Qatar Grand Prix: Max Verstappen hit with five-place grid penalty for yellow flag infringement in qualifying

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 (REUTERS/Pool)
(REUTERS/Pool)

Max Verstappen will start the Qatar Grand Prix from seventh on the grid after being handed a five-place penalty for breaking yellow flag rules during qualifying.

Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes has been dropped from third to fifth for failing to slow down under single yellows, with Verstappen hit with a stronger penalty for continuing under double-waved flags.

The three drivers, including Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, were called to the stewards on Sunday to answer questions over the final moments of qualifying. Pierre Gasly suffered a puncture and stopped near the finish line, drawing out yellow flags to warn others of his AlphaTauri.

The stewards decision was handed out only 90 minutes before the start of the race and promoted Gasly to the front row, alongside pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton. Alpine veteran Fernando Alonso moved to third.

Verstappen admitted to stewards that he had seen Gasly’s car struggling but did not slow down as a result, and posted an improvement on his previous best lap time to end qualifying.

The stewards’ verdict read: “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.”

Bottas has been handed a three-place penalty after admitting to not seeing the yellow flag, and therefore not slowing down appropriately. Sainz was let off with no further action.

Hamilton stated after the penalties were handed out: "My only reaction is consistency is key. In Austria I got a three-place penalty for a single yellow flag I didn't see. It's good that they stick to the book. We've just got to focus on our job today."

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