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

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.

  1. Tommy said on 13th June 2010, 14:58

    @ Ade. Yep, swear to God mate, most people (well I can only speak on behalf of the people whom I spoke to about Hamilton) think he’s a git. But, as you said, most Germans like Schumacher and Spaniards tend to like Alonso.

    Some of it is probably due to racism, the rest is probably due to the fact that Hamilton is a bit of a git, IMHO

  2. Tommy said on 13th June 2010, 15:00

    p.s. I’m not British

  3. Ady said on 13th June 2010, 15:00

    In my opinion, I don’t think they were expecting Lewis to cross the line before the end of the session. He crossed with less than a couple of seconds spare.

    So with only 4th position they decided to use the fuel reserved for the in lap for another flying lap. This wasn’t planned, however they could have elected to not run the lap.

    • mani said on 13th June 2010, 16:02

      I completely agree with this point. I always thought a team can’t be unaware of sending their driver with lesser fuel for a qualifying lap and an in lap… if so, it should be some dump miscalculation far below their standards.

      If they were sending Hamilton knowingly with so little fuel, I thought they were under the assumption that Red-Bull is too close to even let go that 0.025 secs (as computed by Keith), which sounded a bit too much for me. I simply couldn’t accept they did that, but this is much more reasonable.

  4. Suggestion said on 13th June 2010, 15:22

    Hey Keith, Can we get a list of who is running New Engines prior to each Race. I know Ferrari changed there’s for this Race, but not sure where all the other teams are at. Thanks

    • Steph90 (@steph90) said on 13th June 2010, 15:33

      If you go on f1wolf.com and click “2010 season” there are engine info and gearbox stats too. It’s really quite handy. It says what they used last racce, sometimes it doesn’t immediately say what’s going on that weekend but it helps to get a good picture over the season

  5. BBQ2 said on 13th June 2010, 15:28

    Keith did a good job here and the fanbois …..oh! Yess!! fanbois not fanboys have diverted the discussion to their selfish ends :-(

  6. David BR said on 13th June 2010, 15:31


    (Extra padding bit!… Your comment was a bit too short. Please go back and try again.)

  7. rok said on 13th June 2010, 15:32

    Whole article just to tell Lewis didnt win pole because of the missing kg of fuel… man you must be bored or bias… the more a read the more i see it could be both

  8. Glenn (@glenn) said on 13th June 2010, 15:39

    So i just got a tweet from Keith that Webber has a 5 place grid penalty for changing his gearbox.


    Hamilton will be the WDC leader after Canada!!!

    Changes up the order a little too…

  9. VXR said on 13th June 2010, 15:40

    Quite clearly, Hamilton would have been on pole regardless of the fact that he was a fraction short of fuel at the end of the race. Whether or not we want to see all the cars stopping out on track after qualifying is another matter.

  10. Florida Mike said on 13th June 2010, 15:43

    I think the advantage that McLaren got was not because the car was lighter or the tires stickier, but because the track was quickly improving with every lap. If McLaren chose to use its mandatory reserve fuel for a last hot lap it (when the track was most favorable) then I think it’s fair for the FIA to penalize them. If I was a steward I might have voted to declare that last lap ineligable in addition to the fine imposed.

  11. Hi , mike, a really possible theory for what you said. But i guess the stewards took into account that BUT crossed the line shortly before hamilton & LIU or SUT crossed the line shortly after n prob decided that the difference isn’t that large to warrant a change in pole-sitter.

  12. F1NATIC said on 13th June 2010, 15:53

    since this sets precedent all teams should have a “free” ride (penalty wise cause it had a monetary cost) on running out of fuel this year. Yet I believe the rules should be change to ensure this does not happen again. Good job on the consumption report Keith, but even though I’m not a Hamilton fan I must admit that was a very “on th limit lap” and never did I think this fuel issue would have been a reason for his time.

  13. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 13th June 2010, 16:29

    One thing I haven’t heard anywhere: did Hamilton actually have only one litre of fuel left in the tank? If he had more, it would dismiss the case against him more, but I haven’t seen anything anyhwere.

    • Regarding your qn, actually, all teams will try to run as close as to the 1 kg limit for qualifying, as every kg counts. According to Martin Whitmarsh, Mclaren’s team principal, FIA was able to extract sufficient fuel for their testing ( so that actually means it have 1 kg), but hw much exactly is left in the tank is an unknown because such details are probably confidential for the team to know only;

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 14th June 2010, 14:11

      If he didn’t he wouldn’t have been able to give a sample and he’d have been penalised, so he must have done.

  14. Fiero said on 13th June 2010, 16:51

    Hamilton is an incredible driver and I respect his talent. However what he and his team McLaren did is wrong. Everyone talks about just how fast he is. He may be fast but that does not mean that he can do one ‘extra’ lap compared to other teams. Yes, having 1kg of fuel more in the car would not have made a big difference in the time sheets. But what if the Red Bulls or the Ferraris decided to the same? There is a huge possibility that one of these cars would have got the pole position. Why think about other teams? What if Jenson Button decided to do another lap? There is a fair amount of chance for him to get the pole as well. When you do something ‘extra’ compared to other competitors, you are spoiling the spirit of the competition. In my opinion, he should have got a more serious penalty that a ‘reprimand’. 10k fine will not make any difference for a team like Mclaren anyway.

  15. Jraybay-HamiltonMclarenfan said on 13th June 2010, 18:13

    very good lap by hamilton…. *Last gas attempt* in the final seconds of q3 :D stunner. but he is on the not favored tires. he needs a safety car or rain maybe. Or maybe the tires will hold together better now that the track has rubber on it.

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