Skip to main content

Hamilton stripped of pole at Spanish Grand Prix

May 12, 2012 -- Updated 1826 GMT (0226 HKT)
Lewis Hamilton thought he had captured his third pole position of the season
Lewis Hamilton thought he had captured his third pole position of the season
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • McLaren's Lewis Hamilton relegated to back of grid for breach of fuel rules
  • Hamilton was quickest in qualifying but stopped car on track on return lap
  • Pastor Maldonado promoted to pole for Williams, ahead of Fernando Alonso
  • McLaren's Jenson Button is down in 10th, one ahead of Mark Webber's Red Bull

(CNN) -- Lewis Hamilton only had a few hours to celebrate his third pole position of the season before the news filtered through that he had been relegated to the back of the grid for the Spanish Grand Prix because of a technical breach.

Race stewards said McLaren had not put enough fuel in the Englishman's car and excluded all his qualifying times -- meaning Venezuela's Pastor Maldonado will start on pole for Williams.

Hamilton's dazzling final lap put him 0.578 seconds clear of Maldonado, but his team told him to stop his car on the track as he returned to the pits.

McLaren tried to argue that Hamilton's low fuel was a "force majeure," but their protests fell on deaf ears.

"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," said the ruling.

Formula One rules say that at the end of qualifying, drivers must have enough fuel on board to return their cars to the pits and provide at least one liter of fuel.

"We accept that the stewards did not agree with our interpretation of force majeure," a McLaren statement said: "Our aim is now to maximise the points we can score."

Jackie Stewart on Formula One
Female F1 test driver's need for speed
Nico Rosberg targets more wins

McLaren chief Martin Whitmarsh conceded after the qualifying session that Hamilton could be penalized, although he argued that the Englishman's margin of superiority was so great that the low fuel would have made no difference.

"Lewis and his team did a great job so it was a massive margin, by the situation within F1 at the moment, so undoubtedly he deserves to be there," he said.

Hamilton had been in high spirits after what he described as one of his best ever qualifying sessions, but his demotion made it an awful day for McLaren.

Hamilton's teammate Jenson Button will start 10th after failing even to make the top-10 shootout because of handling difficulties.

Spanish eyes will be on Fernando Alonso, who will now start alongside Maldonado on the front row. The Lotus pair of Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen are on the second row.

Red Bull had a far from perfect day. Mark Webber will start down in 11th after he was told by his team to come back to the pits in the second session believing the Australian had gone quick enough to qualify for the top-10 shootout.

In the end, Webber, last year's pole-sitter in Barcelona, was nudged out.

Double world champion Sebastian Vettel did make it through but didn't push for pole, preferring to save his tires for a race which is expected to be decided by tire strategy.

Michael Schumacher opted to do the same and will start ninth in his Mercedes, just behind Vettel's Red Bull.

"There is nothing is wrong," Vettel said. "We decided to abort the lap to have a free choice of tires for the race. If I had set a lap, we would have to start the race on soft tires.

"We'll see how it goes for tomorrow. We were a bit surprised how much of a step the others could do, but I'm quite confident for race. We always have a good race car. We have a couple of new sets which has proved successful for others in previous races this year."

Button had been quickest in Friday practice but couldn't rediscover that pace a day later.

Going into the race with four new sets of tires is an advantage
Red Bull boss Christian Horner

"I don't know where it went wrong. All day I've struggled with balance," the Englishman said. "I thought we would be reasonably competitive and at least get into Q3 but that's not the case. I haven't changed that much but struggled with the balance."

Maldonado was quickest in Q2 and ended up on the front row for the first time in his career, far outqualifying teammate Bruno Senna who will start 18th.

"We have been working so hard trying to understand these tires and to develop our car around these tires," the Venezuelan said. "We did a very good step forward for this race."

Tire strategy is likely to be the decisive factor at the Circuit de Catalunya. Pirelli's tires have been under scrutiny all week, with former world champions Schumacher and Jackie Stewart saying they are dangerous.

However, Pirelli claim they have only followed orders to help improve racing and make Formula One less predictable, and Vettel is among those to support the Italian company's efforts.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes they could be in good shape for Sunday's race, despite a less than spectacular qualifying session.

"Going into the race with four new sets of tires is an advantage," Horner said. "Mark (Webber) has four sets of new tires and Seb has used one more set effectively so F1 is a strategic game."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Track the buzz of the 2014 Formula One season, race by race, with all the latest social reaction from motorsport experts.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1135 GMT (1935 HKT)
Formula One is not likely to go hungry in Hungary as master chefs cater in volume for drivers, teams and VIP guests.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 1443 GMT (2243 HKT)
It's the elephant in the room of Formula One. What's the prognosis legendary driver Michael Schumacher?
May 23, 2014 -- Updated 2310 GMT (0710 HKT)
It stimulates all five senses, creating an unparalleled experience for drivers and fans alike. Take a tour of Monaco with Mark Webber.
May 22, 2014 -- Updated 1233 GMT (2033 HKT)
To be a champion you must win a title -- but to become an F1 legend you must win races at Monaco, the calendar's most testing circuit.
May 21, 2014 -- Updated 1459 GMT (2259 HKT)
Caterham F1 reserve driver Alexander Rossi takes you on a tour of the Monaco racing circuit.
May 5, 2014 -- Updated 1238 GMT (2038 HKT)
The Formula One driver transcended his sport and even 20 years after his death, Ayrton Senna commands the adoration of fans worldwide.
May 1, 2014 -- Updated 1500 GMT (2300 HKT)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY IN ARABIC BY SUHEIL HOWAYEK: (FILES) Brazilian F1 driver Ayrton Senna adjusts his rear view mirror in the pits 01 May 1994 before the start of the San Marino Grand Prix. Senna died after crashing in the seventh lap. Some 45 drivers, including Senna and Canadian Gilles Villeneuve, have been killed during Formula One races whose tracks are dubbed by some as the 'circuits of death.' AFP PHOTO/JEAN-LOUP GAUTREAU (Photo credit should read JEAN-LOUP GAUTREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
F1's greatest racer was killed during the San Marino Grand Prix on May 1 1994. The sport hasn't been the same since.
April 30, 2014 -- Updated 1516 GMT (2316 HKT)
Just four F1 drivers turned up to Roland Ratzenberger's funeral after his death during qualifying for the San Marino Grand Prix on April 30 1994.
April 25, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
For a championship with a distinctly Iberian streak, it is no surprise that South America should be high on MotoGP's list of territories to conquer.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1113 GMT (1913 HKT)
Susie Wolff, pictured, will become the Formula One's first female competitor in 20 years when she takes part in the first practice sessions at the British and German grands prix in July.
Too weak. Can't handle the pressure. Susie Wolff has heard it all -- but she is determined to become the first female F1 driver in 20 years.
CNN's Amanda Davies visits the headquarters of Mercedes, the dominant team in Formula One this season.
ADVERTISEMENT