It seems like Sebastian Vettel and Bahrain are two things that do NOT go well together. Not only did he have an appalling qualifying for the first race of the season, he’s now been handed a hefty penalty for failure to respect double yellow flags.
Originally starting in 18th place, just ahead of both the Haas cars, Seb has now been given a 5-place grid penalty and three penalty points on his licence.
There were several factors that influenced the shocking qualifying, but one of the main reasons was the series of yellow flags that he came across on his final Q1 run. After the car of Nikita Mazepin spun in Turn 1, Vettel was then also impacted by Carlos Sainz and his conked out Ferrari later on in the lap.
After evaluating the video, radio, telemetry, marshalling system and hearing from Aston Martin, nearby drivers and Seb himself, it was deemed that “Vettel did not abandon his lap”.
The FIA explained the reason for the offence in a statement:
“Car 9 [Mazepin] 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. 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.
“[Sebastian] 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.”
It seems quite the lengthy explanation, but in short Vettel did not slow down for the double waved yellow flags and will now start the Bahrain Grand Prix from P20.
Vettel has also been in the good books up until now with no penalty points on his licence. These three points that come with the offence means he has three penalty points in the 12 month period.