I understand the ‘force majure’ rule was removed from the qualifying rules this year surrounding fuel samples, understandable as teams tried to gain a benefit and then argue when it was obvious they were doing so.
But one rule that should have been implemented at the same time has been missed. Without a fuel sample, a car is disqualified and relegated to the back of the grid – or is it?
Abu Dhabi last year – Vettel stops on track after qualifying with a fuel issue, is disqualified and sent to the back of the grid. In China, the same happens to Webber. In Spain last year, Hamilton started the precedent of being thrown to the back of the grid, in his case, he started there. The Red Bulls did not.
In fact, Red Bull, both times, chose to start their drivers from the pit lane. This meant the car could be worked on, optimising the set up for the race, and for overtaking. Especially last year, it was known that the team set their cars up to lead races, and not to overtake the field. In Abu Dhabi, Vettel’s gear ratios were changed to provide better straight line speed, and his set up was tweaked to allow for less drag on the straights. In China, Webber too was given the option of set up changes.
Is it just me, or is this wrong? If a driver is ejected from the qualifying results and made to start at the back, the car should be kept under parc ferme conditions as an additional punishment. I appreciate any team can start from the pits and change the set-up of the cars, but when a driver is ejected from the results, it should be stated that any changes to the car other than repairs to faulty systems will result in an additional penalty – a stop/go during the race, or a 10-place drop at the next round. Otherwise these penalties are meaningless, it’s a bit like giving a Caterham a 10-place grid penalty!
Cars that are already relegated to the back of the grid via a penalty should have any additional penalties – such as gearbox changes, held back until the next race. or perhaps the rule could state that teams cannot elect to start their drivers from the pit lane until 1 hour before the race start. I appreciate sometimes a problem may force a team to do so – surely any problem would be discovered but major changes, such as gear ratios or a new gearbox would not be able to be changed. Cars would still be under parc ferme conditions until that hour, with only essential repairs allowed to be performed.
Vettel finished third in Abu Dhabi – it would have been interesting to see where he would have come without the set-up changes that were made, and how he would have performed with his qualifying set-up.