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Team error costs Hamilton pole position in Barcelona - Pastor Maldonado inherits debut pole as Lewis Hamilton is penalised

Published by Christine

Maldonado had the pace in Barcelona
Maldonado had the pace in BarcelonaCredit: LAT Photographic

Qualifying in Spain today offered up enough of a surprise when Pastor Maldonado was fast throughout, and found the pace to finish on the front row of the grid. Lewis Hamilton was in pole position, with a time half a second faster than that of Maldonado's Williams beside him. However, the surprise took another twist several hours later, when the stewards stripped Hamilton of his time, promoting Maldonado up to pole position.

Under fuelled

Hamilton's McLaren car had ground to a halt moments after crossing the finish line for his pole lap, and the team initially suggested it was a technical problem. Immediately after qualifying, Martin Whitmarsh was interviewed by the BBC.

A technical problem on the car, we've got to understand. It's a little bit of a worry but great drive by Lewis. He did everything right so we just have to figure out what the issue is on the car.

- Martin Whitmarsh

The stewards, however, have since issued their statement which includes their conversation with McLaren's Sporting Director Sam Michael. He said that they realised a team member had under fuelled Hamilton's car.

The Stewards heard from the team representative Mr Sam Michael who stated that the car stopped on the circuit for reasons of force majeure. A team member had put an insufficient quantity of fuel into the car thereby resulting in the car having to be stopped on the circuit in order to be able to provide the required amount for sampling purposes.

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.

- FIA stewards

With Hamilton stripped of pole position, he will have to start from the back of the grid, or perhaps the pit lane, if that is more preferable. The team have accepted the penalty, and have adapted their hopes for tomorrow into just looking for points, rather than the potential for a win.

A birthday present

Pastor Maldonado moves up to P1, which gives him his debut pole start in Formula One. It is also the team's first pole since Nico Hülkenberg in Brazil 2010. The team received word in the middle of belatedly celebrating Frank Williams' 70th birthday - there was a party, a cake, avisit from Bernie Ecclestone and more. Along with the celebrations for their beloved founder, the team had something else to cheer about with their new and improved qualifying position.

The reaction elsewhere has been slightly different though, with a mixture of celebrations, frustration and even confusion being seen on Twitter.

Feel sorry for Lewis for losing pole, he did incredible laps today. But what's better than Williams pole on Franks 70th birthday party day!

H_Kovalainen H_Kovalainen

How Hamilton is starting from behind a driver who failed to qualify I don't quite get


Just spoke to a couple of FIA bods who don't get HAM's penalty. Thought it was too harsh, 5 or 10 place grid drop more appropriate.

F1Kate F1Kate

First pole for Williams-Renault since 1997! And 127th for Williams!

WilliamsF1Team WilliamsF1Team

Personally, I can't claim to be Pastor Maldonado's biggest fan, and it's never fun for positions to be decided like this. Lewis has already had two pole positions this year, and been unable to convert them into race wins. It looked as though he would have another attempt this weekend, but that is out of the question now. Considering the pace he had in qualifying, being thrust to the very back of the field seems a harsh punishment. Surely the fuel he was missing would not account for half a second's pace advantage.

Conversely, the regulations regarding returning to the pit lane with enough fuel for an FIA sample came into being after Hamilton pushed his own car down the track in Canada 2010. McLaren personnel should be more than aware of the regulation! It's worth noting this rule only appears to apply in qualifying. Sebastian Vettel's victory at the last Grand Prix was followed by an abrupt halt just after the finish line, the German then running to the podium celebration on foot.

McLaren's technical director sums up the team's feeling eloquently.

To all our fans: so sorry about this error. We are more gutted than anybody. An amazing performance by Lewis throughout Q, ruined.

paddylowe paddylowe

The positive for fans, however, is an extra variable thrown in to tomorrow's race. Barcelona can be predictable and having an unexpected Williams at the front of the field will make for a very interesting start. How long Maldonado can remain up front will be something of great interest. For now, though, congratulations go to Pastor and Williams, and a Happy Birthday to Frank!

All content in the series Spain 2012