Verstappen then completed his fastest lap, while he should have stepped off the gas significantly with a double yellow flag. Pierre Gasly was at that moment standing still on the straight with a flat tire.
There were mitigating circumstances, but the stewards still decided to hand out the ‘normal’ grid penalty of five places. It was clear that there had been miscommunication between race officials – who had already ‘released the track – and the marshall along the track, who continued to wave the yellow flag. Nevertheless, according to the rulebook, Verstappen did receive the maximum penalty. Gasly will start from the front row alongside pole sitter Lewis Hamilton.
Like Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) and Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) also had to report to the stewards before the race, because of the same offense as Verstappen. With the two it was a single and not a double yellow flag. Bottas was penalized with a three-place grid penalty, starting from sixth place. Sainz went free, because it was clear that he did go off the gas. The Spaniard starts fifth.
The Grand Prix of Qatar starts at 3 p.m. Dutch time. Verstappen currently has a fourteen-point lead over Hamilton. After Qatar, there will still be racing in Jeddah and Abu Dhabi.