Martin Brundle criticized the stewards’ decision to sanction Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas for a yellow flag breach in Qatar, insisting there were “mitigating circumstances” behind the transgressions.

Verstappen and Bottas were both caught out by the caution warning brandished at the end of qualifying due to Pierre Gasly’s stranded AlphaTauri, while Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz who was also summoned to the stewards was let off the hook.

The Red Bull and Mercedes drivers were hit respectively with a five and three-place grid drop, a penalty aggravated for the Dutchman who was shown double yellows and that sparked the ire of the Milton Keynes-based outfit’s top brass.

Brundle was equally critical of the stewards’ call.

“I thought the grid penalties for him and Valtteri Bottas were harsh on Sunday,” Brundle wrote in his column for Sky Sports.

“The FIA, who do a generally tremendous job in refereeing the highly complex world of F1, have had a torrid and indecisive couple of weeks since waving through the infamous turn four incident between the championship contenders in Brazil.

“I’m a fully paid up advocate that yellow flags must be respected as an absolute priority, but from the cockpit on Sunday the drivers would have been on their final qualifying effort exiting the last corner with no visible flags, no incident warning lights on their steering wheel or messages from the pit wall.

“There were mitigating circumstances to say the least and, with no trackside yellow warning panels, but green panels on the pit wall for the pitlane weighbridge, I would have missed the relatively poorly lit sole marshal post correctly waving a flag or flags on the left-hand side every time.”

Brundle believed that the officials’ decision to absolve Sainz from any wrongdoing was also “confusing”, but the Briton reckoned that there were perhaps a few loose ends on the day because of the fact that F1 was racing for the very first time at Losail.

“The fact that Carlos Sainz was exonerated because he lifted off the throttle after the stationary car rather underlines the confusion, but rules are rules I guess,” said the former Grand Prix driver.

“We were at a brand-new to F1 venue late to the calendar and that showed.

“In the end it made no difference to Verstappen, except he lost any chance of a run at Hamilton in the first corner.

“And Bottas would have finished third despite a difficult start had he not been the first driver to find out that the Pirelli front tyres could take no more than 30 laps of punishment against the aggressive secondary kerbs.”

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Source: Formula 1 – F1I