Max Verstappen said he was unsurprised to receive the grid penalty which dropped him to seventh on the grid for the Qatar Grand Prix, and compromised his race.
The stewards handed Verstappen a five-place penalty for failing to slow sufficiently for yellow flags during qualifying. It is the third time in the last four seasons he has received a penalty of this type.
“No surprises there,” said Verstappen after the race. “I knew already last night that I never get presents from them, so it’s okay.”
The penalty cost him a front-row start alongside championship rival Lewis Hamilton, who went on to win the race and reduce Verstappen’s lead to eight points. The Red Bull driver managed to salvage second place, having worked his way up to the front quickly.
“At the end, once I knew I was starting seventh, I was just very motivated to move ahead and that’s exactly what we did,” Verstappen told Sky Sports. “We had a good first lap, and then after five laps, we were second again.
“I just tried to keep the gap small, which we did throughout the whole race, so they couldn’t do an extra stop and it gave me the fastest lap at the end. So I was definitely happy with that.”
Verstappen finished the race over 25 seconds behind Hamilton after making an extra pit stop to secure the bonus point for fastest lap. He said the team’s deficit to Mercedes during the race wasn’t too great.
“I did the extra stop so the gap was, of course, a bit bigger than it was the whole race,” he explained. “In general, throughout the whole race it was seven, eight seconds, so that isn’t too bad.
“We were a little bit too slow so that naturally means, after qualifying, the race is going to be tricky as well. But we just need to try and stay focussed, and there are two races to go – and as you can see, a lot of things can happen even in a qualifying, so anything is possible.”
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