Max Verstappen has suffered a significant blow to his hopes of winning today's Qatar Grand Prix after receiving a five-place grid penalty for ignoring double waved yellow flags.
At the end of Q3, Pierre Gasly suffered a puncture after going wide at Turn 15, causing the Frenchman to park his stricken Alpha Tauri on the front straight bringing out the yellow flags in the process.
But whilst some drivers such as Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso abandoned their final runs, several drivers finished their laps despite yellow flags being waved to warn the drivers of the stricken Alpha Tauri.
Verstappen, Carlos Sainz and Valtteri Bottas were subsequently called to the stewards office this morning to explain why they didn't lift on the final runs when the yellows went out.
Bottas was the first driver to pick up a penalty, with the Finn being handed a three-place grid penalty and a penalty point on his superlicence for failing to respect single waved yellow flags.
"The driver admitted he did not notice the yellow flag displayed at Flag Point 16.6 and conceded that he did not reduce speed as required in the yellow flag area despite noting that Car 10 was stationary on the pit straight."
Next to receive a penalty was Verstappen, with the championship leader being presented with a five-place grid penalty and two penalty points on his superlicence for failing to respect double waved yellows flags.
“The Stewards note the representations of the driver and team representative for mitigation of penalty in view of the lack of display of the yellow light panels, no dash warning lights and no audio signal to the driver. Whilst having sympathy for this request, the stewards taken into account the following."
“Article 27.1 of the Formula One Sporting Regulations states that the driver must drive the car alone and unaided. Appendix H of the Code states that flags and lights have the same meaning (and hence a flag signal must be complied with) ”.
“Article 27.2 requires the driver to observe the International Sporting Code at all times. That code in Appendix H places the onus of responsibility of complying with flag signals clearly on the driver, so notwithstanding the fact the team argued that the turning off of the yellow sector on the FIA marshalling system some 34 second prior to the driver reaching the yellow flag, signified that it was "play on", it was the driver's responsibility to take the appropriate action when entering what was a double yellow flag area."
Unlike Verstappen and Bottas, Sainz didn't receive a penalty, after the Spaniard admitted to the stewards that although he failed to see the yellow flag, he did see Gasly's stationary car on the right of front straight and presumed that he was in a yellow flag area, causing him to back off.
“The driver stated that although he did not see the yellow flag, he did see that Car 10 was stationary on the right of the pit straight and therefore assumed that there was the probability that he was in a yellow flag area, so made a significant reduction in speed in the relevant mini-sector.
“The Stewards confirmed this from the telemetry. He thus complied with the Race Directors Event Notes and Appendix H of the International Sporting Code."
As a result of Bottas and Verstappen penalties, the starting grid has been dramatically changed, with Lewis Hamilton now joined on the front row of the grid by Gasly, with Alonso now starting third alongside Lando Norris, whilst Sainz moves up to fifth on the grid alongside Bottas. Verstappen will start seventh alongside Yuki Tsunoda.