Pastor Maldonado handed ten-place grid penalty for missing weighbridge call in Brazil
Demotion moves title-chasing Alonso up a position to seventh
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 24/11/12 7:48pm
Fernando Alonso's hopes of overturning the odds and ending the Brazilian GP as a three-times World Champion have been handed a small boost with the news that Pastor Maldonado has been demoted ten grid places for missing a weighbridge call during qualifying.
The Ferrari driver will therefore move up a position from eighth to seventh on Sunday's grid after Maldonado, who had qualified a strong sixth, picked up his third reprimand of the season for the offence, triggering the more severe ten-place drop.
Maldonado committed the indiscretion during Q2 when he returned to the pitlane at the end of his first run in the session. As he entered the pitlane, a red light was showing on the traffic light positioned near the pitwall with an FIA official also standing behind it pointing in the direction of the weighbridge area, yet the Venezuelan driver drove straight on past it.
Speaking to Sky Sports F1 after qualifying, Maldonado had insisted he "didn't see anything there", but the stewards' took a different view and in the hours after qualifying reprimanded him for the incident.
Under F1's regulations, when a driver reaches three reprimands in a season a firmer penalty is meted out, which in this case was the ten-place drop to 16th place.
Williams tweeted: "The team spoke to FIA immediately when we realised what had happened to explain that Pastor hadn't seen the light but we accept the penalty."
Prior to the announcement, Williams Executive Director Toto Wolff had suggested the team would point to mitigating circumstances in their plea to the FIA given the timing of the call to the weighbridge had taken both them and Maldonado by surprise.
"It's a bit unfortunate," Wolff told Sky Sports F1.
"He was called to the weighing scale between the two runs. That is very unusual and was unexpected. So we are going to see what the stewards say. We hope we have a certain goodwill there because it's an unusual thing.
"I hope we have a certain margin there because you come up [to the pit lane] very quick. You can see [in the replays] only the on-board [camera] which is a bit higher than the driver's helmet, and as I said, [it was] very unusual between the sessions because then you have to change the whole programme.
"So he didn't expect it."
In addition to starting one place higher on the grid than he would have otherwise, the additional boost for Alonso is that he will now start from the clean side of the grid - although the difference between the two sides is not as pronounced as in Austin last week, when Ferrari deliberately broke the seal on Felipe Massa's gearbox to inact the same result.
The Ferrari number one will also therefore start one position closer to title rival Sebastian Vettel, the German to line up fourth.
Alonso must finish at least third in Sunday's season-ending race to have any hope of winning the Drivers' title.