Sebastian Vettel said he had taken all precautions to ensure that, unlike three of his rivals, he would not need to pay a pre-race visit to the Qatar stewards’ room.
The Aston Martin driver has not been a regular participant in recent Q3 sessions, but he did make it through to the top-10 shootout at the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix.
Sitting P10 when the chequered flag came out, Vettel was hoping to improve that position on his final run. But his chances were ended when Pierre Gasly’s car suffered a broken front wing and a puncture and came to a halt near the pit wall along the start-finish straight.
That brought out the yellow flags, of which three drivers – Max Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz – appear to have fallen foul, all of them summoned by the stewards for separate hearings in the period between three and four hours before the race.
So while Vettel was initially disappointed with 10th, he may yet find himself starting higher – his best chance of doing so resting on the verdict regarding Sainz, who is due to line up seventh.
Count ’em. 👊
— Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team (@AstonMartinF1) November 20, 2021
But at least the German ensured he did what he should have done to comply with the rules and avert the prospect of a sanction that would drop him down the order.
“It was a shame because I had the yellow flag and I had to abort (the lap),” Vettel told reporters of his final qualifying run at the Losail International Circuit.
“There was a car parked on the track and normally that’s double yellow – I don’t know what happened after or behind me, but a bit of a shame. We couldn’t finish our final run.
“It would have been close, I think, for P9 or then again P10. It didn’t make a big difference, but obviously a bit of a weird feeling to finish the lap lifting off.”
Regarding his race chances, Vettel added: “It’s a difficult one to overtake, so we will see. I’m fairly open-minded. We need to make a good start and take it from there.”
Before any penalties are applied, Vettel’s team-mate Lance Stroll is due to start in 12th so it is unlikely, if precedents are any guide, that he will move up as Sainz is expected to receive a three-place grid penalty if found guilty of the offence.
“The car felt good, it was a lot of fun, the track’s great to drive,” said the Canadian – in contrast to FP3 when he had said over the team radio that “man, the car is ******, ******” after running over a kerb.