Twist of Fate for Vettel

Sebastian Vettel had got everything under control, in the way he would’ve wanted until Indian GP of last weekend with no reliability issues as he witnessed with the alternator few races before and certainly could win seven races on the trot if he can win the remaining three events. But today he took a hammer blow which suggested that the title battle would go on nip and tuck to Brazil.

Vettel started how it meant to be with sticking faster times in all the sessions ahead or slightly behind Mclarens but in the final practice of today he saw the tale twisting a bit. He couldn’t utilise the entire hour as brake problems faded his track outing but he did head out in the final stages for a seven lap run. Nevertheless got into pace in a very shorter time.

Something to satisfy him on FP3 was the best middle sector time he managed to pull out in his last lap. The crucial qualifying session commenced with Vettel having a slight disadvantage of not having run in the afternoon practice. He locked up a several times and even kissed the armco with his rear left tyre after the turn 19 exit.

He was absolutely on the limit whilst creeping up more mistakes. To be honest, I’ve never seen Vettel doing so much blunders within an hour’s time. When Hamilton dipped in the 1:40s mark, it was clear that the pole chance has been taken away from Vettel. But the real drama came when Vettel headed back to pits after claiming p3.

He parked the car instantly on the sides as he was asked to by his race engineer. Christain Horner said the Renault authorities wanted them to do so and baffled of what the reason it could be. It’s reminiscent to the Hamilton incident in Spain when he was disqualified from his pole for not having enough fuel on-board for the mandatory FIA test.

It took four and half hours to investigate and decide on Vettel’s matter after he visited  the stewards panel for inquiry. According to Article 6.6.2 of FIA Formula One Technical Regs, the car 1(Vettel) was investigated as it didn’t return to pits under its own power. The stewards accepted the hearing from concerned staffs and driver and considered it as a force majeure(unexpected event).

The rule says:

6.6 Fuel draining and sampling

6.6.1 Competitors must provide a means of removing all fuel from the car.

6.6.2 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.

6.6.3 All cars must be fitted with a -2 ‘Symetrics’ male fitting in order to facilitate fuel sampling. If an electric pump on board the car cannot be used to remove the fuel an externally connected one may be used provided it is evident that a representative fuel sample is being taken. If an external pump is used it must be possible to connect the FIA sampling hose to it and any hose between the car and pump must be -3 in diameter and not exceed 2m in length. Details of the fuel sampling hose may be found in the Appendix to these regulations.

6.6.4 The sampling procedure must not necessitate starting the engine or the removal of bodywork (other than the cover over any refueling connector).

But they couldn’t agree more on Red Bull’s claims. As per the same article, they apparently breached the fuel sample regulation. Stewards said Vettel’s car had 850 ml fuel on board which was not enough for the required one litre fuel sample. Therefore, he was excluded from the qualifying session and allowed to start at the back of the grid but he opted to start from the pitlane for tomorrow’s race.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was convinced that the necessary fuel for the mandatory one-litre sample was in Vettel’s car but the(6.6.4) regulation preventing the removal of bodywork meant that it could not be extracted. He said

“The rules dictate that one litre has to be able to be provided without the removal of bodywork, without manipulating the car.

“We believe that the fuel is in the cell, according to what Renault have told us, but you cannot dismantle the cell to give the sample.

“The car will be worked on tonight, so it is out of parc ferme, and we should have a better understanding and hopefully a cure for tomorrow.”

Why did it took so long for stewards to get the word out when Hamilton’s decision came fairly easy? I have no answer for that. There have always been concerns of engine mileage this season and Renault’s Remi Taffin said in the press conference that a new engine was being offered for their customers this weekend. Vettel can make a gearbox change if he wants now.

Alonso could arguably have felt a shy of relief  as his main championship rival is thrown out of the result. This is a mega turnaround on this spectacular season where we have already had seven different drivers winning as much races since Melbourne. Despite having two DRS zones, overtaking is highly unlikely at Yas Island. Though Vettel will push as hard as he can, Alonso’s car is vulnerable on sector 1 so he needs to bag as much points as possible from p6 to close the 13 point gap that exist.


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