Saturday, 27, May, 2006, 23:42
Michael Schumacher has been sent to the back of the grid for Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix.
The sensational ruling came at 10.45 on Saturday evening following eight hours of deliberations by FIA-appointed stewards, who found Schumacher guilty of deliberately bringing his Ferrari to a stop in the dying minutes of qualifying.
The German’s actions instantly provoked a furore in the paddock, with rival teams and drivers alleging that they were designed to disrupt competitors’ final flying laps and prevent his own pace-setting time from being bettered.
After analysing video evidence, data traces supplied by Ferrari and testimonials from key members of the Italian squad, the stewards agreed that Schumacher’s actions were intentional.
They therefore deleted all of Schumacher’s qualifying times, relegating him to 22nd and last place on the grid.
The decision promotes world championship leader Fernando Alonso to pole position ahead of Williams driver Mark Webber.
With Giancarlo Fisichella having already been penalised for impeding David Coulthard's progress during qualifying, the second row will now be filled by McLaren duo Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya.
The stewards issued the following statement explaining their verdict:
“Having set a fast time in sector one, the driver lost time in sector two, arrived at turn 18 [Rascasse] at a speed little if any different from his previous fastest lap, and braked with such force that his front wheels locked up, requiring the driver to regain control of the car.
“The driver ultimately did so without hitting the barrier on the outside of turn 18.
“The engine of the car subsequently stalled, with the result that the car partially blocked the track.
“Having compared all relevant data, the stewards can find no justifiable reason for the driver to have braked with such undue, excessive and unusual pressure at this part of the circuit, and are therefore left with no alternative but to conclude that the driver deliberately stopped his car on the circuit in the last few minutes of qualifying, at a time at which he had thus far set the fastest lap time.
“The stewards accordingly directed that the qualifying times of Michael Schumacher be deleted.
“The effect of this is that he will start from the back of the grid.”
The stewards said Schumacher’s actions breached Article 112 of F1’s sporting regulations and that therefore their ruling was final and would not be subject to appeal.
"Article 112 enables the stewards to delete any number of a driver's qualifying times for a driving infringement, which decision is not susceptible to appeal," they said.
Schumacher will share the final row of the grid with Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa, who crashed out of the first knockout qualifying session.