The Renault F1 Team were pleased after both cars made it into the top 10 shootout session with Daniel Ricciardo qualifying eighth on the grid whilst outgoing team-mate Nico Hülkenberg qualified ninth as he seeks future employment.
But hours later as the teams left the paddock, Ricciardo was disqualified from qualifying through exceeding the MGU-K power limit, meaning he will start at the back of the grid on Sunday.
Despite being perilously close to being eliminated in Q1 Hülkenberg rallied to pick up the pace and to manage his eighth Q3 appearance of what may be his last season in Formula 1, at least for now.
“Qualifying was very intense today and we gave it everything,” said Hülkenberg. “We probably achieved our maximum, I was happy with my laps, so we’ll take that.
“It’s always tough here with the close walls and frequent corners, it’s very intense but that’s why we all like racing here. It’s going to be tight and overtaking is difficult here. There’s the strategy question, safety car possibilities and I’m sure there will be plenty thrown at us.”
Ricciardo made it back-to-back Q3 appearances, the first time the Australian has been in consecutive Q3 sessions since rounds six and seven in Canada and France, with Ricciardo also making it eleven to four in the inter-team qualifying battle before his disqualification that will likely see him start from the pit lane.
“Our intention was to get into Q3, so to achieve that with both cars is good,” Ricciardo said ahead of his disqualification. “I’m not disappointed, it was a good effort and we’ve recovered well throughout the weekend.
“I’m content with eighth and there’s plenty to play for there. We have to focus on the race now. We’ll see what happens and get along with our business. The race is the toughest of the year, but I enjoy the challenge.”
Renault’s technical boss Alan Premane was thrilled after both cars made Q3 however that achievement has been later tarnished through the stewards decision.
“We’re always happy to have both cars in Q3 and, today, we got the most from it,” said Permane, prior to Ricciardo’s exclusion announcement. “We’re more comfortable here than other high downforce tracks this season, having learnt some lessons at previous races.
“The cars are working well and we’re pleased to be eighth and ninth on the grid. Tomorrow, we’re expecting a long and hard race. It’s challenging on the car, the drivers, the crew and the tyres. Tyre management will play a key part in the race and we will be ready to react to the many different scenarios that could be thrown at us.”
The Stewards heard reasoning from Renault about the cause of the excessive MGU-K power flow but rejected their claims, insisting that despite ‘no measurable benefit’, the rules were broken and as such the disqualification was applicable.
“It was established in the hearing, beyond any doubt in the opinion of the Stewards, that the competitor exceeded the MGU-K power flow limit permitted under Appendix 3, per article 5.2.2 of the 2019 Formula One Technical Regulations,” read the statement from the Stewards in Singapore.
“The method by which this limit is regulated is well known and understood by the teams. Neither the fact that the car had exceed the limit nor the methodology by which is policed was disputed by the team.
“The team’s defence rested on two points. First, that the excess was very small and offered no measurable benefit. Second, that the excess occurred during the second fastest lap during Q1. The team explained to the Stewards how they believe the excess occurred, however the Stewards consider this information to be confidential to the team, and not relevant to this decision.
“Notwithstanding the team’s arguments, the Stewards take note of the very clear wording of Article 1.2.2. ISC, which states that “If an Automobile is found not to comply with the applicable technical regulations, it shall be no defence to claim that no performance advantage was obtained”.
“In coming to this decision the Stewards referred to longstanding precedents regarding technical infringements and the penalty which has been consistently applied is disqualification, and which does not consider when or if an advantage was gained. This principle has been very clearly affirmed by the International Court of Appeal.
“The Stewards therefore order Car 3 disqualified from the results of Qualifying.”