Max Verstappen hit with a five-place grid penalty ahead of Qatar GP with Hamilton on pole

Lewis Hamilton goes undercover to inspire school children

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Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has been hit with a five-place grid penalty ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix after failing to slow under double waved yellow flags during qualifying. It means the championship leader will start seventh on the grid after qualifying second, behind his main title rival Lewis Hamilton who starts on pole.

Verstappen was summoned to the stewards for allegedly “not respecting double waved yellow flags” during the final part of the session, along with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jnr.

Both Sainz and Bottas were summoned for not respecting single waved yellow flags, with Bottas hit with a three-place grid penalty.

Then issues arose at the end of qualifying as the Dutchman was setting his final flying lap. Hamilton had just crossed the line and was currently in provisional pole when yellows were shown in the final sector, hampering many drivers, including Verstappen and Bottas’ final laps.

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly suffered a puncture, grinding to a halt on the start-finish straight after hitting the curb and damaging his front wing. 

Verstappen crossed the line 0.455s behind Hamilton and had secured second place on the grid.

Max Verstappen summoned to see the stewards in Qatar

A single yellow flag indicates to a driver they are approaching a hazard, a double yellow waved flag means the marshalls have instructed that the driver must be prepared to stop if needs be.

Rules surrounding yellow flags are strictly policed by the FIA, with Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel picking up a five-place grid penalty for ignoring double yellows during Bahrain qualifying at the start of the season.

Speaking after qualifying, Verstappen was already unhappy with Red Bull’s performance as his team-mate Sergio Perez failed to book a place into the top 10 shoot-out in Qatar.

Verstappen currently holds a 14 point lead over Hamilton in the driver standings, and the 24-year-old will know how important the final few qualifying sessions of the season are.

“[We were just] lacking a bit of pace,” he said.

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“It’s been a bit more tricky for us again in qualifying because Checo isn’t even in Q3 so it just shows we are definitely struggling a bit more than normal.

“Nevertheless it’s still second so all to play for but of course I wish we could have had more.”

Hamilton starts from pole on Sunday after leaving the pits earlier than his main rivals as Gasly suffered the puncture, remaining fastest overall.

Speaking after the session, however, the seven-time world champion admitted it’s not all been plain sailing in the build-up to the weekend.

“Yesterday was a really difficult day for me actually, Thursday and Friday wasn’t feeling too well,” admitted Hamilton. “And so really struggled through throughout practice and I was just off yesterday, so really had to dig deep. 

“I was here until midnight last night working with the engineers, who also always work so late, they’re such hard workers, and found a lot of areas which I could improve.

“Made a lot of changes for P3 and it seemed to work. Then of course you’ve got to carry that through to qualifying, but I’m so grateful for the timings they put us out on track, we didn’t have any traffic.

“Then that last lap was beautiful. It was a really sweet lap.”

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