Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021

Vettel given five-place grid drop and three penalty points for yellow flag error

2021 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel has been given a grid drop and penalty points on his licence for failing to slow as he approached Nikita Mazepin’s spun car during Q1 yesterday.

The stewards noted Vettel had already passed a marshal post and a light panel before the double yellow flags were displayed. Unlike his rivals, the Aston Martin driver was not advised by his team to abandon his lap, though he was shown yellow warning lights on his dash display.

Drivers are required to abandon their efforts to set a lap time if they encounter double waved yellow flags. Vettel did not, and has been given a five-place penalty which drops him to the back of the grid. He also received three penalty points, the maximum normally handed down for a single incident, on what had previously been a clean licence.

The stewards noted Valtteri Bottas, Sergio Perez and George Russell passed through the same area as Vettel, were advised by their teams to back off and did so.

“Car nine [Mazepin] spun at turn one in the last moments of Q1 bringing out a double yellow flag in the marshalling sector,” the stewards explained. “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.”

Although Vettel was not able to see the yellow flags on the panels or at the marshal’s post, the stewards pointed out he was still required to abandon his lap.

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“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 [International Sporting] Code and in the race director’s notes was instituted to dis-incentivise 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 imposed a five-place grid penalty, which is typical for a infringement involving double waved yellow flags.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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34 comments on “Vettel given five-place grid drop and three penalty points for yellow flag error”

  1. His season off to a great start

  2. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
    28th March 2021, 13:52

    What a harsh penalty on Vettel. Surely a fine to Aston Martin or Mazespin would be more correct.

    1. LOL Why would you fine Mazepin or Aston Martin?

      1. Fining Aston Martin seems fair if it was really their error. Fining Mazepin, though, is just weird.

    2. @come-on-kubica come on now, if drivers were fined for spinning then Vettel himself might be bankrupt by now…

      1. Good one, @tflb.

        The penalty point fine for Vettel seems a bit harsh though.

    3. Absolutely correct penalty, enough to stop drivers chancing it.
      On a secondary note, every team is now going to be putting “get out in front of Mazespin” in their Q1 quali strategy.

  3. He apparently only slowed ‘slightly’ rather than considerably. Abandoning is and should be secondary, though, as one can still find improvements elsewhere on a lap, especially under changeable conditions.

    1. The real problem is that there were no yellows shown when he passed. He did slow down (as his first sector was yellow) but did not abandon his lap.

    2. F1oSaurus (@)
      28th March 2021, 16:16

      @jerejj As the article explains, there were specific director note’s to abandon a lap in a situation like this.

  4. Three penalty points! Isn’t that the same as what he got for deliberately driving into Hamilton? How is a deliberate crash comparable to not seeing a yellow flag that he couldn’t have seen?

    At least the grid penalty doesn’t really make a difference, especially considering Schumacher’s quick starts. When I play F1 2020, I prefer to start at the back than in the middle of the pack, because it reduces the chance of being wiped out by some lunatic. Not really the same situation, but 20th is probably safer than 18th.

    1. @f1frog Except that ‘some lunatic’ is now right next to him rather than two places behind.

      1. Who needs a Caption Competition with these gems in the comment sections.

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          28th March 2021, 15:16


    2. a deliberate crash

      Was that really a crash? what I saw was a soft tyre bumping at SC speed. Silly but hardly a murder attempt.

      1. I know it wasn’t comparable to Jerez 1997, for example, but it was still totally unacceptable and wasn’t punished harshly enough. Safety car speed looks slow compared to normal F1 speed, but it is still much faster than a car on the motorway. Of course it wasn’t a murder attempt, but that doesn’t stop it from being a crash.

        And it is not the only example of someone being penalised three points. Maldonado was only given three points for that ridiculous lunge on Gutierrez in Bahrain 2014 that flipped the Sauber. Both incidents should have been given more than three, while Vettel’s yellow flag incident should have been given none at all (only the grid penalty).

      2. Do you not realize that it was a crash before a 200mph blast into a 5g braking event? If anything on Hamilton’s car failed after Vettel intentionally crashed into him, yes that would be classified as vehicular assault.

    3. That penalty for deliberately driving into Hamilton was embarrassing for the sport. Should have been a 1 race ban at least, preferably with some community service – like sweeping the streets of Baku.

  5. No flags waved but still a penalty. It cannot get more sillier.

    You can set the fastest lap when a red comes out (Bottas a few years back), but not when you pass the scene before a yellow comes out.

    Seems to me the world upside down.

    1. “… though he was shown yellow warning lights on his dash display.”

      1. That probably did not mean double waved yellow. @denis1304

        I deduct that from this quote (with the ‘would’ and ‘could’):
        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.

  6. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    28th March 2021, 14:05

    I get the grid drop, as that shows the stewards are following their strict rulebook. The 3 penalty points seem rather harsh though.

    1. It seems to me like the team were to blame for not telling him about the yellow flags. As the driver is part of the team, the grid drop was fair. But the penalty points are ridiculous because they are not related to the team at all; they are only about the driver. So I agree with you that the grid drop was fair but the penalty points were not.

      1. F1oSaurus (@)
        28th March 2021, 16:20

        @f1frog As he got near, he could clearly see the car standing still on track which meant that double waved yellow would be in place and then the directors notes state:

        for practical purposes this means the driver should abandon the lap

    2. Yeah, the ‘argument … evokes sympathy’ so they slap him with the maximum penalty.

    3. @barryfromdownunder the regulations normally require the imposition of both penalty points and the grid penalty for failing to slow for a double waived yellow flag.

      @f1frog the argument would be that, whilst the team is strongly recommended to warn their drivers, there is no explicit requirement for the team to notify their drivers of a warning flag on track – the regulations place the ultimate responsibility for observing the flags on the driver, not the team. That is why the stewards say that the team “could” have warned Vettel, not that they “should” have warned him.

  7. Ridiculous.. AM should protest.

  8. It really is a circus isn’t it.
    Bernie may no longer be the ringmaster but the clowns are still out in force.

  9. Is Massi up to the job? Not that easy to answer ‘yes’.

    1. I mean they are decision is purely based on the data they receive based on speed differentials and sector timings. Massi is hardly the most popular guy on the F1 circle but I don’t think you can pin a factual evidence as a subjective decision. It is just unfortunate for Vettel.

    2. It was a stewards’ decision, not Massi’s.

  10. I think the penalty is unfortunate but consistent.

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      28th March 2021, 16:23

      @bernasaurus No it is not consistent. Rosberg set a pole under double waved yellow by simply lifting a few meters earlier before a corner.

  11. understandable for a rookie such as Seb

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