Why the FIA stewards accepted Vettel’s force majeure

The FIA Stewards did not punish Sebastian Vettel for stopping on track after qualifying because they believed Red Bull and Renault’s assertion that carrying on could have led to problems such as engine damage.

However the force majeure issue was a moot point as only 0.850 of the required litre for the fuel sample was left in the tank, so he was penalised for that instead – a little like getting Al Capone for tax evasion…

The Renault engineers had spotted dropping fuel pressure and, according to sources, the message to stop was passed to Vettel’s engineer after some 15 seconds.

After hearing the argument and seeing the data the stewards accepted as force majeure that the drop in fuel pressure could have caused problems as the last dregs of fuel went through the system.

However rivals teams are somewhat sceptical about that, and given the fact that cars are routinely run dry in testing without any concerns, it would seem to be an unusual argument.

The team also insisted that it believed that sufficient fuel was still in the car, but the FIA rules are simple – if it can’t be pumped out for any reason it doesn’t matter whether it’s there or not.

Even if he had stopped a few corners earlier and had a more than a litre in the tank the FIA would have decreed that he would not have had enough on board to get back to the pits under his own power and still have enough for the sample.

Such samples are taken at random, so there is a good possibility that had Vettel driven back and drawn attention to himself the FIA might never have discovered that he had so little in the tank.

One team told me today that they have a plan in place and if they are running low they would simply get the car back to the pits and argue about the sample size later, if indeed it comes under scrutiny at all.

That begs the question to what degree the decision to stop Vettel was influenced by concerns about the sample size, rather than any genuine technical worries – did the Renault engineer panic about the sample and flag it up as a reason to stop, thinking he was doing the right thing? And did it all happen so quickly that the team did not have time to think it through?

In other words had the team rolled the dice and not told him to stop, Vettel might still be starting from third…

14 Comments

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14 responses to “Why the FIA stewards accepted Vettel’s force majeure

  1. Jason C

    Even if he had stopped a few corners earlier and had a more than a litre in the tank the FIA would have decreed that he would not have had enough on board to get back to the pits under his own power and still have enough for the sample.

    I’m glad to read that – I did wonder. So, how much fuel exactly do they allow per kilometre for the in lap? They must have a figure, because in cases like this they obviously need one.

  2. larry

    Hmmmm…i think they panickd…he might have Made it to parc femme….. on the replay i thought the car stopped on its own without radio instruction to stop…

  3. Mick

    All sounds far too complicated & open to gamesmanship. All cars should be checked every time to ensure they have the 1 litre sample, and if they stop out on track the 1 litre should be increased by whatever amount would have been used to get back to the pits. That way the reason for stopping would be irrelevant & teams would only do it for genuine reasons.

  4. PAUL

    Judging by Christian Horner’s uncomfortable interview, you can draw the conclusion that they underfuelled the car deliberately to gain an advantage, gave the call as an engine problem to stop and tried to argue “force majeure” as one way out.
    Like saying theres a problem with the fuel pump,….when actually there’s no fuel in the car……Its not what you say its the way that you say it!!
    Playing the system.

  5. Es mucho compelicado. I doubt Renault engineers would do something nasty, pusing the envelope maybe, since the window of opportunity needs maximising, but I’m sure they’ve orders from monsieur Ghosn to behave, corporate image is everything. Also, other teams do lots of dodgy stuff which is probably never noticed anyway.

    • Anand Jayaraman

      Dear iberianmph.com – remember Singapore 2008, renault, scandal, was pretty certain Ghosn was still incharge then. The whole thing smells fishy.

  6. Racehound

    It takes about 2.5 litres of fuel per lap, and the FIA only extracted 850ml of fuel from Vettels car. In other words, he was under-fuelled to do the in-lap AND have a 1 litre sample in the tank for scrutineering!! All HornBlowers bullsh!t about “force majeure” is nonsense!! There was nothing wrong with his car until they realised before they sent him out for his final run that it was too close to call for pole between him and Hamilton with the gearing Vettel had in his RB8. This means Red Bullcrappers can now make as many set-up changes and change gear ratios for the race as they like because it was part of the plan that if he didnt get pole fairly easily then they could re-configure the car in parc ferme!!!!

    • Racehound

      forgot to add that all this 8ollox aboult Renault telling Bullcrappers to switch off the engine is also nonsense!!! Bullcrappers realised that Vettel had damaged the driveshaft and gearbox when he smacked the right rear in Qualy 1. By the time Qualy 3 came up they saw a problem with the gearbox, and used Renault as an excuse to stop the car!!!!

  7. Richardd

    Can’t help but think that rbr knew about level of fuel and used face saving tactics

  8. Well, too much speculation. Somebody made a mistake (although it’s hard to believe) and thanks God, rules are rules in F1.

  9. Do we know how much fuel was really left in the car then (850ml + what other amount that they couldn’t get to?)? Horner suggested that he thought they had enough for the sample; but RBR couldn’t extract it as per the FIA rules. That led me to believe that a problem with the fuel system caused the issues – hence the Renault guys wanting to stop the car and RBR appearing to not have enough fuel in the car?

    If they did only have 850ml left it’s an underfuel; but if they had more and couldn’t get to it then it’s a car reliability issue yes? Too seperate things – ironically both punishable by the same penalty.

  10. e m comments

    Vettel was being punished by being put to the back of the grid. So why was he allowed to reduce that punishment by changing his gearing? I know it is in the rules but it would seem to me that the leaving parc ferme is intended for the “force majeure” situation not the “you’ve cheated” one.

  11. julian

    good comments all… but i believe this is only a matter of discussion due to the fact of having two safety cars during the race… had not these happened, SV would have finished 8th more or less? and everybody would have put aside this discussion… cheers…

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