Stewards strip Hamilton of Barcelona pole

Spanish race stewards have stripped Lewis Hamilton of pole position for the Spanish grand prix.

“This is such a disappointment. Today’s qualifying session was one of the best I’ve ever driven,” said the 2008 world champion, who has been relegated to the very back of the grid.

His McLaren engineer had instructed him to stop on the track with a “problem” after completing his pole lap. It emerges that the team was worried Hamilton would not have enough fuel left in the car for the mandatory 1 litre FIA sample.

But rule 6.6.2 requires drivers to return to the pits after qualifying under their own power.

Sam Michael, the sporting director, argued a case of ‘force majeure’.

The stewards said in a statement: “As the amount of fuel put into the car is under the complete control of the competitor the stewards cannot accept this as a case of force majeure.”

“Since we accept that the stewards didn’t agree with our interpretation of force majeure, we didn’t contest their decision to penalise him,” said team boss Martin Whitmarsh.

It means Pastor Maldonado inherits his first pole; the first for Williams since Nico Hulkenberg in 2010.