Haas’ qualifying disqualification and starting spot at F1 Monaco Grand Prix, explained

Coming into the Monaco Grand Prix, there was some confidence at Haas that the team could put in a good performance. In the team’s media preview, Team Principal Ayao Komatsu noted that Haas “ … has worked pretty well in the wind tunnel to come up with the Monaco downforce level required, which is different from previous years.” With both Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hülkenberg advancing to Q2 and qualifying in the top 15 on Saturday, it looked as if those efforts had paid off.

But the Haas duo will not be starting there tomorrow. Instead both drivers were disqualified from qualifying following post-qualifying inspections, and will be starting on pit lane thanks to a dispensation from Formula 1 race officials.

Here is why they were disqualified, and why they are still in the field starting on pit lane.

What did Haas do wrong?

Following qualifying, the team of FIA Technical Delegates conducted their standard post-event inspections of various cars in the field. Those inspections included a check on the rear wing of various cars, including Hülkenberg’s #27 car, and Magnussen’s #20 car.

As noted by Jo Bauer, the FIA Technical Delegate in their P3 and Qualifying Scrutineering Report — Document 39, available here — both Haas cars failed the rear wing inspection.

In a subsequent Technical Delegate’s Report Bauer noted that both Magnussen’s car and Hülkenberg’s car were not in compliance with FIA Technical Regulations, specifically Technical Regulation Article 3.10.10 h). As noted in this subsequent report:

“The uppermost rear wing element adjustable positions were checked on car numbers 20 and 27. The LHS and RHS outermost area of the of the adjustable elements were exceeding the maximum allowed 85mm on both cars. As this is not in compliance with TR Article 3.10.10 h), I am referring this matter to the stewards for their consideration.”

Team representatives were summoned to meet with race officials, and a hearing was conducted into the matter.

Following the hearing, race officials disqualified both Magnussen and Hülkenberg from qualifying. In the decision reports, race stewards noted that according to the Haas team representative, the non-compliance was due to a track-specific change in the rear wing for both cars made in advance of the Monaco Grand Prix:

“The team explained that this was the consequence of an inadvertent error on their part in setting the wing flap gap. The wing used was a new design that was used for the first time in Monaco. The old design was set to be compliant with the regulations with the largest gap measured from the centre of the wing. Under the new design, the largest gap was at the extremities of the wing but the team had not trained its mechanics to set the gap per the new design, resulting in the non-compliance.”

While the team pleaded for leniency, arguing that they did not gain a competitive advantage due to the non-compliance, race officials noted that under Article 1.3.3 of the International Sporting Code, the matter of whether a competitive advantage was gained is irrelevant.

As a result, both drivers were disqualified from qualifying.

But they will still be in the field tomorrow.

F1 and the 107% rule

Having been disqualified, both Magnussen and Hülkenberg thereby failed to set a time during qualifying.

However, even with that fact there is still a mechanism for both drivers to be in the field, and this comes down to what is called the “107% rule” in F1.

Under this rule, drivers that fail to post a time within 107 percent of the fastest time posted in Q1 will not be allowed to participate in the race, absent dispensation from race officials. The main reason for this rule? Safety. If a car cannot post a sufficient time during qualifying, there is a chance that car could pose a hazard during a Grand Prix.

However, under Article 39.4 of the Sporting Regulations, race officials are permitted to allow teams that fail the “107% rule” to start a race. Specifically with respect to Haas, “[t]he participation of unclassified drivers in the remainder of the Competition will be determined in each case by the Stewards, who may exceptionally consider parameters such as: A suitable lap time being set in another practice session.”

Following both Magnussen and Hülkenberg being disqualified, the team requested permission for both drivers to be in the field. That request was granted by race officials, who noted in their decisions that both Magnussen and Hülkenberg “set satisfactory times in practice at this Event.”

Now it comes down to math.

The top time in Q1 was 1:11.584, set by Charles Leclerc. That means that for a satisfactory time under the “107% rule” both Haas drivers would need to have posted a lap time that was faster than 1:16.595. To calculate the required time under the “107% rule” you convert the fastest Q1 time into seconds, and then multiply it by 1.07. In this example, Leclerc’s 1:11.584 sets a “107% rule” mark of 1.16.595.

(If you have made it this far, you might enjoy the “F1 Glossary” we have for you.

Returning to this weekend, during P3 Saturday at Monaco, both Haas drivers were well under that mark, with Magnussen posting a 1:12.216 and Hülkenberg a 1:12.192.

That allowed race officials the latitude to put both drivers in the field, despite not setting a time in qualifying due to being disqualified. However, under the Sporting Regulations they will start Sunday from pit lane.

With a tough task ahead of them, trying to pick up places on the tight Monaco streets.

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