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Sebastian Vettel's twist of fate

Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Red Bull Racing prepare in the garage ahead of qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit on November 3, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

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

Vettel started perfectly, clocking faster times in all the sessions ahead or slightly behind the Mclarens; but in the final practice session, there was twist in the tale. 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, he got into pace in a much 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 several times and even kissed the armco with his rear left tyre at the turn 19 section.

He was absolutely on the edge whilst creeping up more mistakes. To be honest, I’ve never seen Vettel making so many blunders within an hour’s time. When Hamilton dipped in the 1:40s mark, it was clear that the chance for pole position had been taken away from Vettel. But the real drama came when Vettel head back to pits after claiming P3.

He parked the car instantly as he was asked to by his race engineer. Christian 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 the 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, car 1(Vettel) was investigated as it didn’t return to pits under its own power. The stewards accepted the hearing from concerned staff and the driver and considered it to be a force majeure(unavoidable accident).

But they couldn’t agree to any more 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 would start at the back of the grid for tomorrow’s race.

Fernando Alonso of Spain and Ferrari drives during practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit on November 2, 2012 in Abu Dhabi

I’m sure Alonso must have heaved a sigh of relief as his main championship rival is thrown out to the back of the grid. This is a mega turnaround in this spectacular season where we have already had seven different drivers winning as many 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 many points as possible from P7 to close the 13-point gap that exists.

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