Bahrain Grand Prix – Sebastian Vettel will start from last place after being handed a five place grid penalty for failing to slow for double yellow flags.
Three hours after qualifying yesterday Sebastian Vettel’s less than ideal first race weekend with Aston Martin received another potential hit. The Stewards issued a summons for the German to meet them today to discuss allegedly breaching the double-yellow flag rules during Q1.
Vettel failed to make it through the first part of qualifying after having to deal with two yellow flag incidents on his final run. Following that the Stewards announced they would be looking into the actions of a number of drivers, Vettel among them, who might not have respected the yellow flags waved when Carlos Sainz’ Ferrari lost power and briefly stopped on track.
Post-qualifying it was decided all had complied with the rules and there would be no further action. However the later summons had to do with the first yellow flag incident of the final run, where a Haas overtook his competitors as they were setting up for their laps before spinning at the first corner and impeding the laps of those he had passed.
It has now been announced that Vettel will be handed a five place grid penalty, meaning he will now start P20 instead of P18, and be given three penalty points for not slowing or abandoning his lap at turn 1. The full, lengthy text of the decision read as follows:
“The Stewards heard from the driver of Car 5 (Sebastian Vettel), the team representative and have reviewed video, radio, telemetry and marshalling system evidence, from both Car 5 and the cars surrounding him.
Car 9 spun at Turn 1 in the last moments of Q1 bringing out a double yellow flag in the marshalling sector. Bottas, Vettel, Perez and Russell approached the scene and drove past Mazepin. Bottas, was immediately instructed by his team to abort his lap in accordance with the Race Director’s Event Notes (Point 7.1). Perez and Russell had received the chequered flag, and were instructed to slow, with Russell receiving the additional information that it had been a double yellow sector.
“Vettel did not abandon his lap. He explained to the Stewards that he saw the smoke ahead of him, but was unsure if it was a lock-up or a stopped car until he was quite close to the car and the smoke was lifting. The Stewards observed that he had already passed the signal panel when it illuminated as he approached the scene, and that the marshals in that turn had not yet reacted with a yellow flag. Nevertheless, Vettel was approaching a car that was stopped sideways on the track and by the rule this would necessitate a double yellow flag.
“During the drivers’ briefing, the Race Director emphasised that the flag code must be rigorously enforced. The Stewards consider that the requirement to abandon the lap during practice and qualifying, both in the Code and in the Race Director’s notes was instituted to disincentivise the drivers from any type of management of their speeds approaching an incident, with a view to maybe setting a lap time, when the requirement is that they should be able to completely stop when approaching such an incident. In this case, it was clear that the driver slowed slightly approaching the incident, but continued trying to set a meaningful lap time.
“In this case, the driver would have received a warning on his dash and the team should have been able to see that the sector had been a double yellow and could have advised the driver as other teams did. While the argument that the driver was already inside the sector when it went double yellow evokes sympathy, the Stewards feel it is important to note that he was approaching an incident visible ahead of him.
“Further, the car ahead, in the same position, was instructed to abandon the lap, as is intended by the Race Director’s notes. The Stewards therefore order the usual penalty in this case, a drop of five grid positions.”