Max Verstappen has been handed a five-place grid penalty for failing to respect double waved yellow flags in qualifying for the Qatar Grand Prix, while Valtteri Bottas drops three places.
Pierre Gasly’s front wing failure at the end of Q3 left debris on the track at the penultimate corner, with the AlphaTauri driver coming to a halt on the inside of the track on the pit straight. While race control cleared yellow flags on two occasions, when Gasly stopped the marshals started waving flags despite the trackside light boards not being illuminated.
Bottas was the first driver to pass the yellow flags and received a single yellow that he did not slow for, resulting in his three-place grid penalty. Carlos Sainz also faced the same situation and while he didn’t see the flag he slowed in response to Gasly, meaning the stewards cleared him of any infringement.
But when Verstappen approached, the marshals had upgraded the warning to double waved yellow flags — meaning be prepared to stop if required — and as the Red Bull driver did not respond to the situation he was handed a five-place grid penalty.
Red Bull tried to argue that as the race control message had changed to “track clear,” it was unfair for Verstappen to be expected to react, but the stewards stated Red Bull did not inform him the track was clear and that flags always have to be complied with.
The stewards also stated that the FIA International Sporting Code “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 seconds 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.
“The driver acknowledged his awareness of the presence of Car 10 on the right side of the track. Having seen a disabled car, it is reasonable to expect, as was the case of the driver of Car 55, that there was a potential danger and that a yellow flag situation probably existed and therefore to take the appropriate action (i.e. to reduce speed).”
As Bottas was first across the situation, his penalty was handed out first and therefore applied first, dropping him initially from third to sixth. With Verstappen then demoted from second to seventh, Bottas moves up to fifth place behind Lewis Hamilton on pole position, Gasly in second, Fernando Alonso third and Lando Norris fourth.