Yvan Muller secures strategic pole but receives a further admonishment
Yvan Muller will start the second race at Marrakech from pole position after setting the tenth fastest time in qualifying, but the Citroën driver has also been given a formal reprimand by the stewards by what they deemed as dangerous behaviour under the yellow flags.
The Frenchman had initially indicated he wouldn’t necessarily make a play for a strategic grid spot in qualifying ahead of the weekend, but when it came to the session itself it became all too clear that was his plan as team-mate José María López went on to take his fifth consecutive pole, matching Muller’s achievement sent two years ago. Muller finished the session tenth, meaning after his five-place penalty is applied, but taking into account the five engine change penalties, he will start race one from 13th on the grid, but crucially, race two from pole position.
“We were not sure whether we should do that, but I didn’t really have a choice,” said Muller to TouringCarTimes. “If I set pole position, I’d start sixth for race one and then race two I’d still start tenth, so I didn’t see the point.”
On how much ground the four-time champion hopes to make up in race one tomorrow, Muller wasn’t too optimistic given the improvement in pace seen from Citroën’s rivals since last year’s race.
“We are not that fast in the straight compared to some of the others. When I was following the Ladas in practice this morning I was not that much faster than them, only in the braking zones, so we will see tomorrow, but it will not be as it was last year.”
Muller carried a five-place penalty after an incident in race two in Argentina last month involving Sébastien Loeb Racing’s Mehdi Bennani, a penalty which he believes was too severe.
“I had a penalty which was a bit strong I think considering what happened,” he explained.
“I didn’t finish in the points, while he finished fifth; I didn’t destroy his race one, while he ended both Rob (Huff’s) races and just had a stop-and-go, while I had a non-points finish and now I have a five-place penalty, and the damage was not as big as what he caused.
“Considering this penalty we’ve tried to find the best strategy to penalise me as little as possible.”
Muller was subsequently called to the stewards after qualifying after a protest was made by Honda Racing Team JAS, who believed that Muller braked too dangerously when the yellow flags were out at the end of Q2 when Tom Coronel’s ROAL Motorsport suffered a problem with his air jacks.
“On my second attempt with new tyres following Yvan there was a yellow flag, and from my perspective Yvan slowed down too dangerously,” said Tarquini to TouringCarTimes.
“I passed him as I couldn’t brake as strongly as him, as I didn’t expect him to brake so hard, I had to do it just to avoid contact.”
Muller was given a formal reprimand by the stewards which means tomorrow’s grids are unchanged, but will pick-up another grid penalty should he receive two more reprimands during the season.
“I slowed down at the yellow and I pulled to the right, and (Tarquini) then overtook me,” said Muller. “Then at the next chicane I decided to come in, I could see many cars behind so I pulled off the racing line, and now the stewards are not happy because I went off the line, it’s strange. A formal reprimand after being nice and try and get out of people’s way, it’s something I don’t understand.”