Pierre Gasly hit with double grid drop for qualifying impeding

Sam Cooper
Alpine driver Pierre Gasly at the side of the track after going out of FP1. Azerbaijan, April 2023.

Alpine driver Pierre Gasly looking frustrated.

Pierre Gasly’s strong performance in qualifying was all undone after he was hit with two penalties for impeding by the stewards.

The Frenchman ranked P4 in Barcelona behind only Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen but earlier in the session he was twice caught up in impeding incidents including once with Verstappen.

The first came during Q1 when Gasly let the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc go by but was presumably not told that Carlos Sainz was also in close proximity. The Spaniard had to abort his flying lap and complained about Gasly’s block over the team radio.

Shortly after, Gasly again found himself in the way as Verstappen was on a hot lap. An incident that Fernando Alonso, who was behind both drivers, was only too happy to highlight to the stewards over his team’s radio.

As a result of both incidents, Gasly was twice summoned along with an Alpine team representative to speak with the stewards with the first of those meetings coming at 1800 CEST.

After a length delay, the stewards determined that Gasly was guilty in both instances and handed a three-place grid penalty for each, pushing him back down the grid to P10.

Gasly breached Article 37.5 of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations which reads: Any driver taking part in any free practice session, the qualifying session or the sprint shootout who, in the opinion of the stewards, stops unnecessarily on the circuit or unnecessarily impedes another driver shall be subject to the penalties referred to in Article 37.4.

In his defence of the Sainz block, Gasly said he was aware of the Spaniard’s presence but felt he could do nothing to avoid impeding because of the high speed delta and closeness of Sainz to Leclerc. However the Stewards argued he could have moved further to the right at the exit of turn 13.

With the Verstappen incident, it was the team’s fault as they failed to tell him Verstappen was on a flying lap.

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There is precedent for this with Charles Leclerc being handed a three-place penalty during the last race in Monaco. The Ferrari driver was unaware that Lando Norris was approaching him in the tunnel during qualifying and was subsequently made to start in sixth.