Romain Grosjean will drop three places on the grid in the Bahrain Grand Prix for an incident that McLaren's Lando Norris said Sebastian Vettel was at least partly responsible for.
At the start of Saturday's qualifying session, Grosjean was preparing to start a timed lap of his own when he was caught by the British rookie at the final corner, forcing Norris to take evasive action to prevent a collision. Although Norris was effectively forced to abort that lap, he still had time to progress from Q1, with both drivers progressing all the way through to the Q3 shootout for the fastest 10 drivers.
Grosjean was only notified about the proximity of Norris' car shortly before arriving at the corner, but it still seemed to be a slam-dunk in terms of a penalty. Stewards confirmed so after qualifying, while also issuing him a penalty point on his superlicence.
Justifying the decision, the stewards said: "The driver of car eight [Grosjean] stated that he was about to commence a push lap when he was overtaken by car five [Sebastian Vettel] and thus slowed significantly to maintain a sufficient gap. He was not advised by the team of the rapid approach of car four [Norris], which was on a push lap. The speed differential was 136 km/h at the point where car four had to take avoiding action.
"The stewards accept that the driver of car 8 did not intentionally intend to impede, however it is the driver's responsibility to be aware, when travelling abnormally slowly, that faster cars may be approaching."
Grosjean qualified seventh, so will drop to 10th, coincidentally where Norris finished the session. After qualifying was finished, Norris offered an alternate view on the incident which was not initially picked up by TV cameras.
"If you look at the end result, he did hold me up in the final corner. And for any driver you have to do as much as you can to make sure that doesn't happen. He did get screwed over a bit by Sebastian, who overtook him into the final corner.
"To be fair to him, [Grosjean] only had three seconds or something for his team to tell him that I was behind if they didn't already, and it would have been very hard for him to suddenly change his whole approach to basically giving up his whole lap. I don't think he could have just stopped, he maybe could have done, but from what he said he didn't know I was behind until I was pretty much about to crash into him.
"I don't really know what to say, Vettel screwed him over, which isn't a very nice thing to do in terms of us being racers; we try to respect each other in terms of you've got a car ahead, you don't overtake them into the final corner like Magnussen and Fernando in Monza last year as you ruin both of your qualifying laps. I think he did what he could when he knew, but he did impede me."
A driver gets an automatic one-race ban if he ever accumulates 12 penalty points over a rolling 12 month period -- Grosjean's latest infringement means he is currently on eight. Haas boss Guenther Steiner was puzzled by the additional punishment the stewards handed down to his driver.
"I think to give Romain a point ... he didn't do anything wrong; there was no radio call," he said. "Why should he get a point? It's just like having it out with somebody. It's completely inappropriate. The grid penalty, we can discuss, but to give him a point. Guys? Where are we living?
"It's very difficult, if you have one car in the middle which is on a fast lap, it's very difficult. I don't want to discuss the penalty of the grid position, that's a different story. A point to the driver? What can he do? He should look in the mirror, yes, but then he doesn't look forward. I don't know where the stewards are going with it."