What are double-waved yellow flags in F1 as Max Verstappen gets Qatar grid penalty?

Jake Nichol November 20, 2021
What are double-waved yellow flags in F1 as Max Verstappen gets Qatar grid penalty?
Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen has been given a five-place grid penalty for ignoring double-waved yellow flags in qualifying in Qatar. But what must drivers do when a double-waved yellow flag is shown?

The incident in question for Verstappen happened near the end of the qualifying session at Losail, where he qualified second behind Lewis Hamilton.

On the final runs in Q3, AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly suffered a broken front wing after running a kerb, which punctured a tyre.

Gasly ground to a halt on the main straight, with caution flags flying for the slow-moving AlphaTauri.

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Verstappen was behind Gasly on track, and improved his time as the latter pulled off to the side.

For breaching the rules aroud double-waved yellow flags he will now start in seventh on the grid.

But what must F1 drivers do when a double-waved yellow flag is shown, and what penalties are usually handed out for breaches?

Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Double-waved yellow flag meaning

The yellow flags in F1, and indeed wider motorsport, are used to convey a message to drivers that there is some kind of incident on track.

It is a caution warning, informing the driver that action may be required to avoid a stricken car/debris.

The meaning of a double-waved yellow flag in F1 is clear: drivers must slow down and be prepared to stop.

There could be marshals attending the incident, and so drivers must slow down accordingly.

They should not improve their lap times.

Hamilton in Saudi Arabia

In third practice for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Hamilton was called to the stewards for a potential double-waved yellow flag breach – similar to Verstappen.

However, in the stewards’ investigation, they found that the light system was accidentally activated for less than a second.

Because of this, Hamilton did not receive any penalty for this offence.

Is there precedent for Verstappen’s penalty?

In the past, a grid drop has been the penalty issued by the stewards for waved yellow flag breaches.

In Mexico 2019, Verstappen himself was stripped off pole after failing to slow for Bottas crashing at the final corner in qualifying.

He started fourth, despite already having a time good enough for pole.

In the 2020 season-opener in Austria, Bottas ran wide in qualifying and spun.

Hamilton passed the sister Mercedes, but did not slow with the stewards handing him a three-place grid drop from second place.

However, given double-waved yellows represent a higher probability of danger, a more severe five-place grid drop was handed to the Dutchman.

Photo by Will Taylor-Medhurst/Getty Images
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Jake can usually be found writing about or watching anything to do with motorsport – from Formula 1 to NASCAR to British Truck Racing. His work as a motorsport journalist has been published by the likes of Autosport, Motorsport.com and Motorsport News – all highly respected names. Away from racing he is a keen amateur astronomer, podcast listener and enjoys long walks in the park with his three dogs.