual incidents be judged on their own merits or should previous incidents have an effect on the steward’s thinking?

      1. Ken and Jake,

        I think repeat offences definitely deserve a harsher penalty. Although the stewards have been inconsistent, I was more than happy when they did not penalize Hamilton at Malaysia 2010 and Canada 2010 but gave him only warnings.
        But if the warning was not punishment enough, then he should have been given a harsher penalty. And he was, in Malaysia 2011 and now Spain 2012.

        If you decide to not consider past offences, then it can open another can of worms. For example, “Hey, stewards gave only a warning to Hamilton in 2010, so why a penalty now?”.

        I do wish that stewards are more consistent though. For example, if Rosberg repeats his Bahrain tactics, he should be slapped a drive-through.

      2. We also have to consider that this may not be deliberate but a failure of a fuel mass measurement device(Sensor) can cause such an error.

        1. While true, I don’t think that matters much. Ultimately it’s up to the teams to make sure everything is okay and within the rules; if their equipment is faulty, that’s still their problem.

    3. Let’s get this clear: claiming force majuere is in no way reminiscent of lie-gate. Largely because there was no lying involved. A defence for an infringement doesn’t equate to a lie. It is an excuse for something which they admitted had happened. This would and should have no bearing on any punishment.

      Canada 2010 on the other hand is a related offence. Under normal circumstances it would and should perhaps have a bearing- but the rule was only introduced after that, and an event that happened before it was illegal shouldn’t have a bearing.

      1. Apart from the 1 litre of fuel rule, there is also a rule which states that the driver must make it back to the pits in a certain amount of time. That rule was in place at Canada 2010 as well as today. So, Hamilton is a repeat offender for that atleast.

  8. Very much agree. I’m starting to feel that the controversies off the track (Sky, Bahrian, inconsistancy from stewards) is undermining the enjoyment to had on the track. Very off-putting.

    I also wouldn’t be surprised if Lewis is thinking of heading elsewhere. Repeatedly building slow cars, then making mistakes uncharacteristic mistakes in races (this is supposed to be the ‘perfectionist’ team) must be leaving him cold. Part of me could see him at Williams, or at least the Williams of old.

    1. I think this contreversy is pushing Hamilton’s relationship with McLaren to the edge now as they have had lots of issues recently. If he does leave this what I imagine will happen:
      Red Bull
      Webber out Hamilton in. They will keep golden boy Vettel.
      Massa out Webber in. Massa is on borrowed time and Webber will help their constructors.
      Button stays, either Rosberg or DiResta in.
      Mercedes possibly Perez and Schumacher?
      Force India
      If Di Resta goes then may Heikki will move in alongside Hulkenburg.
      Just Hamilton moving and all the disruption it could cause.

    2. I really do wonder why F1 as a sport has this amazing capacity to bring up controversial decisions to make everyone wonder why they even follow the sport @splittimes

      1. I could not agree with you any more on this. F1 shouldn’t wait untill Lewis highlights(brings attention to) a flawed rules before they rewrite them. Start looking at all the other dumb rules now.

        1. Wooolfy, I can’t work out whether you’re being sarcastic – it doesn’t have to be Lewis who finds the flawed rules! Rosberg (imho) found one in Bahrain and I’m sure there are other examples, but I’ve only just woken up so can’t think of any!

          But I agree that the rules need looking at. The problem here is that if you allow the stewards some latitude in their application of the rules, you get inconsistency. And then we will complain about inconsistency (again).

      2. William Jones
        13th May 2012, 11:34

        Hehe, you think f1 is bad, try being a Mark Cavendish fan ;)

  9. xeroxpt (@)
    13th May 2012, 9:36

    I agree with the penalty, there is nothing more disrespectful than running lighter than everyone else that is a 70’s 80’s theme. Shame that Hamilton would make have made pole anyway, but obviously Mclaren didnt found that away cause they underfueled him, the problem aint the quantity but the fact that Mclaren tried to pull a leg on FIA, I would consider strongly the history between Mclaren and the FIA, Ron Dennis has more to do with it than Hamilton.

    Just one question does the provisional result stand for the predictions championship? and what about the betting Crofty said the odds were pretty sweet for Maldonado.

    1. I know that Maldonado is on pole regarding the predictions championship. Not sure about betting though, I would assume he’s on pole for that too.

      1. That’s what I thought. If I had made a bet on Hamilton would I have to give my winnings back as Maldonado is on pole.
        What I imagine would happen is, the bookies are told they can’t pay out until an issue is resolved, then people who putted money on Maldonado aren’t robbed and the Hamilton betters don’t steal.

        1. I collected winnings on HAM, no one has asked for it back yet

    2. Well, @ukfanatic, HAM was well enough faster that that wasn’t the bit of fuel I think.

      No, McLaren also ruined my HAM on pole prediction. Wonder how many put MAL there!

    3. I would think it would depend on the wording, Hamilton was fastest in quali 3 but Maldonado is on pole position for the race!

    4. Strange they have rules for these things, when the paying F1 fans turn up for qualifying and only 8 cars take part in the final session..rather than worry about these silly rules may be the powers will look upon this as it seems qualifying is more and more about saving tires..Pirelli have become the most important part of F1 recently..all everyone focuses on is tyres..very sad!!

  10. Agree 100% that this was a team **** up and Hamilton fully deserved pole.

    However, all the Hamilton fanboys with very short memories need to think back to last season. How many points did Hamilton throw away for himself and the team because of ‘personal problems’?

    Mistakes happen, and Lewis and his fans should realise this more than anyone! Mind you, Lewis is by far and away the highest paid on the team, so you could argue that its less acceptable from him.

    Anyway, you know what they say about people who live in glass houses…

  11. The punishment was made because the car was illegal. When the car is illegal the punishment is disqualification not a 5 place grid penalty. Whereas when a driver makes an illegal move the punishment, however unethical, punishments are far less severe.

    You have to feel for Hamilton, but I’m sure this would be case no matter who the team-driver combination is.

    1. the car was not illegal. car met the minimum weight of 620 kg and even enough sample fuel was found.mistake was the car failing to make it to pits under its own power after stopping deliberately on track..because team radioed DRIVER TO STOP.

      1. The car was legal, but if it had reached the pit, it wouldn’t have been legal. It was a sensible choice in my opinion, Mclaren cheated, willingly or not.
        Now they have to clarify what happens if you do that in the race. It’s getting quite ridicolous, actually. In the last race four drivers stopped before reaching the pits.

        1. Drop Valencia!
          13th May 2012, 12:38

          It’s no problem in the race, because you don’t have a situation of cars still flying after the chequered flag, in qualy and practice you do.

    2. William Jones
      13th May 2012, 11:37

      The car wasn’t illegal, it’s just that if he had returned to the pits, they wouldn’t have been able to test if the car was illegal or not.

  12. If McLaren keeps this up, Hamilton will have another year littered with errors and frustration, only this time the mistakes will be blamed to the team. It’s not like this a recent turn of events, ever since Hamilton got into F1, his path is filled with errors, some made by him but most made by his team. Like in 2007 in the Chinese GP where they kept him so long from doing a pitstop that he got stuck b/c of such worn tires, throwing away essentially the championship. Or how about 2009 with liegate? And I could go and on.
    It’s general problem running through the team structure; they need to make internal changes, hell even fire people to make a statement to the others: “we cannot tolerate huge errors”.

    1. Right, so I guess 2011 was the team’s fault!

      China 2007 – how is that the teams fault? Does Hamilton not have enough brains in his head to decide when he should and shouldn’t come in for tyres? It’s time people started to realise that the drivers are also responsible for the strategy and pit stop timings, after all, they are the ones driving the cars, they should know better than anyone when they need to pit. And besides, even if the tyres were shot, Hamilton should have taken it a little bit easier coming into the pits. It wasn’t the team who parked the car in the worlds smallest gravel trap, it was Hamilton.

      Time he started to grow up and make his own damn decisions.

      That being said, I believe the penalty was fair considering their previous offences, however I fully believe Hamilton should be on pole – spectacular lap!

      Let’s all remember how many points Hamilton has cost the team over the years due to silly driving and ‘personal problems’!

      People are quick to bash McLaren and tell the works Lewis does everything for them and they do nothing for him but stuff him up and give him nothing, but I dissagree.

      Here’s a list of what Mclaren has given Hamilton;

      1. Paid for him to come up through the ranks since he was a child
      2. Put him straight into a championship winning car in his F1 debut
      3. £15m per year!
      4. With the exception of 2009, a car capable of winning the WDC EVERY YEAR!
      5. Nothing but support and constant defence of him and his tactics even after he slags them off

      Here’s a list of what Hamilton has given Mclaren;

      1. 1 x WDC
      2. Constant slaggings
      3. Threats to leave
      4. Repair bills up the wazzo from all the broken cars

      So yes, the team have made a few mistakes this year that have cost themselves and both drivers points, but lets not forget what they say about people who live in glass houses…

  13. Stupid mistake by McLaren that has well and truly shafted Lewis. It appears that the team are working against him this season. This may cost them when he considers his options for next year.

    The penalty is difficult to understand especially for the casual watcher of the sport.

    Expect to see a comeback race and maybe he may get as high as 8th. IfI stays

    1. If it stays dry. Stupid phone!

      1. @ginger watching GP2 at the moment and it definately doesn’t look like rain is in the air. Plenty of time yet though

  14. Thanks Keith, the most measured commentary I have read from you in the past years. Keep it up.

    I think what contributed to the harsh measure was the fact that Mr. Hamilton was reprimanded by Charlie Whiting for the Bahrain incident with Rosberg.
    If the team had allowed him to “coast” back with less fuel on board for specimen, then they could have gotten a 5-place penalty but once again as they did in Aussie with Davie at the helm of affairs then, they decided to fool the Stewards by claiming force mageure which was reckless IMHO and Sending the new Race director there instead of Martin Whiplash himself was idiotic to say the least. Like always Hamilton has promised to fight from the back. So looking forward to a good race today even if is by default :-(

    Just my 2cents

  15. The rules should allow for a distinction between a driver consciously deciding to break the rules in an unsporting way, and someone neglecting to put enough fuel in a car – the two infractions are a completely different order of magnitude.

    I do agree, but the fact that McLaren must have known (should have known, at any rate) that he was too low on fuel before he started his flying lap, looks like a cheating attempt on McLaren’s part. Even if it had been a fault in the fueling system and not a human error, they should have pulled him in the moment they realised he was low on fuel.

    1. That seems to be about it @adrianmorse. A car that’s not according to regulations in the past could have been the fan car, or an attempt to put an outer chassis on to be able to get the inner bits close to the track. In this case I don’t think they were trying to cheat, certainly HAM not, but the team should have told him to come in when it became clear, and it should have been clear before the end of that fast lap, I’d think.

  16. I don’t feel this penalty is too harsh compared to Schumacher’s in Monaco 2006. For me, that was too lenient and he should have been excluded from the race.
    McLaren’s punishment is fair if Toro Rosso’s was acceptable in Germany 2011.

  17. William Brierty
    13th May 2012, 9:40

    McLaren have made so many mistakes based on human error since Ron Dennis stepped down. For me Martin Whitmarsh is the issue and I doubt he will survive the winter if McLaren don’t win both the WDC and the WCC, because it is clear to me that the excellent McLaren technical team has delivered a truly stunning car, but between Hamilton’s clutch software glinch in Australia, dropping their cars into traffic, engineer errors, strategy errors and of course the four pitstop errors. Lewis is undeniably the favourite for the title, but is Lewis going to win if the mistakes continue? OK, we’re are early in the season and yes, McLaren has cost Lewis a chance at victory, but there’s always Monaco I here you say. Remember what happened last year? Lewis had the pace for pole position, and pole at Monaco generally leads to a win, but they didn’t put a banker lap in the bag and he qualified 9th – utterly criminal. Red Bull do not make mistakes like that, so if Lewis does not become champion this season, he will go to Red Bull alongside Vettel.

    1. and what about Sam Michael, last season at williams: their worst for years. This year at Mclaren: a litter of uncharacteristic mistakes hamstringing the team.

      1. The most overrated man in the sport. Poor judgement by Whitmarsh for bringing in a man who took Williams from championship contenders to backmarkers. A complete joke.

  18. Ken (@myxomatosis)
    13th May 2012, 9:41

    Is the penalty for breaking the “drive back under own power” rule specified anywhere in the regulations? Going through the hundreds of comments yesterday there seemed to be a consensus that the penalty is disqualification from the session.

    Now, and this is the main issue to me, how do the regulations define the word “session”? Is it the entire qualifying or the individual qualifying sessions Q1/Q2/Q3. The natural (at least to me) interpretation of the word session there in Hamilton’s case would be Q3. So they would have scrapped his Q3 times since the infraction was committed in the Q3 session. But it appears that the interpretation of the rules here is up to the steward’s discretion since there is no delineation. Very shaky ground here, very shaky.

    Yes I agree that a penalty should have been incurred, no question but I also feel that it was grossly disproportionate. Hamilton himself did not know about the fuel levels. The team did not set out to cheat (the man at the fuel pump had set it to drain the tank and realised belatedly and as a consequence did not put in the appropriate amount.)

    Also, for those arguing that the stewards were this severe because the team lied are assuming here that they lied to the stewards. Whitmarsh lied to a reporter (if I’m correct) but there is no regulation that states that teams have to tell the press the truth. Their defence was flimsy (the force majeure angle) and thus they were penalised.

    I’d like to see Hamilton throw off the shackles and carve through the field but with these tires I don’t think it is possible sadly. Still, congratulations to Maldonado, a pleasant surprise.

    1. Agree with a lot of this. I would say that McLaren’s argument of “force majeure” was not a lie, it was an argument, such as one would make in court. It can be accepted or not without prejudice. Had McLaren claimed something other than that the car was low on fuel it would have been an attempt at deception, which would indeed merit harsh punishment (of the team at least – witness 2007 where the fine and loss of points applied to the constructor). But to say that it was fuel, but that it should be considered force majeure, is merely a weak argument.
      It may all be a problem with the rules allowing insufficient flexibility on the part of the stewards with regard to punishment, as opposed to inflexibility with regard to interpretation. What’s important is to be able to differentiate between offences, and also for a punishment to be equal for everyone. If you are sent to the back of the grid then the punishment differs depending upon where you were to start with. A drop of five places or exclusion from that qualifying session would mean the punishment was more similar for different drivers, but it sounds as though that flexibility is not there for the stewards.
      Some people have remarked that repeat offences should be punished more harshly, and I’m inclined to agree, but only where there is a lesson that can be learned. I think that applies to more conscious offences – attempts to cheat or to drive recklessly, for instance. For honest mistakes, however stupid, it doesn’t seem so right. But having said all that, if this is how the rule was applied to Buemi (I forget the details of that) then there is at least consistency.
      When all’s said and done I feel for Lewis but I am happy for Pastor. He is one of those drivers who seems to have made his share of mistakes early on through trying to find the limits, which earned him criticism but actually spoke of his determination and focus, and who is now coming good. Still making some mistakes, and he’s not yet wiped the slate clean for Spa as far as I’m concerned, but I’m just hoping he has a clean race and doesn’t get swamped heading off the line

  19. I totally agree.

    What’s more, I know a drivers forms part of a team as much as a team principal or a mechanic, but as we have distinctive drivers’ and constructors’ championship I think it would be useful to distinguish between a driver error and a constructor error. I always found it harsh anyhow to penalise the driver for a constructor error, such as this, or Kimi having been repeatedly sent back to the wrong end of the grid for engine failures in 2005. I think McLaren not getting any constructor points for the driver’s result would be a more appropriate penalty.

    On a side note, out of context and just out of curiousity, @keithcollantine, I always thought the Schumacher-gate in Monaco was an assumption. Did anything, e. g. telemetrics, ever prove he parked his car deliberately?

    1. Ken (@myxomatosis)
      13th May 2012, 10:02

      but as we have distinctive drivers’ and constructors’ championship I think it would be useful to distinguish between a driver error and a constructor error

      This is a very good point and something you rarely see discussed.

  20. Perfect article Keith and nicely summed up in the last sentence. Formula 1 is being ruined by penalty decisions. We got to witness a driver that set a phenomenal lap time and entertained the audience while two others just trundled round doing sectors.

    I’m not saying HAM shouldn’t get punished and have posted my opinion in the previous article but the response from the stewards is not ruining just races, but could ultimately ruin the championship.

    1. How can you say that!
      Ruining races because of the stewards, NO NO NO NO! It is McLaren doing that themselves, they are asking for penalities, if they are breaching rules they should be punished, if it is ruining their championship, tough, they should think before they act.

      1. I don’t think anyone is questioning the fact that they should be punished; they’re questioning the severity of the punishment.

  21. yep they knew the rules because they happened to be the ones that had done it all before.
    i cant stand it when people blame the driver when he had nothing to do with the amount of fuel put in.
    shame as it has just blown my score clean out the window, bugger.
    well we might get to see another winner this race, go Maldonado.
    that cagey old fox Alonso has a spring in his step now.

  22. Now I know that yesterday I wrote that I wouldnt even really mind a penalty for Hamilton giving Maldonado pole, but this …

    Why not just take away Hamiltons’ laptime that was affected, leaving him with the time set at the start of Q3. Or giving a few places grid penalty. Instead he starts at the back with hardly any fresh tyres left.

    What a mess up by McLaren and another unfathomably unjust application of the rules. F1 badly needs stewarding that not only look at the rules and the pictures/footage and telemetry but also applies reason, like a judge would.

    Now I would really fancy a pole to flag victory from Maldonado though, and Hamilon making it on the podium anyhow!

  23. FIA is one big old joke.

  24. I do not understand one thing (kindly explain me).

    When Lewis stopped on his in-lap in Canada 2010, the technical regulations were made:

    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.

    So then why similar rules were not written for races as well when we have seen many such incidents in races as well? (probably because Hamilton was not one of them?).

    For my short memory, it was

    Felipe Massa – Spain 2009
    Mark Webber – Australia 2011
    Fernando Alonso – Germany 2011
    Jenson Button – Japan 2011
    Sebastian Vettel, Felipe Massa and others – Bahrain 2012

    Is this a coincidence that Lewis Hamilton is always at the receiving end and rules are only made after he infringes one?

    1. I think it is accepted that to judge the fuel over race distance is considerably more challenging than over a qualifying stint. Many factors can come into play during a race which may increase or decrease fuel consumption. If you get it very wrong you are basically not going to finish the race, or have to slow to an uncompetitive pace.

      Therefore I think it is unlikely that a rule like this for races would be enforced.

      It is interesting to consider though… What happens to a driver if they finish the race and stop immediately, and only have 1/2 litre of fuel on board?

      1. Thanks for that, that’s a good point

        1. perhaps some clever engineer will come up with a design of a fuel cell that will at all times never be empty completely eg always have a reserve of lets say 2 to four litres in the fuel cell regardless of all activities during a typical race weekend..only emptied during transportation to next races for fire safety protection.

  25. I keep seeing that Mclaren and Hamilton did this or that.
    This was purely Mclaren, they had only one car to attend to, how can you excuse this kind of error.
    Mclaren also goes unpunished while the driver who played no part is the one to get punished.

    In my opinion, the only reason Hamilton is singled out for the harshest of punishment for the very minor infractions, is simply because he is black.
    This is thier way of aying he isn’t needed in the sport.

    Regarding Withmarsh, Latham and Micheal, lets see what creative self distructive actions they can contort.
    Perhaps next race we will see Mclaren practise fuelling the car at every opportunity before the race only for the FIA to discover aviation fuel in Lewis’ car or a V12 engine.

    I await Withmarsh’s long rambling speech about the fact that Mclaren is made up highly focused and dedicated individuals who make the sacrifice to see the team make a wonderful leap in performance.

    1. I DISAGREE with your assertions about Hamiltons problems being due to “driving an F1car while black”
      even though the convergence and frequency of harsh penalties leaves a bad taste in the mouth …the shear number of responses on this issue is good retrospect if FIA was a government it would have been voted out many times before.

    2. Hamilton is singled out for the harshest of punishment for the very minor infractions

      Complete rubbish, as this article last year proved:

      Five years, over 35 incidents: Has Hamilton been treated fairly?

      because he is black.

      That’s a disgraceful claim to make with no good reason. You don’t even specify who you think is culpable of this alleged racism, which is downright cowardly.

    3. Your racism allegations are extremely strong and, I believe, completely unfounded. To my knowledge, the only racism problems the public are aware of regarding Hamilton are from a small group of people in Barcelona in 2008.
      Your comments smack of reverse discrimination; i.e. it is you that is pointing out that there must be more to this story because of Hamilton’s ethnicity.
      You should go away and have a long hard think about this.

      1. I arrived at that conclusion after eliminating every other possibility why a single driver generates so much comments repeatedly. Hamilton is a novelty in F1 purely because he is back. That is why all his actions are in the spotlight.
        If you want to bury your head in the sad feel free, but I will stand by my opinion if it is only your opinion you use as a conter argument.

        1. You are presuming that the FIA behaves as you do: that when dealing with Lewis, foremost in their considerations is his ethnicity.
          I challenge that you don’t see an F1 driver, you see a black F1 driver. This is something you should have at least gotten over after his first season in the sport.

    4. I can’t believe you just said that. Seriously? That’s disgusting.

      The only time I’ve ever heard anything to do with Hamilton’s race was when he brought it up himself.

  26. Do you really believe that McLaren were unable to put enough fuel in the car due to major force problems?

    Wake up, guys! They’re Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and they are capable of everything. Countless episodes in the last six seasons and they still cheat whenever they want. I am glad they were fairly punished this time.

  27. Another great article, Keith, thanks. Here’s my take:
    Let’s face it, McLaren did deserve a penalty. There were three mistakes they made, each of which would have prevented this from happening:
    1) Refueling properly in the first place – seemingly easier said than done in McLaren’s case.
    2) Once the mechanic realised he had drained fuel out instead of adding more fuel, the team should have taken the time to ensure he had the correct level of fuel before he was released from the garage for his final run.
    3) Once they had realised Hamilton had been realised with insufficient fuel to complete the three laps, the team should have told Hamilton to abort his fast lap and come into the pits immediately. He would then have started sixth (according to the BBC).
    The fact that McLaren did not take action on points 2 and 3 is an example of their slowness to respond to certain events, and perhaps shows that noone on the pitwall has a fine enough knowledge of the regulations. Certainly they do not have good enough contingency plans for such events. They simply couldn’t not be penalised, or the stewards would set a precedent for everyone to underfuel without penalty in the future.

    However, on the flip side, Hamilton had no obligation to go out again. He had already completed a run and returned to the pits under his own power, presumably with at least 1kg of fuel remaining, though it appears that noone ever checks this. To my interpretation (though there may be a wider view which is not conveyed by the single article, and I am no lawyer), article 6.6.2 does not state what penalty should be applied, nor does it convey the message that the car has, in essence, failed scrutineering if it fails to return to the pits under these circumstances. The penalty applied seems unnecessarily harsh, and Keith has covered this aspect better than I ever will. To casual fans, this penalty, amongst many others, seems illogical and unfair, and I think it’s a shame that F1 continues to push fans away with such decisions.

    It’s a good thing Bernie believes that “all publicity is good publicity”, else he’d have had some sleepless nights recently!

    1. I agree! I wonder though if this should not be the kind of penalty to the team rather than the driver. It should have been something like dq from Q3 and reprimend/fine to the team. I think the team share more responsability in this than the driver, be he is the only one one the receiving end.

      1. It would be good for the fans, of course, if the penalty was only applied to the team and not Lewis. However, I think it’s only fair that the penalty is applied to everyone on that side of the garage, as F1 is very much a team sport. Otherwise you would be able to argue the other way, that any time Lewis has crashed, the team should be able to keep the constructors points they would have gained had he continued racing until the finish line, and think about how many arguments that would cause!

      2. I am an “old girl” and an avid fan of Formula 1 but the penalty dished out to Lewis is an absolute miscarriage of Justice. Of course this is all to the benefit of Ferrari and Alonso what a surprise and of course if it had been Vettel there would have been no punishment. He will gain an advantage from this as well. Lewis actually did nothing wrong and the penalty is far too severe. Ther are many fans who will be no longer watching this if certain drivers are always favoured. Trish

  28. F1 is governed, watched and reported on by predominately white men, as long everyone looks the other way, as faceless steward hide behind their interpretations of rules, then this will continue . I’ve been watching the espn 30-30 series, that has highlighted issues of race in sport, and there are always people who regret that they let it happen and didn’t speak out . There is a big elephant in the room and attempting to justify whats happening by interpretations of rules is allowing this to continue. F1 today is aligned to bunch of spanish F1 fans that dressed up as “Hamiltion family”, I hope its proud. Sadly I think its not bothered. Oh shoot, did I play the race card, I suppose I’m not allowed to do that am I.

    1. Don’t make any reference to race, some people will tell you to go and think abut your life.

  29. its time F1 televised those stewards making those very decisions that impact on the sport so that we can see the rationale behind each penalty.
    perhaps that we can all then ..then what? jeez am just too upset.

  30. guys
    which was the worst mistake,
    1)under fuelling itself?
    2)failling to drive back to pits?
    3) or ensuring that there was enough fuel for sampling in car as per needless rules?

    1. Settle down spidey.. The team messed up, the damage is done.
      First time slap on the wrist, second time back of the grid!

  31. I am starting to wonder about the management inside McLaren. Sam Michael was recruited for operations after the position being vacant for some time. What changed in the team? There are way too many mistakes for a team like McLaren. Things are getting worse all over the place. The drivers should feel gutted!!
    Not sure it is Whitmarsh fault, he was there before, but please Ron Dennis come back and have a word with the team!

  32. Although in this instance the fault lies completely with Mclaren and the stewards hands are tied regarding the rules and application of penalties, as a Hamilton fan, I must say that last year especially but also say at Spa in 2008 I really have wondered if there isn’t some great global conspiracy to hobble Lewis, especially in the incidents with Massa whom I personally think still resents Hamilton for 2008 and in general seems to have a defend or crash mentality when racing anyone particularly Hamilton.

    I don’t believe it is racism behind this as Lewis being young, black and dare I say it handsome / cool (how old do I sound?) is probably the best thing to happen to F1 inc. and Mclaren in particular since colour TV. The problem I believe is the post Senna / Schumacher backlash of F1 being determined to prevent a driver becoming bigger than the sport due to their talent and success, coupled with anachronistic stewarding procedures and also resentment from some fellow drivers towards Lewis’ ability willingness to pull off overtakes and performances that many drivers literally don’t have the talent to achieve.

    The good thing is I think perhaps due to Didier Coton’s influence, Lewis seems to be building a wiser more considered response to some of the setbacks that he is encountering, I think this race will be a true test of his new found composure, good luck to him.

    1. while i partly agree with some of your points here..
      i think the problem with Hamilton is somewhat compounded by the seemingly inevitable fact that most of the grid drivers are either resentful of Hamilton or they behave as if they are under orders to stop Hamilton at costs.
      good example is you will often here on team radio..messages coming from pit wall telling drivers where Hamilton is positioned on track the coded message to massa by smedly which resulted in massa moving heaven and earth to stop Hamilton overtaking him.. .recently cant remember which year but maybe 2009 or 2010..
      and even when he makes a move..a collision results in him being judged the aggressor.
      so it becomes a catch 22 situation forcing this talented man to make daring moves just to achieve a reasonable result.

  33. I agree completely with the ruling, they broke the rules and thus have to suffer the penalty!
    The only query I have is, they were saying that an extra liter or two a lap costs a few tenths of a second, if Hamilton had had the extra fuel on board to be able to get back to the pits with the 1 liter required, would he have still beaten Maldonado’s time or not? It would have been very very close I think! I know it doesn’t really matter because Pastor is on pole now and Lewis is at the back! But still, makes you wonder doesn’t it? Or just me? :)

    1. He would have easily still beaten Maldonado’s time.

      1. I don’t think it would have been easily!

        1. It depends what you consider easy to be.
          He would have still been a 10th or so faster than Maldonado.
          Which in F1 terms is easy….

      2. No. In fact Maldonado put his lap time against the wind in Q3 unlike Q2, so he could have easily crept into the 1:21’s…

  34. I think another issue this brings up is the way that penalties adversely affect the race for us the spectators, and for the drivers themselves.

    I agree with the general consensus that this is an unreasonably harsh use of the rules from Hamilton’s perspective; despite also agreeing that the team did deserve to be punished.

    Putting Hamilton in 10th, or rolling back his last time would have been solved the problem and kept the race order much closer to where it should be to keep the race on track, not to mention the championship.

    Similarly we’ve had gearbox penalties applied this year where it seems the driver is the only one penalised. Giving a driver a 5 place grid penalty because his gearbox needs replacing is akin to spanking a child for the parents’ misdemeanours. Surely it would be smarter in these cases to allow the driver to do his job, and have the team be penalised in the constructors championship.

    Obviously, if a driver does something wrong then by all means punish them.
    But if the team is at fault, why ruin all the drivers hard work?

  35. 100% agree with the article. If anyone fails to complete an inlap in future due to fuel then they must be put to the back if not it would be a disgrace.

    I had a feeling the stewards would jump on Hamilton last weekend for overtaking last time out off track. Many times in football a ref refuses a clear penalty only to give a soft one later after feeling he got the 1st one wrong.

    I am shocked they did not just disqualify his lap on that run. As a Ferrari fan I am happy of course but can appreciate the punishment is ott.

  36. 5 grid places, lets keep this in proportion

  37. I’m just comparing this to the Ferrari Team Orders in Hockenhiem 2010.

    Ferrari deliberately broke the rules to give an unfair advantage to Alonso, and Alonso kept the win and received no penalty. and the rules were then changed to make it legal.

    McLaren made a mistake with the refuelling rig and Hamliton was then a couple of litres short of making it back (and by all accounts it wouldn’t have changed the position where he qualified) he was been excluded from qualifying and has effectively been docked 23 places for the race.

    To in informed fan (and I’m sure many uninformed fans) this seems completely disproportionate.

    1. They are two completely different issues, for one, the Ferrari issue was in a race and this one is in a qualifying. So hard to compare really.
      McLaren knew the rules, hell them stopping in Canada 2010 made F1 bring in the rule in the first place.

      1. Yes they are different issues.

        My comparison was that Alonso gained one place by Ferrari breaking the rules while Hamilton lost 23 places for McLaren breaking the rules. I was highlighting the disparage between the two punishments.

        May I add Ferrari knew the rules, they did the same thing (deliberately) in Austria 2002, which brought the rule into being. At the end of the day all the teams should know the rules so that is a null point

  38. comparing this to Schumacher deliberately stopping on track and obstructing other competitors, is criminal. Lewis was asked to stop by his team after everyone had set a time. Schumacher blocked the track so no one could set a time.
    There can be no way to relate the two in coming out wirh a penalty.

    1. I know they are two very different incidents, but the comparison Keith made was based on the fact they carried the same penalty, and therefore are seen as having the same severity.

  39. Gaston (@golarrazabal)
    13th May 2012, 11:03

    Initially, I thought that the penalty was too harsh, but after giving it some thought, I actually think it’s fair. Here’s my two cents:

    1) As @adrianmorse mentioned, McLaren must have quickly realized that they had sent out an underfueled car. However, they still allowed Hamilton to do a flying lap and then instructed him to stop, knowing in advance that this resulted in a breach of the rules. And then, Sam Michael’s claims that the car stopped due to a ‘force majeure’, while not outright cheating, are definitely misleading.

    2) Had the infringement not been punished severely, I believe it would have opened an exploitable loophole in the rules. Let’s imagine, for example, than instead of being sent to the back of the grid, Hamilton would have been sent back only to P10. This sets a precedent. Now, say that in the future, you are in P7 towards the end of Q3. You send out an underfueled car, improve your position, and then stop the car in such a way that it doesn’t look like deliberate cheating. You claim this ‘force majeure’ thing. If the stewards believe you, you keep your unfairly improved position. If they don’t buy it, you are only demoted to P10, which isn’t bad at all considering you were originally at P7. In Hamilton’s case, the penalty seems too harsh because it was an [apparently] honest mistake, but where do you draw the line between an honest mistake and outright cheating?

    I feel that, in a way, this punishment was handed out as to show other teams that no fooling around with the fuel rule will be tolerated. Unfortunate for McLaren? Yes. But rules are rules, and if we know something about F1 it’s that teams are always looking for ways to exploit them for their own benefit.

    1. Do you feel the penalty would have been less harsh if Mclaren had come out straight away and said what happened. MW going straight to the stewards before being asked?

      As it is the impression is it took hours for them to admit this when they would have known straight away. This may have angered the stewards into throwing the book at them.

  40. i think it was a definite penalty situation, but he should have been dropped to the back of the top 10, not the back of the grid.
    i dont think hamilton should leave mclaren for this mistake, and his fans are starting to hate his team, but dont forget how many points he has cost the team in the past because of his errors, errors that led to him losing a world championship in 2010, and arguably not playing a team game lost them the 2007 world drivers championship.
    its funny he knew he was going to get penalised (see the mclaren crew man whisper in his ear after setting pole), so he put on a extra charmful talk in post qualifying press conference, even congratulating in an over the top manner Alonso.

    1. By not playing a team game, you mean being subserviant to Alonso despite being in the lead? I would ask you to compare how many points he has earned them proportional to how many he has cost them (e.g. Turkey 2010, China 2011 where they lost him positions in the pits and he came back to win the race).

  41. No point blaming the stewards for enforcing the rules. This was McLaren’s fault, even if it was an error rather than deliberately underfuelling the car. However, trying to claim force majeure rather than admitting they screwed up was stupid, and wouldn’t have helped their cause.

    F1 is full of technical rules which are created to solve one problem but which create another; it goes with the territory for such a technical sport. Yes, it is harsh for Hamilton, but it was a basic and easily avoidable mistake from McLaren so they have no-one to blame but themselves.

    1. how come there is no appeal mechanism in this instance.? why cant the driver himself appeal the penalty so that team is punished but he keeps his position?

      1. What’s to appeal? It’s completely open-and-shut. Car was underfuelled. The driver is part of the team, so he suffers the consequences of a team mistake. Just as the team suffers whenever Hamilton is penalised for crashing into Massa.

  42. It’s pathetic and typical of the FIA. They could have simply moved him back to last in the session, which would have been 10th, or even more logically, they could have just deleted his final time, which would have put him 5th after the first run.

    It’s baffling why they are always so harsh on Hamilton, you can fully understand now why Lewis always feels the stewards have it in for him. Wouldn’t surprise me if Lewis leaves F1 before long.

    1. You have to stick to protocol. The FIA can’t just give a decision for the heck of it. It is stated in the rules that the only punishment that can be given is “all times deleted.”

  43. my brilliant idea…
    next FOTA meeting..let them suggest rules such that FIA takes charge of fueling and also all cars must have a fuel gauge sensor mechanism to help the driver apportion the blame all round if fuel falls short.
    ..just my three cents please

  44. It will be very interesting to see Hamilton’s body language and the way he interacts with the team today. Things may be a bit frosty between them.

    1. Hamilton should stop always trying to praise the team every time he speaks..he should be like Alonzo who never stops to criticize when his team makes a mistake… i usually hate it when i hear Hamilton usual line ..blah blah blah team this team did that…and yet we all know they are somewhat screwing him by making disastrous mistakes.

  45. Even though I don’t like Mclaren & Escpecially Hamilton, I think this is a bit harsh – after all it was his teams fault and not his.
    Gives a good opportunity to Maldonado though..

  46. I think the article points out correctly the team has absolutely no excuse to not have been on top of this. I don’t have a habit of saying “I told you so,” but I absoutely expected this to become an problem when I watched qualifying yesterday.

    The penalty can be seen as harsh, in my opinion, too, however, the obvious intent behind Article 6.6.2 is to not have teams put in fuel for, say, two laps instead of three and then stopping the car on the track just after having scored a time. As it’s common knowledge that less fuel in the car, causing less weight, can make the car go quicker, one could, thus, achieve an advantage over the competition.

    In my opinion, they do have to clamp down hard on this kind of behaviour, because not doing it would encourage the teams to pursue this tactic. It’s obvious that the current qualifying rules provide an incentive to run as small amounts of fuel as you can manage, but as the rules obviously state running little enough to have to stop on the in-lap is considered “not enough”.

    I feel I can understand the seriousness of the penalty when I consider that the “alternative” to stopping the car on the track could well have meant not being able to provide the one liter fuel sample after the session. That would mean the car’s fuel used during the qualifying session could not be examined directly, which would mean the competitor was in violation of the Technical Regulations (which would make fecal matter hit ventilators).

    What I find specifically interesting here is that the Stewards’ decision does not state that this was the case. The infraction they acted upon was that the team had the car stop on the track for a cause that was not deemed “force majeure” (which would be correct, unless an unforseeable technical error would have caused fuel loss, or unnaturally high fuel consumption). So I do think it sends a good message to the teams, in that stopping on track in order to ensure a fuel sample can still be given cannot be considered an option. They all have to make sure they got their numbers right the next time.

  47. I think that the penalty was fair if it was construed as an attempt to cheat or subvert the rules regarding minimum fuel in the tank. Yet, I also feel that a 10 or 15 place penalty would have sufficed in this case with a warning against any future repeat by any of the teams drivers.

    There have been arguments against the penalty on the grounds that in light of some recent offenses and subsequent penalties that there is an imbalance between offence and penalty. I agree with that. Some incidents that did not deserve a penalty, were heavily penalized while some incidents were not. The penalties really need to be looked at and standardized.

  48. You talk about harsh penalties? What about the penalty given to Christijan Albers at Shanghat six years ago for missing a weight check during quali? He was sent to the back as well. And anyway Hamilton has not always been on the wrong end of the stick. Many of his demeanours in 2010(my mind goes back to Hamilton’s pass on Maylander at Valencia) which were dealt utterly unprofessionally by the stewards.

  49. ahhh does this mean they can give a penalty to drivers that stop ther car on the track for the same reasons after the race????? They broke the rules so the penalty is right but it has to be right all over the board, rule should be after qualy and the race.

  50. Martin Brundle just said that Charlie Whiting told him this morning that the reason the penalty was been sent to the back is because any technical infringement means disqualification from the entire session.

  51. It’s such a shame F1 keeps shooting itself in the foot due to jobs-worth stewards especially after a great Quali. Highly unlikely if it was Alonso he would have got the same punishment.

  52. BBCs tech guy Gary Anderson wrote that he saw a mcalren guy with the fuel hose on ‘drain’ not fill. then he realised but didn’t put enough fuel in!

    1. yeah ..very amateurish mistake..
      perhaps they should have two colour coded fuel horses pipes..operated by two people one prioritized for draining and the other for fueling.

    2. on another note i have put three pounds on 80/1 that kimii will be leading after lap one…fingers crossed…

  53. also they just had to take away the low fuel lap time where the advantage was gained! what happened to a penalty of leaving the track? at least 5 cars did this (put all four wheels off) during there lap,

    Can i just ad very pleased for frank williams.

  54. Get rid of Martin Whitless. A seemingly endless series of blunders and gaffs are the hallmarks of his tenure at the top of McLaren. Not even the drivers make this many mistakes. If I were Lewis I’d be in the market right now…

  55. I feel the punishment was the correct one. McLaren broke the rules, very clearly. A mistake is no excuse to cheat. They should have aborted his flying lap. Tough on Hamilton, but F1 is a team sport. Any mistake by a team is unfair on the driver, which is a good reason for teams not to make mistakes, as in any sport really.

    I do agree that what Schumacher did in 2006 at Monaco is worse, and perhaps he should’ve been excluded from the race for that.

    Aside from the cheating aspect, cars stopping after their hot laps due to shortage of fuel is not the same as cars stopping after the race ended if you look at safety. When cars have completed their hot laps other cars may still be at speed even after the clock has stopped. Any cars stationary on the track are unsafe. When a race has ended all cars slow down at the same time right after the finish line, which makes stopped cars much less unsafe.

    For the spectators this penalty is potentially more exciting. A fast car at the back making its way through the field is a recipe for good television.

    1. “For the spectators this penalty is potentially more exciting. A fast car at the back making its way through the field is a recipe for good television.”

      or disaster…

  56. As always our esteemed host Keith Collantine hits the nail on the head.

    Seems to me the rules are remarkably, I would suggest intentionally, vague, so that interpretation is flexible, allowing for manipulation.

    Its pretty clear that Alonso, for example, recieves preferential treatment. Even speaking on camera about the infamous SC in Malaysia (?) wasnt enough for him to be punished.

    McLaren, especially HAM always get hammered. F1 has a long history of manipulation, eg Senna / Prost.

    McLaren’s astounding litany of errors over last 3 years is unparralelled. How can 2 year old teams perform more reliably in strategy and operations than such an established team?

    Another remarkable race (Lotus, Sauber, Williams, wow!) tarnished by nonsense.

  57. BBC are reporting that the fuel was being extracted instead of filled by mistake before the tech realised and put the fuel in. The resulted in too little fuel (as some had been extracted and should not have been). The would of had another 20 seconds to get the correct fuel in.
    No sure this is true but read it on the BBC website.

  58. 10th or 11th would of been a fair verdict but life is not fair and nor is F1.

    I agree with the article.

  59. Great article Keith and indeed a harsh punishment. I however think FIA wants to send a clear message to the teams hence that punishment. Having said that, i think the whole Mclaren team and leadership needs a critical review. The number of avoidable mistakes is unbelievable for such an established team.

    Personally i think there should be a change in leadership starting with Martin Whitmarsh. He doesn’t seem to have a hold of the team properly and they seem to be making the same mistakes far too often.

    The team is currently not leading the constructors purely because of these jaw-dropping mistakes.

    Time to go Whitmarsh!!

  60. where do i get the live driver position tracker thingy? on sky or bbc(which is also live today)

  61. relegating him to 10th would have sufficed…. he already made it Q3…. and he stewards should realize by now that they are being really harse on mclaren and its drivers

  62. Lewis should have started 10th, not 24th…!!!!!

  63. I think this is a difficult one to call regarding the punishment, it all boils down to something you cannot prove.

    Do McLaren knowingly under-fuel the car with a view to being on the absolute brink and perhaps get away with it or is it just a case of a calculation mistake? The former makes this punishment seem appropriate whereas the latter makes it sound too harsh.

    Unfortunately the stewards cannot find that out.

    Considering McLaren are the reason the rule was introduced I can’t help but think that I’m siding more with the stewards decision, I do feel a little bad for it though.

  64. Here we go again – Keith doing “fair and balanced” reporting on his all time fav-driver Hamilton. Can’t you do two versions of F1Fanatic? One with all your ardent McLaren/British/Hamilton/Button/anti-Ferrari bias, and another one without all that?

    1. It’s a comment piece. It says at the top of the article it’s a comment piece, and I’m putting an opinion across.

      I’m always happy to debate people on the facts, but not silly mud-slinging. If you think Hamilton deserved such a harsh penalty, then explain why you think so. Who knows, I might end up agreeing with you. But not if you resort to cheap accusations of ‘bias’.

    2. @Miko: Regardless of how the article is actually written (biased or unbiased, or whatever) Keith can write what the hell he likes, it’s his blog!

      If you don’t like it join into the spirit of a blog and provide your own stark, objective and dispassionate commentary and show us how you feel it should be done.

  65. Chris Goldsmith
    14th May 2012, 13:19

    I don’t know if Hamilton personally deserved what happened to him, since it was something well outside of his control, and the first he knew of it was when he was told to park the car. However in general terms I think the decision to exclude his car from qualifying was the right one, especially in light of interviews with Whitmarsh where he says that they knew while Lewis was on his flying lap that a mistake had been made and that the car was short on fuel (though they didn’t know by how much). They then made a decision to let him finish his flying lap and then park it on track, hoping that enough fuel would be left to provide a sample, even though this would breach the rule about the car having to return to the pits under its own power. They had an option; they could have told Lewis to abort the lap and to return to the pits saving fuel, then explained to the stewards what had happened and how they had taken immediate action to rectify it. In this respect, they took a decision which involved them knowingly breaking the sporting regulations. If you deliberately break the rules, then I believe the punishment has to be a harsh one. It was an unnecessary bit of brinksmanship which, once again, has costed McLaren very dearly. It’s a shame for Hamilton, since he was totally blameless here, but the sporting regulations can’t be wilfully ignored by teams for the sake of trying to gain a competitive advantage.

    I can’t see Whitmarsh lasting an awful lot longer if he can’t get his act together. This used to be the sort of thing that McLaren played extremely well.

  66. @keithcollantine

    The issue of the harshness of the penalty needs to reviewed in light of Whitmarsh’s post race comments:

    “With hindsight I could have called it a different way, and he could have just come in at the end of the out lap. But frankly I did not expect the penalty that he received.”

    This demonstrates that Whitmarsh had full knowledge of the short fueling and it’s consequences before Hamilton started his flying lap. If he had chosen to bring him in at the end of his outlap the car would have had more than enough fuel to satisfy the requirement of 6.6.2 and Hamilton had a banker lap of 1:22.560 to fall back on which would ultimately have left him 7th on the grid. In comparison to the Monaco penalty you state that

    A calculated act of cheating such as that clearly deserved a harsh penalty to deter repeat offenders. Unlike that offence, McLaren’s error today was a careless oversight, as the stewards’ report makes clear.

    but Whitmarsh’s statement that this was also a calculated act of cheating with full knowledge on his part that the team would be penalized for it, the magnitude of thepenalty reflects that it was not simply a careless oversight as the stewards would have been aware from information supplied by McLaren in their force majeure defense.The disqualification from the session was not “because he did not have enough fuel in the car” but rather because Whitmarsh took the conscious decision to allow allow Hamilton to complete his flying lap and then stop him on the track in violation of the rule that the “the car concerned must have first been driven back to the pits under its own power”.

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