Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says “a rogue marshal” is to blame for Max Verstappen receiving a grid penalty at the Qatar Grand Prix.
Verstappen passed double waved yellow flags on the pit straight as he also passed Pierre Gasly who had stopped with a puncture and front wing damage, but did not slow as he got no message on his dash or from the light panels trackside. The stewards gave him a five-place grid penalty, stating it is the driver’s responsibility to adhere to warning flags, but Horner blamed the marshal and says the FIA should have greater control.
“We’re really struggling to understand it,” Horner told Sky Sports. “It looks like a complete balls-up. The FIA have effectively said, ‘Play on, the circuit is safe, it’s clear.’ Max was in the first sector, we had so much time to look at it. The dash, everything for him, if indicated otherwise, we would of course, had informed him.
“Unfortunately there’s a yellow flag — he just didn’t see it. He saw the white one (panel), he saw the car, he even saw a green light on the right-hand side. I think it’s just a rogue marshal that stuck a flag out. He’s not instructed to by the FIA — they’ve got to have control of the marshals. It’s as simple as that. That’s a crucial blow in the championship for us. We’re now starting P7 at a track you can’t overtake at. That is massive.
“What’s frustrating is that the race director has said, ‘Get on, it’s fine, it’s a safe track, finish your laps.’ All the signals that we have say that the track is safe, even the slippery surface is gone, so there’s nothing to communicate to the driver.”
Valtteri Bottas received a three-place grid penalty for the same infringement when passing as single waved yellow flag, but Carlos Sainz was cleared after the stewards deemed he slowed appropriately.
“The other one I really don’t understand is Carlos Sainz. It’s not exactly the same thing — he hasn’t seen it and he’s driven straight past, gone past with his DRS open, fully planted and he’s lifted about 10 meters before the line and that’s OK.
“I think there needs to be some grown-ups make grown-up decisions, because just to have binary… Someone sticks a yellow flag out, it’s just frustrating. It think the race director should have control of the circuit — he’s the referee at the end of the day, otherwise anybody could… you get a marshal decide to stick a yellow flag out — how does that work?”
Horner says Red Bull won’t be appealing the decision, that will see Verstappen starting seventh with title rival Lewis Hamilton on pole position.
“As you say, we have the right to appeal but that’s a waste of time so we won’t be doing that. We just have to get our heads down and do the best we can in the race. It’s frustrating, it’s annoying — all it’s going to do is motivate Max even more.
“You’ve got Pierre up there on the front row on a set of softs, you’ve got Fernando (Alonso) — it’s the first time he’s seen a bit of clear track for a while — so we can just hope that on the first lap maybe one of those guys takes the lead and Max is able to make progress as quickly as possible. Because unfortunately, unlike Brazil, there will be no cruising past people on the straights here.”