Bring on the conspiracy theories! Sebastian Vettel will start the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from the pit lane, having been disqualified from qualifying. The German had put his Red Bull third on the grid but was told to stop the car on the in-lap. It appears the order was given by Renault technicians. The team successfully convinced the stewards that the stoppage was a case of ‘force majeure’, as required by the relevant regulation, which reads:
“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.”
However, subsequent examination of the car revealed that there was not enough fuel in the tank. The stewards disqualified Vettel (having taken a ridiculous four hours and more to do so).
The saga became a cause for argument and counter argument, with Red Bull chief Christian Horner insisting that there was enough fuel in the car, but that it could not be accessed without removing parts of the bodywork – again, against the regulations. Horner, however, accepted the penalty as ‘fair’.
Fernando Alonso will now start sixth on the grid, with his title rival starting after all the cars have passed the pit-lane exit. This is not ideal for the Ferrari driver as his car clearly did not have the pace of the McLarens or the Red Bulls, and was also eclipsed by the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen – who will start fourth – and Pastor Maldonado in the Williams who will now line up in third place.
Raikkonen, indeed, is bullish for the race and believes he can take the fight to Mark Webber’s Red Bull – if not to the pole-sitting McLaren of Lewis Hamilton – while Maldonado has stated he will be pushing hard in the race. The start, therefore, could be very interesting.