FIA race director Michael Masi has revealed the detail behind why Sebastian Vettel was handed a grid-drop penalty for Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix.
On what proved to be a forgettable debut for Aston Martin, Vettel qualified 18th as he was hampered by yellow-flag incidents surrounding Haas driver Nikita Mazepin and Ferrari's Carlos Sainz in the closing stages of Q1.
While it was later determined Vettel lifted sufficiently at turn eight where Sainz's car had almost ground to a halt, a second investigation determined the four-time Formula 1 champion had failed to do so when passing Mazepin's spun Haas at turn one under double-waved yellows.
In meeting with the stewards, they stated that Vettel "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".
While the stewards expressed "sympathy" for Vettel as he had already passed the illuminated signal panel in approaching the scene and the marshals had yet to deploy their flags, they made clear he should have approached with caution in being unaware of what was directly ahead.
That resulted in the usual five-place penalty and a back-of-the-grid start from which the 33-year-old only managed 15th at the end of a race in which he also collected a second penalty for a collision with Alpine's Esteban Ocon.
Masi has now clarified Vettel barely lifted at all in passing Mazepin.
"In Sebastian's case, it was a double-yellow flag that was displayed and not a single, which is a very important point," explained Masi.
"When a double-yellow flag is displayed there are effectively two tests, let's call it, in the race director's notes.
"One is the driver will either be expected to abort that lap and [head] into pitlane, or, not set a meaningful lap time.
"Valtteri [Bottas] was the other car that was there in that vicinity, which the stewards looked at as well, and Valtteri aborted his lap.
"Whereas Sebastian continued on with his, and from memory, I think he was about one-hundredth of a second slower than the time he had set.
"So that, by all accounts, is a meaningful lap time, and, therefore, the grid penalty was imposed, particularly for a double-yellow flag.
"That's consistent with what the drivers were told last year, and then reminded of again in the drivers' meeting for this year, that safety flags, and particularly yellows, will be monitored and policed accordingly."
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