The Englishman set the fastest time of the hour long session but a “technical problem” forced him to stop his car on track. The problem was that the McLaren team did not put enough fuel into the car.
At the end of the qualifying session teams need to present their cars in scrutineering with a minimum of one litre of fuel for sample testing. If a driver fails to complete their in lap his team needs to be able to prove that there was legitimate reasons for their inability to return to pitlane. If they cannot prove so the stewards can send a driver to the back of the grid.
Ironically the rule was introduced as a direct result of McLaren under fuelling Hamilton in the Canadian Grand Prix two years ago.
Following the announcement the stewards released the following statement:
“The stewards received a report from the Race Director which stated that during post-qualifying scrutineering a sample of fuel was required from car 4, however, the car failed to return to the pits under its own power as required under Article 6.6.2 of the FIA Formula One Technical Regulations,” said the stewards in a statement.
“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.
“The Stewards determine that this is a breach of Article 6.6.2 of the FIA Formula One Technical Regulations and the Competitor is accordingly excluded from the results of the Qualifying Session. The Competitor is however allowed to start the race from the back of the grid.”
With Hamilton forced to the back of the grid Maldonado has been promoted to pole position with Fernando Alonso alongside him on the front row.
Speaking after qualifying, but before Hamilton’s penalty was announced, Maldonado said:
“We have been working so hard all year to understand these tyres and with the updates we have brought to this race we have made a very good step forward. The car is very consistent and its race pace is good so I am really looking forward to the race tomorrow. There has been a really positive atmosphere in the team all season and this is a great result for them and Venezuela.”