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Abu Dhabi GP: Why Sebastian Vettel will start from the pitlane and not 24th

F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Qualifying

Sebastian Vettel stops out on track after qualifying

The FIA’s decision on Sebastian Vettel after qualifying last night really turned the drivers’ championship on its head. He was disqualified from the qualifying results and was sent to the back of the grid for the start of the race, although he will start from the pitl ane- the reason for it explained later in this article.

What exactly happened?

Article 6.6.2 of the 2012 Formula One Technical Regulations states “Competitors must ensure that a one litre sample of fuel may be taken from the car at any time during the Event.” This rule applies very strictly in parc ferme conditions and therefore we see most penalties related to fuel level discrepancy handed out after qualifying. But if the FIA wishes, it can ask a team to provide the fuel sample after the free practice sessions. But if a car stops out on track after the end of the race for low fuel reasons, this rule does not apply and hence the driver and the team are not penalised.

Yesterday in Q3, Vettel stopped out on track because Renault advised Red Bull to do so else the engine would be damaged. As is common after qualifying, FIA asked Red Bull for the fuel sample and it was found out that only 850ml was left instead of the mandatory 1 litre.

The stewards’ statement : ” 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.”

Why will Vettel start from the pitlane then?

As soon as the first car goes out on track in Q1, the parc ferme conditions apply and they don’t end till the start of the race. In parc ferme, no team is allowed to do significant work on their cars and Article 34.1 of the Sporting Regulations state what all the teams are actually allowed to do when the conditions apply.

Renault were sure that more fuel was left in the fuel tank of Vettel’s RB8 but the tank can’t be disassmbled to provide the left part as that would be violation of the parc ferme conditions. But Red Bull did some further checks on the car and hence they broke the parc ferme rules. Whenever any car breaks the parc ferme rules, it has to start from the pitlane and that is what Vettel will have to do in today’s race.

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