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.

2010 Canadian Grand Prix

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