Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Barcelona, 2012

McLaren’s mistake costs Hamilton too dearly


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Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Barcelona, 2012Cast 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 enough..in retrospect if FIA was a government it would have been voted out many times before.