Sebastian Vettel has been handed a five-place grid penalty after being investigated for allegedly ignoring yellow flags at the end of the first period of qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The punishment means Vettel will make his Aston Martin debut from last on the grid after initially qualifying 18th after being held up by yellow flags during the first period of qualifying.
Post-qualifying the stewards initially investigated potential yellow-flag infringements at turn eight after Carlos Sainz almost ground to a halt in his Ferrari.
But Vettel was cleared, along with Aston Martin team-mate Lance Stroll, Williams’ George Russell and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon.
But later on Saturday evening, the stewards announced Vettel alone would also be investigated for a potential second yellow-flag infringement after Nikita Mazepin spun on the entry to turn one shortly prior to Sainz’s incident.
After delaying the hearing until early afternoon local time [late morning UK], it has been determined that Vettel was at fault.
A stewards statement read: “Car nine [Mazepin] spun at turn one 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.”
Vettel has also had three penalty points applied to his licence, which are his first in the relevant last 12-month period.