Martin Brundle has labelled the grid penalties handed to Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas at the Qatar Grand Prix as "harsh". Verstappen had initially qualified in second for the race, but was hit with a five-place grid drop after failing to slow sufficiently for double waved yellow flags at the end of Q3, brought out to cover Pierre Gasly's stricken AlphaTauri. Bottas and Carlos Sainz were also summoned to the stewards, and Bottas was given a three-place grid drop for failing to slow for a single waved yellow flag. Meanwhile, Sainz escaped a penalty after the stewards deemed that he was not guilty of the same transgression as Verstappen and Bottas. The penalty for Verstappen did not go down well with Red Bull's advisor Helmut Marko, who said it was "completely incomprehensible" , and Brundle is also critical of the ruling, though acknowledges that it has been a challenging period for the FIA given the controversy over the unpunished incident between Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at the Brazilian Grand Prix . "I thought the grid penalties for him and Valtteri Bottas were harsh on Sunday," Brundle wrote in his 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."
Brundle believes that there were "mitigating circumstances" that would have made it challenging for the drivers to see the flags. "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," the former F1 driver explained. He added that they also had to deal with "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 AlphaTauri) 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 Sainz was not punished, whilst Verstappen and Bottas were, is something that Brundle thinks makes the whole situation even more confusing. However, he also acknowledges that the fact that this was Formula 1's first visit to the Losail International Circuit may have added to the difficulties in making such decisions. "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," Brundle said. "We were at a brand-new to F1 venue late to the calendar and that showed. "In the end it made no difference to Verstappen, except he lost any chance of a run at Hamilton in the first corner. "And Bottas would have finished third despite a difficult start had he not been the first driver to find out that the Pirelli front tyres could take no more than 30 laps of punishment against the aggressive secondary kerbs."