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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    1. 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;

    2. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Jraybay-HamiltonMclarenfan
    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.

  6. Electrolite
    13th June 2010, 19:03

    Haha nice article title Keith. Owned.

  7. I’m just amazed that the FIA need anywhere near as much as a kilo of fuel to run a sample. 10g would be overkill – that’s like two teaspoons.

  8. Sorry if this has been posted before, but my understanding was this “rule” was introduced originally to avoid possible accidents with other cars.

  9. '92 & '93 Peugeot 905 Le Mans Winner
    15th December 2010, 14:32

    I think as a driver when you know there is nothing left of fuel in your car it gives you the confidence to give it some extra and push one ore two tenths extra

  10. If only this was brought up after today’s qualifying debacle.

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