Max Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz must all report to the stewards at the Losail International Circuit on Sunday. The trio were called up for allegedly ignoring the yellow flags in front of slow-moving Pierre Gasly during the final seconds of qualifying.
Ignoring a yellow flag carries a heavy penalty under normal circumstances, in the form of a grid penalty of at least three places. However, the situation in Qatar is by no means clear and orderly.
What happened to Gasly?
Gasly ran over a curb on his flying lap and damaged the right front tire of his AlphaTauri in one of the final corners. He then calmly drove to the start/finish on three wheels. This is because he actually didn’t have time to enter the pitlane.
Yellow flags or not?
That is a point of discussion because the three drivers mentioned were all called into account for allegedly ignoring the yellow flags. On the track there are three ways to receive that information: physical flags next to the track, the dashboard in the cockpit and large colored warning screens.
The yellow flags next to the track were waved, but onboard images of all three drivers show that they were very difficult to detect. Bottas and Verstappen reported afterwards that they had not seen the flags.
There is also no indication of the yellow flags on the steering wheel of these two drivers. A message that was briefly visible on the timekeeping, but also disappeared again.
Last but not least, there are the warning signs on the right side of the track. There is a lot of discussion about this, because do they now apply to the pits or the straight? The fact is that these were colored green at both Verstappen and Bottas.
The race management doesn’t seem to know it either
After qualifying, Bottas was initially ‘acquitted’. According to race officials, there was no evidence that he had ignored the yellow flags. Half an hour later, however, the message came that the Finn had indeed ignored the yellow flags. It was typical of the situation in Qatar.
Obviously it was a mess at the end of the session. Sebastian Vettel, who did go off the gas, was pissed off after qualifying. According to the German, the yellow flag was eventually raised to allow Verstappen to finish his fast lap.
Any penalties will meet resistance
The moment the drivers are penalized, a grid penalty of three or five places will follow. This could have major consequences for Verstappen for the title fight. The Dutchman will then have to start from fifth on the grid, while Lewis Hamilton will start from pole.
At the moment it is still completely unclear what the race management will do. The drivers in question stated that they did not see the yellow flags and the other warning systems did not work properly.
Verstappen has to report at 11:00 Dutch time and then it is Sainz and Bottas’ turn. We will probably know more on Sunday around 12:00 pm.
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