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Jeremy Walker

Software Developer & Social Entrepreneur

Are the FIA accusing Mclaren and Lewis Hamilton of 'doping'?

In most sports, athletes can be tested for drugs at any time, with no warning. Their substances in their bodies can be scrutinised at any time and must adhere to certain standards. The cost for missing a drugs test is severe, with penalties such as that handed out to Rio Ferdinand not uncommon.

In F1, though, the risk of doping is much less, and in fact the real risk lies with the cars, not the drivers. Article 6.6.2 of the technical regulations states:

"Competitors must ensure that a one litre sample of fuel may be taken from the car at any time during the event".

This regulation exists to stop teams using dodgy fuel, in effect doping. I know relatively very little about this side of the sport, but I imagine that a large advantage could be gained from using different fuel from other teams. Have the FIA given Lewis Hamilton such a large penalty due to the risk they feel that they deliberately tried to avoid having their fuel tested?

Is this why the penalty is so large?

It seems fair that Lewis should be penalised for not having the fuel tested. Maybe having his Q3 times eliminated and starting 10th would be fair, if still harsh. Being excluded from qualifying and starting from the back of the grid just seems overly harsh. There must be a reason for such a punishment?

If Lewis had qualified on pole by a tenth, or had been putting in super-fast times like that all weekend, maybe the stewards would have penalised Lewis by dropping a few places. However, the incredible speed with which he completed that lap, and then the lack of fuel sample at the end, may well have raised suspicions that something untoward has occurred.

If it was Lewis that had missed a drugs test, rather than the car, would we feel that the punishment was too harsh? When Ferdinand missed his test, everyone immediately jumped to conclusions and shouted "foul play". While I'm not accusing Mclaren of doing anything wrong - I'm a massive Hamilton fanboy who presumes the guy can pull out a ridiculous time like that whenever he wants - it's important to remember that the stewards have to protect against teams deliberately abusing the rules and avoiding scrutinisation.

Let's hope Hamilton can make up some places tomorrow and undo the mistake his team have made.

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Jeremy Walker

Someone just pointed out that "they aren't penalising him for having too little fuel for a sample but rather for not returning to the pits with that sample."
That's true, but the point is he couldn't have got to the pits with enough fuel for a sample. So he didn't have enough fuel to test. Again, I'm really not accusing Mclaren of anything, but from the point of view of a steward, you can see why this might prove to be a big enough issue to exclude someone from qualifying.

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Ian Haigh

My first thought was that this was inconsistent from what happened in Canada in 2010 but apparently the rules have changed since then.

Personally, I don't see comparisons can be made between athletes and machines. As long as there was sufficient fuel left then the FIA could still do the test and see if the sample contained anything it shouldn't. The human body is different in that the amount of drug in the blood system reduces over time. So IMHO the punishment is not due to doping but perhaps due to other reasons...
As Ross Brawn said in 2010, "We don't want a situation where cars are running out on the circuit because that is the lightest way to go."

Granted, the tiny advantage Hamilton might've had due to his car being lighter is not proportional to the punishment, I can't see any argument from McLaren - they knew the rules and, whether they did it intentionally or not, they broke the rules.

Additionally, it's not like in Canada when Hamilton had only been given enough fuel for one flying lap, but the team said he could go for another because he made a mistake on his first lap and failed to improve. This time he just did one flying lap so it seems fairly clear cut to me that the team simply cocked up by not putting enough fuel in.

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Ian Haigh

From jamesallenonf1.com:

How did it happen? My BBC colleague Gary Anderson saw the refuelling and said this, “The fuel rig guy put the rig on, but he had the handle set to drain fuel. He discovered his mistake and switched it to put fuel in the car. But as a result he didn’t put as much fuel in it as he should have. He (Hamilton) went across the start-finish line 20 seconds before the chequered flag but if they had sat in the garage for three or four more seconds to get more fuel in, they still would have had time to cross the line and complete another flying lap.”

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