Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll has been hit with a three-place penalty for causing a collision with Williams driver Nicholas Latifi during qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix.
The incident happened during Q1 after Latifi had backed off to let Stroll past between Turns 4 and 5. Stroll went ahead but then backed off himself on the run out of Turn 5, with Latifi deciding to repass him on the right-hand side through the gentle right-hand kink that followed.
As Latifi went past carrying significantly more speed, Stroll moved to the right, with his right-front wheel hitting the rear left of the Williams. This caused significant damage to the rear corner of the Williams, with Latifi then spinning into the wall. The Aston Martin suffered suspension damage.
The FIA stewards, including ex-Arrows F1 driver Enrique Bernoldi, held Stroll “predominantly to blame” for causing the collision because of a lack of situational awareness – also issuing two superlicense penalty points.
The stewards’ verdict stated: “Latifi pulled off course to the left and slowed at the exit of Turn 4 to let cars by, the last of which was Stroll. At the exit of Turn 5, Stroll appeared to not accelerate and was in the middle of the track.
“Latifi made the decision to accelerate and pass Stroll on the right as Stroll was moving right toward the right-hand edge of the track where the track curves slightly to the right on the run to Turn 6.
“Contact was made between Stroll’s right-front wheel and Latifi’s left-rear wheel, with the subsequent damage putting both cars out of the session.
“The stewards find that Stroll was predominantly to blame for the collision because of his lack of situation awareness of Latifi’s passing maneuver.”
Latifi immediately blamed Stroll for the clash, saying over the radio, “I don’t understand what he was doing, he wasn’t looking in his mirrors.” He later described the incident as “very unfortunate” with “big consequences.”
Having watched footage of the collision, Latifi said it confirmed his impression of what happened.
“I’d only let Lance by because I was told he was on a pushing lap,” said Latifi. “He must have backed off a corner or two before, for whatever reason. I just wanted to get carried on with my tire preparation, so I wanted to get back by him.
Stroll, who was classified last in qualifying as he failed to set a time given he joined Q1 late thanks to repair work following his FP3 crash, described the incident as “awkward.”
“He went to try and pass me all of a sudden in a very awkward part of the circuit,” said Stroll. “But the circuit falls off to the right, then to the left. What happened was very awkward, he all of sudden came by me and then we made contact.”
Williams driver Alex Albon was also in trouble with the stewards after qualifying. After qualifying 16th, he was excluded for failing to provide the mandatory 1-liter fuel sample at the end of the session.
Albon stopped on track on his in-lap at the end of Q1 after being instructed to by the team, which was concerned about his fuel level.
The FIA was only able to extract 0.33 liters of fuel, which triggered an automatic exclusion — the same fate that befell Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel after he finished second in last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix.