Sebastian Vettel experienced a roller coaster of emotions in Hungary. A bad start, suddenly second with a bit of luck – and now disqualified. All his efforts to avert this don’t help. But the case is not over.
The already turbulent race from the Hungaroring got a little crazier at 22:02 on Sunday. “Car number five is disqualified from the race,” reads an official statement from the International Automobile Federation (FIA). Car number five is Sebastian Vettel on the grid. That meant: Sebastian Vettel loses his strong second place, which he had driven out at the Hungarian Grand Prix a few hours earlier. That was the decision of the race stewards.
The 34-year-old was already on his way home by then. The reason: Vettel had probably used too much fuel while trying to catch up with leader Esteban Ocon. After the race, the technical delegates could only detect 0.3 liters in Vettel’s Aston Martin.
The problem: At the end of the race, however, there has to be at least one liter left in the tank to allow the regulators of the FIA, the world governing body, to carry out a qualitative check of the fuel. This is to ensure that no illegal fuel is used. “The team was given several opportunities to attempt to remove the required amount of fuel from the tank, but only managed to pump out 0.3 liters,” the FIA’s official statement said.
Aston Martin protests
Aston Martin immediately lodged a letter of intent to protest with the race stewards. Vettel’s car was then sealed. In a hearing, the racing team stressed there was just over 1.4 liters in the tank. After the race, when Vettel still thought he was second, he had said of the missed chance to win: “Of course I’m a bit disappointed, I felt I was a bit faster the whole race, but I didn’t get close.” Now he is probably more than a little disappointed.
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 2, 2021
For some years now, it has been forbidden to refuel during the race. There had been too many dangerous accidents during high-risk refueling. In addition, the high-tech equipment consumed too much money. As a consequence, the teams try to reach the finish line with as little gasoline as possible. Because every gram too much also means less speed and more wear on the tires. Formula 1 is a motorsport class where little things like this make the difference between winning and losing.
Vettel jogged into the pit lane
At the start of a Grand Prix, the fully fueled cars enter the race with just over 140 liters in the tank. Vettel drove the 70 laps without any problems, but then somewhat surprisingly parked his car on the lap of honor after crossing the finish line already in the last corner. He then jogged toward the pit lane – where he should have parked. That made the officials suspicious.
Vettel explained this with a sensor problem and a precautionary measure. As it now turned out, the desperate parking maneuver before entering the pit lane was probably more of a last hara-kiri action to somehow save some fuel in the tank. At 8:11 p.m., Formula 1 officially announced that a team member had to answer to the race stewards because of the low fuel quantity, and at 10:02 p.m. the verdict came, which completed this crazy race Sunday.
The laughing third, in the truest sense of the word, is Carlos Sainz from Ferrari. He slipped onto the podium retrospectively. In the evening, he published a video in which he very stylishly tips the obligatory champagne that is splashed at the podium ceremony into his glass. “My second podium for Ferrari and super happy for the whole team after all the effort we put into this first part of the season,” he wrote on Twitter. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), who was actually third, is now in second place. The winner remains the surprising champion Esteban Ocon of Alpine.
What initially looked like a dream ending before the summer break turned into a nightmare for Vettel in the end because of 0.7 liters too little fuel.