Hours after Lewis Hamilton secured the 102nd pole position of his career, three drivers were summoned to the stewards for not respecting yellow flags in the final moments of quali. Who were those drivers? Valtteri Bottas, Carlos Sainz and Hamilton’s championship rival, Max Verstappen.
The yellow flags were brought out for AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, who had managed to give himself a puncture after breaking his front wing on the penultimate corner. After just missing the entry to the pitlane, Gasly was forced to pull over on the finish straight as the Q3 timer hit 00:00.
Several drivers passed Gasly on their final laps. However, it’s the final three cars of Bottas, Sainz and Verstappen who all pass Gasly when there are evident yellow flags being waved at a nearby marshal post.
For Bottas and Sainz, there are single-waved yellow flags. For Verstappen moments later, they are double-waved yellow flags.
A single-waved yellow flag means that drivers should reduce their speed, not overtake and be prepared to change direction. There is a hazard beside or partly on the track. It must be evident that a driver has reduced speed; this means a driver is expected to have braked earlier and/or noticeably reduced speed in that sector.
For a double-waved yellow flag, drivers should reduce their speed significantly, not overtake, and be prepared to change direction or stop. These flags are brought out when there is a hazard wholly or partly blocking the track and/or marshals working on or beside the track.
“During qualifying, it must be evident that a driver has not attempted to set a meaningful lap time; this means the driver should abandon the lap,” the FIA Sporting Regulations state when referring to double-waved yellow flags.
Bottas gets a grid drop of three places and one penalty point.
“The Stewards heard from the driver of Car 77 (Valtteri Bottas), the team representative and have reviewed video, telemetry and the marshalling system evidence.
“The driver admitted he did not notice the yellow flag displayed at Flag Point 16.6 and conceded that he did not reduce speed as required in the yellow flag area despite noting that Car 10 was stationary on the pit straight.”
Deletion of lap time set under double yellow flags (1:21.282 2), a grid drop of five places and two penalty points.
“The Stewards heard from the driver of Car 33 (Max Verstappen), the team representative and have reviewed video, marshalling system and telemetry evidence. Double yellow flags were displayed at Flag point 16.6 after the exit from Turn 16 (however the lights system was not enabled).
“The Stewards note the representations of the driver and team representative for mitigation of penalty in view of the lack of display of the yellow light panels, no dash warning lights and no audio signal to the driver. Whilst having sympathy for this request, the Stewards have taken into account the following:
1. Article 27.1 of the Formula One Sporting Regulations states that the driver must drive the car alone and unaided.
2. Appendix H of the Code states that flags and lights have the same meaning (and hence a flag signal must be complied with).
3. Article 27.2 requires the driver to observe the International Sporting Code at all times. That code, in Appendix H 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 second 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.
4. The Stewards examined the audio communications between the team and the driver and at no time did the team indicate to the driver the situation referred to in 3. above.
5. 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).
6. The penalty for the driver of Car 44 in Austria 2020 resulted in a grid penalty of 3 positions which is the usual penalty for breaching a single flag situation, and the penalty for the driver of Car 5 in Bahrain 2021 which resulted in a grid penalty of 5 positions which is the usual penalty for breaching a double flag situation.
Accordingly, the Stewards believe they have no option but to impose the standard penalty for a breach of the double yellow flag requirements referred to above.
No further action.
“The Stewards heard from the driver of Car 55 (Carlos Sainz), the team representative and have reviewed video, marshalling system and telemetry evidence.
“The driver stated that although he did not see the yellow flag, he did see that Car 10 was stationary on the right of the pit straight and therefore assumed that there was the probability that he was in a yellow flag area, so made a significant reduction in speed in the relevant mini-sector. The Stewards confirmed this from the telemetry.
“He thus complied with the Race Directors Event Notes and Appendix H of the International Sporting Code.”
Here’s a look at the provisional starting grid, with Gasly P2 and Alonso P3!
PROVISIONAL STARTING GRID, QATAR* #QatarGP #F1
* = Following Verstappen and Bottas penalties pic.twitter.com/UmI8tYh4yj
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 21, 2021