Sébastien Buemi will begin Sunday's German Grand Prix from the very back of the starting grid after a fuel sample taken from his Scuderia Toro Rosso failed post-qualifying scrutineering checks.
Buemi initially qualified 16th at the Nürburgring – one position ahead of Toro Rosso team-mate Jaime Alguersuari – and the Swiss ace had professed himself 'pleased' with his performance, feeling that he had 'got the maximum out of the car' after missing much of Friday's practice running. Unfortunately, those same troubles the previous day would subsequently come back to haunt him.
'At the end of today's qualifying session, a fuel sample taken from his car was found not to conform to the FIA 2011 Technical Regulations, being in breach of Article 19.8.3,' revealed a team statement.
'The reasons for this are as follows – during Friday's FP1, Buemi's car had a fuel pressure problem, which then got worse at the start of FP2, which is why he did not do a timed lap in that session. After FP2, the entire fuel system on his car was changed. When the fuel sample was taken from his car after qualifying, it did not match the one provided to the FIA prior to the start of the season. The team believes that some part of the new fuel system contained a chemical that contaminated the fuel and caused the non-conformity.'
Buemi will begin the grand prix with a wet set-up on his car in anticipation of the heavens opening on Sunday, whilst Alguersuari has conversely plumped for a dry set-up. The young Spaniard wound up just over a tenth-of-a-second slower in qualifying, but is now promoted to 17th on the grid following his team-mate's relegation.
“This is where we are at the moment in qualifying,” mused the 21-year-old, who lost time due to a mistake in Turn Two. “Maybe if it rains tomorrow, then it will prove to have been a good idea to have used the extra set of tyres this afternoon. Perhaps I could have gone one or two tenths quicker, but no more than that. Nevertheless, I am pleased that we managed to make a step forward with the car after this morning's session, improving it for qualifying, and I believe I have a good set-up for the race, too.”
“We have ended up in the positions that generally reflect our current level, even allowing for the fact that neither driver got a perfect lap on their last run,” concluded STR technical director Giorgio Ascanelli, speaking before Buemi's penalty was announced. “Currently, we now seem to be closer to Sauber than to Force India – which has made a step forward – and Williams is also going better.
“This is not a circuit where I expect a big difference in pace between qualifying and the race for us, because it is a high-downforce track and the low temperature means that it is less critical to save your tyres, which is something we seem to have been doing a bit better than others up until now. Therefore, I don't expect a big change in pace tomorrow.”