Mark Webber has been excluded from Chinese GP qualifying after refuelling glitch
Australian thrown out of qualifying and will start from last place
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 14/04/13 6:36am
In the third such high-profile case inside the last 12 months, the Red Bull driver's RB9 was found not to have sufficient amount of fuel left in its tank for the mandatory post-qualifying samples after it had earlier stopped on the circuit in Q2 due to a fuel rig problem.
That stoppage had already left Webber 14th on the grid but he will now line-up in 22nd and last place, either from the grid or pitlane, for the 56-lap event after the FIA stewards deleted all of his qualifying times.
The Australian, running fifth-fastest mid-way through Q2, was told to pull off the road with immediate effect when the Red Bull pitwall noted a sudden drop in fuel pressure.
Red Bull later explained that a "fuel bowser problem caused an incorrect fuel measurement to be delivered to Mark's car" and the FIA's investigations discovered there was only 150ml of fuel in the tank, well below the amount required for both the mandatory one-litre sample and for the car to have completed a full in-lap.
"It's very disappointing," said Webber. "We need a bit of luck now; it's not the optimum starting position, but we still have to try to get something from there."
Reacting to the penalty on Sky Sports News, Ted Kravitz suggested Webber had been unfortunate to pick up the sanction.
"I have to say this is pretty harsh as it has come as a result of a mechanical failure with the fuel rig - the rig didn't give Mark Webber enough fuel. So he was already disadvantaged having dropped out of qualifying and having to start 14th," Ted said.
"Now of course, because the rig did not deliver enough fuel, then by the letter of the law he has to get a penalty. They tried to get enough fuel out, but could only get 150ml when he actually need one litre, so it was a fairly open and shut case - it was way off in terms of the amount of fuel they needed to get out of the car.
"Really the stewards had no option but to kick him to the back of the grid, but seeing as he was 14th anyway, it seems a bit harsh. Talk about kicking a man whilst he is down."
Webber had arrived in China as a man in the spotlight due to the events of Sepang and the explosive fallout which has spilled over into the Shanghai weekend.
The timing of the incident was therefore particularly unfortunate for both team and driver, but Ted insisted any conspiracy theories doing the rounds were the stuff of fantasy.
"I know a lot of conspiracy theorists will say this is very convenient for Red Bull, with a piece of equipment that is under their control and it only happens to Mark Webber's car and that means he is out of the way of Sebastian Vettel," the <>Sky Sports F1 expert continued.
"I think it is ridiculous to suggest that Red Bull would compromise their own car by not putting enough fuel in there, but what it does do is take some of the heat out of the situation between Vettel and Webber this weekend.
"They pretty much can't stand the sight of each other at the moment and it what means is that Red Bull can guarantee, pretty much, that they won't be racing on track, so the Red Bull management on the pitwall will not have to manage them on track. So there might be one rye thought in the back of Christian Horner's mind that that is one less problem that he has to manage.
"It is a big mistake for them to get an operational procedure like a fuel rig to fail."
Speaking to Sky Sports F1 prior to the issuing of the penalty, Red Bull chief Christian Horner, whose team experienced the same penalty with Sebastian Vettel in Abu Dhabi last season, insisted it was simply one of those things.
"It's annoying more than anything, but we'll deal with it," he insisted.
"To be honest we're just focused on this event so our objective is to get both drivers right there. It's disappointing to have an issue, but these things happen, we've seen it with other teams as well. But the most important thing is to understand what has happened."
Furthermore, he raised the prospect of a Webber comeback in the race by pointing to his Shanghai drive from two years ago, when the Australian stormed from 18th to third on a reverse tyre strategy.
"The good thing about the race here is that, particularly with the strategies, it is open and Mark's demonstrated the year before last he can come from a lowly grid position and still be right up there by the end of the race."
Ted, meanwhile, added that it was "very likely" Red Bull will repeat what they did with Vettel in Abu Dhabi and pull Webber's car out of parc ferme, and therefore start from the pitlane, so they can make changes to its wing level for the race to give the Australian a better chance of overtaking.
The Stewards' verdict in full
Offence: Breach of Article 6.6.2 of the FIA Formula One Technical Regulations.
Decision: The Competitor is excluded from the results of the Qualifying Session. The competitor is however allowed to start the race from the back of the grid.
Reason: The team admitted it had not put sufficient fuel in the car. As specified in the Technical Delegate's report (Document 21), only 150ml of fuel was on board which was insufficient to provide the 1 litre fuel sample and drive the car back to the pits under its own power.