Did running low on fuel give Lewis Hamilton pole position? No.

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

McLaren didn't put enough fuel in Hamilton's car in qualifying
McLaren didn't put enough fuel in Hamilton's car in qualifying

Several readers have asked in the comments whether Hamilton’s pole position for today’s Canadian Grand Prix was achieved solely because he had less fuel in his car than his rivals.

Having taken a look at the numbers it seems very unlikely.

Hamilton was instructed to stop his car on the track in order to ensure he had at least one kilo of fuel left in order to give a sample to the FIA for inspection. We can safely assume that the other nine cars which came into the pits at the end of Q3 were as close to that one kilo limit as they could get.

According to Williams, an F1 car burns 2.067kg of fuel on a lap of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Hamilton completed more than half of his lap back to the pits, so let’s say he was half a lap short of fuel – he should have had another kilo in the car.

How much time would that extra kilo have cost him? Williams tell us that fuel for 5km (2.37kg) increases a driver’s lap time by 0.06s. Hamilton’s missing kilo would have cost him 0.025 seconds.

Hamilton beat Webber to pole position by 0.268 seconds, so it doesn’t look like the missing fuel had much of an effect at all.

These figures assume the McLaren has identical fuel consumption to the Williams. It won’t do, though it will be very close.

To be on the safe side, let’s exaggerate the figures and see what happens:

What if McLaren’s fuel consumption was twice as high, their performance penalty for carrying extra fuel was twice as high, and Hamilton needed twice as much fuel in the car? He would have gained 0.103s – less than half his advantage over Webber.

Did running low on fuel give Lewis Hamilton pole position for today’s race? Based on these figures I think we can confidently answer that it did not.

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115 comments on “Did running low on fuel give Lewis Hamilton pole position? No.”

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  1. phoenix_501
    13th June 2010, 12:39

    Question would have more relevant had they both had same tyre on.

    1. And the same engines with Williams

      1. Did you not read the article? Even doubling the fuel consumption rate, he still would have had a faster lap. And I doubt McLaren have a fuel tank twice as big as Williams on their car. Had the lap times been closer, the accuracy of the fuel consumption from different engines would be an issue, but the distance is drastic enough that it answers the question pretty definitively.

        If that isn’t relevant, then you probably had a hard time in science class.

        1. Keith, nice article, the figures are very very clear but… doesn’t matter!!

          The fact was that HAM could make an extra lap, forget about the fuel/weight advantage, if he didn’t run this extra lap the poleman should be WEB, not HAM.

          I’m sure many drivers should be able to do the same in past GP, but they didn’t, why?

  2. It was surely the tires that gave him the advantage but I think the situation will reverse during the race though

    1. Why do you say that? Hamilton seemed faster on both compounds. Redbull went for the hard seemingly because they realised they couldn’t beat him on the softs. An as the Redbull is harder on it’s tyres than the McLaren, which is stronger during the race than during qualifiying, an seems to deal with it’s tyres better I’d say McLaren still hold the advantage.

      Just because McLaren have sneaked a pole doesn’t mean the cars strong point isn’t still race pace. Redbull is also still a qualifiying machine.

  3. i think he was faster but i dont agree with bbc statement who blamed the temperature for the poor team qually

  4. Thanks for taking the time to write an article like this :) might quieten down some people who are saying Lewis only got pole by cheating with a very light car, although I doubt it haha.

    It’s all set up to be a great race today :-D can’t wait but it feels SO far away right now, not sure what to do with myself all day!

    1. Yes, nice one Keith. Glad you cleared it up for me in my own mind. Even allowing a large margin for error it clearly would have made no difference if Lewis had the extra bit of fuel he needed to get back to the pits.

      1. Some copyright issues here, keith.

        I posted a comment in the previous thread, telling just the same, and giving the mumbers also.

        My lawyers will meet you in the court, keith!!!! :-) :-)

        1. my point was that if mclaren was to be legal i.e have 1 kg of fuel they didn’t have the chance to do the final lap which would not have got him his pole.

          the initial idea was not to do the 1 extra lap. since lewis didn’t improve in the final stint he had to go for the extra lap. when they had to decide if they wanted to be legal or not with the fuel.

  5. The comments about Hamilton are just incredible. I’ve not seen a driver be polarized as much for a very long time. The Fia had to do something as by the rules he should have had enough fuel to get back to the pits. Ham took a gamble on another lap as he was sure he may have not got pole. Mclaren are fully aware of the rules and took a gamble themselves and pole with a $10k fine has to be seen as a good result. What state his tyres are in is a very different question. Overall it was a good descision by him and the team but how many more smacks on the wrist can he be given?

    1. “The Fia had to do something as by the rules he should have had enough fuel to get back to the pits.”

      actually there is no rule saying that, only a memo that was circulated sometime in the past.

      1. The memo was from the day before, June 11.

      2. That is correct. The only rule is that there must be enough fuel in the car for a sample to be taken to be tested.

        1. The cars have what is called ‘reasonable’ time to get back to parc ferme. He(or anyone else) could stop 50meters after the line to save tyres and fuel if not.
          If you said to any team $10k gets you pole and a finger waved at you by the FIA they would all have taken it.

          1. if that were true, every pole would be achieved this way.. and guess what, they haven’t been. and surely the key word there is getting back to parc ferme. Last I looked, that wasn’t out on the track?

  6. I dont think you covered the picture completely:
    Firstly each team is told to do a specific time in their in lap by the FIA, this is to prevent teams from slowing down to some random speed to conserve fuel and make it an advantage. Hamilton’s sector times in the in lap were 33s and 55s in the first two sectors. They were way off then the requirements so he probably didn’t burn 50 % of the fuel in the lap.

    But more interestingly Red Bull and Ferrari(maybe even Kubica) did their times on their 4th flying lap, Ferrari was on softs but Red Bull were on the harder compound. Comparing the times Ferrari seem to be really good at taking care of their tyres, this will be a huge advantage come the race.

    All in all McLaren might not be the fastest team just based on last evening’s qualification.

    1. I’ll say it again, McLarens strong point has consitently been race pace, it’s fairly ominous for the oposition that they’re starting to grab poles.

  7. i dont believe the fuel made a difference either, did anyone see fp3? nobody could beat hamiltons time on the hard tyres even with their soft tyres. hamilton was the only one to make a significant improvement on the options.

  8. Glad to see this cleared up. Although people still won’t believe it. Was a stunning lap :)

  9. After all the penalties Hamilton got in the previous years and even this year, I am enjoying the faces of Hamilton haters. :)

    People act like Hamilton has never been penalised.

    1. well he hasn’t this year, not really. A minor reprimand (aka slap on the wrist) doesn’t make a damn difference to anything, as he’s shown by getting 3 of them and not being bothered.

  10. The Nude Wizard
    13th June 2010, 12:55

    Simplistic defence of a “what if” scenario and missing the real crux of the issue.

    Is breaking the rules to have one more bite at the cherry against the spirit of competition when you know you don’t have enough fuel? Yes.

    They knew how much fuel he had before he started his lap and his tyres would improve with another lap and made their decision to push the limit of the rules, no team should be rewarded for it as it sets a bad precedence.

    1. Apart from the fact that they didn’t really break any rules.

      F1 is all about pushing the limit of the rules. Every team does it. As long as teams don’t break the rules then everything is fine.

    2. Part of the gain was due to Red Bull having to modify its car to satisfy the FIA scrutineers. That’s right – the suspension on the RB6 was borderline illegal and had been for three races. [http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2010/06/06/technical-review-turkish-grand-prix/]

      Sounds like the Red Bulls were pushing the limit of the rules to the point they had to modify it. Running three whole race weekends with a setup you become worried enough about you have to change it is a far greater crime than finishing a qualifying run marginal on fuel. They didn’t even get a fine for it and that’s a well defined rule.

      1. Best comment on the matter so far.

      2. Good point, but it’s been a fairly consistent FIA pattern of allowing design infringements or dubious modifications to go unpunished even after the team’s been forced to drop the modification over recent years. (Either that or rule rule them legal, aka. the Brawn diffuser and McLaren F-duct. Not arguing whether they were or not, just making the observation.) That being the case, I prefer more leniency with the drivers and the issuing of ‘reprimands,’ specifically where safety isn’t being directly compromised. Seems more generally consistent.

      3. chris markham
        14th June 2010, 10:52

        finally someone who will bring to light other teams shall we say ‘bending the rules’ and getting away with it, definately much worse than hamilton saving fuel in my opinion

  11. I never saw it as an unfair advantage. I looked at it like he probably had the same amount of fuel as the RB and Renaults but their engine is just more efficient. So I figured there was no advantage when it came to weight.

    Plus your right, the figures dont add up. There is no way there is a two tenths advantage for carrying half a laps less fuel, when you think about it, makes the people who were moaning sound quite stupid.

    1. Enough said, great result

  12. Keith, love the in depth reply to low fuel, thanks..

    looks set to be an interesting battle, with Red Bull being able to run longer before changing tires, but will a safety car defuse the extra distance they could gather?
    will more rubber on the track allow the softer tire a longer run?
    will those running softer tires pull in before the first safety car, lots of different strategies that could change the outcome..
    love Formula 1.

  13. not a hamilton hater
    13th June 2010, 13:06

    maybe it wasn’t only about that one kg of fuel being spared for the fia sample. cars + driver need to have a minimum weight at the end of the session right?

    btw hamilton’s last lap wasn’t at full speed right(before he stopped his engine) so he didn’t need the 2kg of fuel to complete it…

    1. refer to the last couple of paragraphs of the original article, unless the McLaren uses an inordinately inefficient amount of fuel in comparison to the rest of the grid, it still wouldn’t have made the difference.

    2. The fuel cannot be counted towards the minimum weight (as BAR found out a couple of years ago, result sitting out 2 races).

      If the total amount of fuel for a lap is about 2,1 kg for a fast lap (according to Williams and with an amount of reserve) and Hamilton drove at slow speed, he would still have used about 0,5 to 1,5 kg as he got to the start of the last straight. He still had at least the 1 kg of fuel.

      Even if he would have had had 2 kg less during his lap compared to Webber, it would have been a difference in time of about 0,05 seconds, compared to being 0,286 seconds faster then Webber.

  14. Younger Hamilton
    13th June 2010, 13:12

    Great Data Analysis Keith, That will show those Lewis Hamilton Haters that its Lewis’s Talent that got him on pole.

  15. Well I think the fact that he was in the end .25 of a sec faster suggests that he would have been faster anyways.

    but parking the car before reaching the pits cant be encouraged and in that sense i am a bit disappointed with the final decision.

    This is a fairly short circuit, imagine people parking their cars on a much longer circuit like Spa..there they might gain upto .2 of a sec by running out of gas…

  16. Osmar Cassãp
    13th June 2010, 13:17

    Every rule exists to disciplinate human acts. Hamilton shall not to try the last lap. Now every team can do the same, at the end of each Q1, Q2 and Q3. The Maclaren’s rule is stupid.

    1. Perhaps we should wait until Q3 in Valencia before jumping to that conclusion.

      1. Quite right. If you “did a Hamilton” at the end of Q2 I imagine that you wouldn’t be able to get the car back to your garage in time to stick more fuel in it, get fresh tyres and set a quali lap in Q3, so I don’t see this becoming a trend.

        At the end of the day McLaren took a risk and it paid off. In my mind there is no difference between this and the decision Jenson made to switch to slicks in Australia. Both were gutsy calls that paid off.

      2. Osmar Cassãp
        15th June 2010, 12:55

        I said they can, not they will.

    2. I suspect that there will be a clarification of the rules come Valencia, a bit like after Schumacher/Alonso/Rascasse and Spa 2008

  17. I’m not saying he got pole because of the short fuel situation but as you have confirmed, small as it may be, it did give him an advantage. You cannot say it doesn’t matter because it doesn’t change the result. It’s like saying HRT can run with flexi wings because they will still be at the back of the grid and would not change the result. Simple ruling would have been to delete the last lap time as this would have been the only one he was shorter than he should have been and would stop teams doing it in the future.

    1. Best post and explains my sentiments exactly. What bothers me is how light the rules are for Mclaren and not only this season rather than the particular incident itself. Especially the stuff with Petrov back in malaysia. This reprimand thing is really bad we need to see actual punishment at faults and I don’t mean ridiculous displays like Schumacher’s in monaco.

      1. Rules for McLaren being light for not only this season? That’s a laugh and a half…

    2. Actually, you can, because the “rule” broken was nowhere near as blatant and set as your hypothetical HRT scenario.

      The only reason for deleting a time is if the car was underweight, or the driver cut a corner, or something lke that. Hamilton broken none of these rules.

      What he did break was the “rule” about getting back to the pits in time. And that “rule” says nothing about why it was broken.

      As things are, Hamilton did nothing wrong to merit his time being deleted, or taking a grid penalty. If the FIA want to clear things up for the future, they can and perhaps should. But given that there are other, more important and more set rules that need clarifying that haven’t been, from that point of view why should they?

      McLaren made a mistake and were punished accordingly. If anyone tries it soon, that will be the difference – it would be intentional. I doubt we’ll be seeing a repeat for a long while yet.

      1. Yeah that’s a fair point. However he did gain an advantage (however small) so something needs to be done to prevent teams doing the same in the future. If someone does the same without the rules be clarrified/changed then can you imagine the carnage that will happen afterwards if they don’t get the same treatment as McLaren – how can you prove they didn’t do it by mistake and it was intentional?

        1. It would be hard, but take this into consideration: when was the last time this happened? If it happens again this year it’ll look very convenient.

          1. From comments by Martin Withmarsh i understand, the Stewards had a look into how far this was planned to have an advantage.

            He goes on saying, that anybody having a try next time will be hard put to explain themselves and proving it not to be planned, risking a hefty penalty.

    3. You cannot say it doesn’t matter because it doesn’t change the result.

      I didn’t say that.

      1. Yeah sorry, that wasn’t really aimed at you/your article, more the comments on here and elsewhere so was an in general ‘you’ if you get me!

  18. I’ve made a correction to one of the calculations above, but it’s made little difference to the final result. I had one of Williams’ figures written down wrong.

  19. Nice analysis CSI Keith. Case closed.

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