Martin Brundle has labelled grid penalties for Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas in Qatar as “harsh”, given the circumstances at the time.
Verstappen and Bottas were given a five-place and three-place drop respectively after failing to slow down for yellow flags on track during the final part of qualifying, after Pierre Gasly suffered a puncture at the end of Q3.
Both drivers were on flying laps as they battled it out for pole, and Brundle thinks the lack of “visible flags” on track played their part.
Christian Horner was criticised for calling out who he thought was a “rogue marshal” for waving the yellow flag which ultimately gave Verstappen his penalty, but he has since apologised for those remarks and Verstappen went on to recover to P2 in the race, having started seventh.
Carlos Sainz was also under investigation for the same infringement, but he was eventually cleared by the stewards.
Brundle made it clear that he feels the FIA do a “tremendous” job most of the time, but believes they have had two “torrid and indecisive” weeks in the wake of Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton’s battle at Interlagos.
But the combination of events in qualifying in Qatar led the Sky F1 analyst to feel there was “confusion” about the punishments dished out before Sunday’s race – adding that he would have probably missed the marshal’s signals had he been in Verstappen’s situation in Q3.
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“I thought the grid penalties for [Verstappen] and Valtteri Bottas were harsh on Sunday,” Brundle wrote in his post-race column for Sky Sports.
“The FIA, who do a generally tremendous job in refereeing the highly complex world of F1, have had a torrid and indecisive couple of weeks since waving through the infamous turn four incident between the championship contenders in Brazil.
“I’m a fully paid up advocate that yellow flags must be respected as an absolute priority, but from the cockpit on Sunday the drivers would have been on their final qualifying effort exiting the last corner with no visible flags, no incident warning lights on their steering wheel or messages from the pit wall, a blaze of red lights in the night time sky at the finish line indicating the qualifying session is over (one red light and the chequered flag would be sufficient), spotting the DRS activation line which had been re-enabled, pulling up through the gears whilst then working out what that car (Pierre Gasly’s three wheeling Alpha Tauri) on the right-hand side was actually doing.
“There were mitigating circumstances to say the least and with no trackside yellow warning panels, but green panels on the pit wall for the pitlane weighbridge, I would have missed the relatively poorly lit sole marshal post correctly waving a flag or flags on the left-hand side every time.
“The fact that Carlos Sainz was exonerated because he lifted off the throttle after the stationary car rather underlines the confusion, but rules are rules I guess.”
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