Austrian GP: Sebastian Vettel handed grid penalty for impeding Fernando Alonso in qualifying
Aston Martin driver penalised for block on a frustrated Fernando Alonso at the end of Q2; Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz escape sanction for slowing before penultimate corner in the second phase of qualifying
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 03/07/21 8:49pm
Sebastian Vettel will drop from eighth to 11th on the Austrian GP grid after being given a penalty for blocking Fernando Alonso in qualifying.
A three-place grid drop was applied by stewards to the four-time world champion on Saturday evening after he inadvertently got in the way of Alonso ahead of the Alpine driver's final lap of Q2, an incident that forced the Spaniard to abort the attempt and qualify a frustrated 14th.
Although Vettel said others caused the problem by overtaking him in a queue at the end of the lap, and Alonso did not directly blame his old title rival either, the Aston Martin driver was penalised as he was still the car that the Alpine was directly impeded by.
- Max Verstappen edges impressive Lando Norris for Austrian GP pole
- Lewis Hamilton says win already 'out of the question'
Williams' George Russell - who had already secured the best qualifying of his Williams career in ninth - gains a place on the grid as a result, as do Lance Stroll, Vettel's team-mate, and Ferrari's Carlos Sainz.
Sainz and Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas, who qualified fifth, were also called to see the stewards after qualifying for driving too slowly on their approach to Turn Nine in Q2.
But although they were deemed to have contravened the race director's notes issued to teams at the start of the weekend, it was judged that neither was not fully to blame with stewards ruling that "many drivers ended up queuing at this part of the circuit" and "too many drivers contributed to the situation".
Revised Austrian GP starting grid: Top 11
1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
2) Lando Norris, McLaren
3) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
4) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
5) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
6) Pierre Gasly, AlpahTauri
7) Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri
8) George Russell, Williams
9) Lance Stroll, Aston Martin
10) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
11) Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin
Alonso calls for 'harsher penalties' for qualifying blocks
The fall-out from the incident at the end of Q2 represents a fresh chapter in debate over a so-called 'gentleman's agreement' between drivers over how they approach the end of slow out laps during qualifying.
A frustrated Alonso, who felt he was on for his best qualifying result of the season after finishing third fastest in Q1, told Sky Sports F1: "It's very confusing. It has to be common sense, it has to be harsh penalties because it's not right what happened today.
"Very frustrating to lose a lot of points tomorrow. Now we have a race that we can forget starting 14th. It's over."
Vettel felt the problem had been triggered by other drivers overtaking him to gain track position for themselves rather, as has supposedly been agreed by drivers, following each other in a queue for their respective turn to push.
"I only saw him very late, so not much that I could have done," said Vettel to Rachel Brookes. "I think it's the fault of the drivers ahead that just keep jumping the queue, keep jumping the queue and not what we agreed on."
Asked what could be done to improve the situation after similar incidents this season, Vettel replied: "Not much you can do. We don't talk to each other. We talk about each other but not to each other!"
Alonso added: "I think we lost our opportunity to be P5, P6 on the grid and a different race.
"Now I guess we will not score points tomorrow so whatever they give to the others is never enough. It's the way it is; it was very badly managed by the people in front.
"Disappointed because we had the potential today, it was probably our best car of the season in qualifying, and we didn't maximise it."