★ Pre-Vettel decision thoughts on Stewarding

★ Pre-Vettel decision thoughts on Stewarding

Post Decision Update – Opposite of Hamilton

Vettel was indeed penalised and excluded from the qualifying session. However, it’s interesting to note what for. There are two facets to this story:

  1. Force Majeure: The stewards accepted Red Bull’s reasoning for force majeure – they argued not stopping the car could use significant engine damage. That allowed them to stop the car on the track with no penalty.
  2. Fuel Sample: However, the fuel sample produced was 850ml. This is a clear infringement of the rules and hence the penalty. Red Bull argue there is enough fuel in the tank but rules state it needs to be extracted without any removal of bodywork.

So in essence this is exactly the opposite of what happened to Hamilton. Hamilton’s fuel sample was satisfactory (>1 liter) but the stewards didn’t buy McLaren’s force majeure. Here they did buy Red Bull’s force majeure but they didn’t have enough fuel.

The penalty and end result is the same but I thought my readers would be interested in this difference.

The Stewards’ decision on Sebastian Vettel’s parked car post-qualifying car is bound to be controversial. Almost four hours after the incident, we still don’t have a decision, conclusion and explanation. Whatever their final decision, I strongly believe we should respect it, regardless of own personal allegiances to any driver or team. The steward’s have access a whole database of information us fans aren’t privy too. They’re lead by the remarkable & highly respected Charlie Whiting who I have full faith in being fair & objective.

After a similar incident with Lewis Hamilton at Spain earlier this year, I wrote an article analysing the situation & listing the facts which was well received. I swayed away from personal opinion & wrote about the situation in an objective, holistic & unbiased manner. Here is my rendention of the same for today’s incident based on what Christian Horner revealed to the BBC’s Gary Anderson: that it was a “fuel issue”.

My stance will stay the same regardless of whether Vettel is penalised or not since this is an article focused on the anatomy of a decision, not the decision itself.

Things are never clear cut in Formula One and failure to produce a fuel sample not an automatic perogative for an exclusion from the session (hence starting last). Hamilton’s decision in Spain is not a precedent for the same here at Abu Dhabi. Here’s the FIA Technical Regulation 6.6.2 that enlists the requirement of a fuel sample:

“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.”

The keyword here is one that I tend to dislike: force majeure It’s literally defined as “superior force”, one outside the normal realms of control. The reason I dislike the term is because of its highly subjective nature. The regulation in itself states the stewards need to be satisfied & consider whether they think reasons presented by the team constitute force majeure.

In Spain, the stewards clearly didn’t consider McLaren’s problems with their external fuel delivery system adequate force majeure. It’s important to note that “stewards” aren’t a consistent, homologous body of individuals. No, they change race-by-race! So naturally, their collective opinion of what is force majeure changes race-by-race. It’s a design that’s guaranteed to produce inconsistency. Time will tell what the group in Yas Marina settle for as “force majeure”.

As I stated on twitter, there is a big difference between putting less fuel into the car (Lewis, Spain) thanks to an external problem & a mechanical fuel problem internal to the car itself. This is a hypothetical guess based on what possibly could delay the decision to such extent. If were a Red Bull lawyer paid to argue & protect our teams world championship titles, I would move heaven and earth to come up with a loophole as such to plead/persuade the stewards to grant an exemption of force majeure. That’s why we saw both Christian Horner and Renault track operations chief Remi Taffin headed to the stewards office.

Today’s decision is incredibly tough thanks to the trifecta of a big grey area involved, it’s huge impact on the world championship and the inherant inconsisties of F1 penalties. Whatever the end decision, please respect the stewards and know their limits.

  • http://twitter.com/jrfildes James Fildes

    It will be interesting to see how this affects Red Bull’s relationship with Renault. Looking back at the past season we’ve seen how issues caused by Red Bull’s engine supplier have hindered their progress in the driver/team championship, albeit creating a tighter driver championship race towards the latter half of the season. It’s certainly not been fun to watch McLaren’s hopes of a driver championship victory dwindle over gearbox and fuel pump failures; fairly simple mechanisms in an understandably complex vehicle.