Lewis Hamilton has been stripped of pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix

Pastor Maldonado will start from pole position for Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix after pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton was stripped of his qualifying results after failing to return to the pits under his own power at the end of the qualifying session.

His McLaren was found not to have enough fuel on board to meet this year’s rules which stipulate that a car must return under its own power to the pits at the end of the session, in addition to being able to prove at least one litre of fuel for the FIA scrutineers to sample. Cars are only allowed to stop on track under force majeure; for example, in the instance of a mechanical failure.

“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,” the FIA ruling later issued would read.

Hamilton was stripped of his qualifying times after his McLaren ran out of fuel on the 'slow down' lap“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.

“As the amount of fuel put into the car is under the complete control of the Competitor the Stewards cannot accept this as a case of force majeure.

“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.”

The announcement was the end to a fascinating qualifying session that was one of the most closely-fought of the season to-date. The early phases saw several runners commit to runs on the softer-compound Pirelli tyres just to ensure a spot in the next knockout round.

It was little surprise that the three ‘junior’ teams – Caterham, Marussia and HRT – qualified slowest, although Narain Karthikeyan would have to rely on the dispensation of stewards to be allowed to start the race, after he failed to post a time within 107% of the fastest Q1 session time.

Bruno Senna spun out of Q1There were a few unexpected performances in this little band of seven, with Vitaly Petrov outqualifying Caterham team-mate Heikki Kovalainen for the first time, while Charles Pic went quicker than Marussia team-mate Timo Glock.

In contrast to the amazing pace shown by his Williams team-mate, Bruno Senna was this weekend’s Q1 victim, with the Brazilian spinning out of contention on his final flying lap trying to improve on his 18th-fastest time.

The second phase of qualifying was a tightly-contested affair, with some surprise performances from both Sauber drivers and Pastor Maldonado proving enough to ensure that a few more-fancied competitors would not make the Q3 shootout for pole position.

The slowest of the Q2 runners, Felipe Massa, only missed out on a Q3 berth by half a second; he will line up behind the Force India and Toro Rosso pairings on the grid for Sunday’s race.

Missing out by less than one-tenth of a second were Mark Webber and Jenson Button, who were just bumped from a Q3 berth by the final flying laps from Mercedes pairing Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg.

As Q3 dawned, the likes of Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel opted not to post a timed lap as everyone waited to see who would blink first and attempt a lap time as the field weighed up the pros and cons of using a precious set of soft tyres. Kamui Kobayashi was unable to participate in Q3, with his Sauber grinding to a halt with an hydraulics failure at the end of Q2.

Hamilton bit the bullet and posted a benchmark time, which remained the provisional pole time until Fernando Alonso and then Pastor Maldonado managed to better his effort.

As the only runner to opt for two runs in Q3, it would be his second – and ultimately, under-fuelled – effort that would allow him to reclaim pole, while Maldonado gave Williams its first front-row start since the 2010 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Alonso would line up ahead of the two Lotus entries, which will be followed by Sergio Pérez and Nico Rosberg.

With such a jumbled grid order and a host of different tyre strategies at play, Sunday’s 66-lap race could be set to be the best Spanish Grand Prix yet at the Circuit de Catalunya.

2012 Spanish Formula 1 Grand Prix – Qualifying Session Times:

Driver Team Time Gap
1. Lewis Hamilton* GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 1:21.707  
2. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Renault FW34 1:22.285 + 0.578
3. Fernando Alonso ESP Scuderia Ferrari F2012 1:22.302 + 0.595
4. Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus F1 Renault E20 1:22.424 + 0.717
5. Kimi Räikkönen FIN Lotus F1 Renault E20 1:22.487 + 0.780
6. Sergio Pérez MEX Sauber Ferrari C31 1:22.533 + 0.826
7. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes AMG F1 W03 1:23.005 + 1.298
8. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Racing Renault RB8 no time  
9. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes AMG F1 W03 no time  
10. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari C31 no time  
  Q2 Cut-Off – 1:22.904   Time Gap
11. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 1:22.944 + 0.040
12. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing Renault RB8 1:22.977 + 0.073
13. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM05 1:23.125 + 0.221
14. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Force India Mercedes VJM05 1:23.177 + 0.273
15. Jean-Éric Vergne FRA Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7 1:23.265 + 0.361
16. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7 1:23.442 + 0.538
17. Felipe Massa BRA Scuderia Ferrari F2012 1:23.444 + 0.540
  Q1 Cut-Off – 1:24.362   Time Gap
18. Bruno Senna BRA Williams Renault FW34 1:24.981 + 0.619
19. Vitaly Petrov RUS Caterham Renault CT01 1:25.277 + 0.915
20. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Caterham Renault CT01 1:25.507 + 1.145
21. Charles Pic FRA Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01 1:26.582 + 2.220
22. Timo Glock DEU Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01 1:27.032 + 2.670
23. Pedro de la Rosa ESP HRTF1 Cosworth F112 1:27.555 + 3.193
  107% Cut-Off – 1:28.363   Time Gap
DNQ. Narain Karthikeyan IND HRTF1 Cosworth F112 1:31.122 + 2.759

* Lewis Hamilton was stripped of his qualifying times after his car failed post-qualifying scrutineering (unable to provide a sufficient fuel sample). Despite qualifying outside the 107% time cut-off in Q1, Narain Karthikeyan has been allowed to start the Spanish Grand Prix.

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.