All three drivers have been summoned to a hearing with the stewards prior to Qatar’s maiden F1 race for allegedly failing to respect yellow flags at the end of qualifying at Losail. 

In the closing stages of Q3, Pierre Gasly was left limping along the main straight after losing his front wing and suffering a puncture following a wide moment over the kerbs. 

The incident initially prompted a yellow flag to be flown when Sainz’s Ferrari and the Mercedes of Bottas approached the crawling AlphaTauri driver, before being upgraded to double-waved yellows when Gasly came to a stop.

Verstappen was the last of the three aforementioned drivers on the scene and his onboard footage showed he did not seem to lift coming out of the final corner despite marshals waving double-waved yellows. 

The Dutchman went on to marginally improve his time but stayed second, nearly half a second down on F1 title rival Lewis Hamilton, who set a blistering pace to claim a dominant pole position.

There was no warning on Verstappen’s dash, while a green flag panel on the right-hand side of the track appeared to be flashing green at the same time yellows were being waved to his left. 

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According to race director Michael Masi’s event notes for the weekend, drivers passing through a double waved yellow marshalling sector “must reduce speed significantly and be prepared to change direction or stop.”

The event note continues: “In order for the stewards to be satisfied that any such driver has complied with these requirements it must be clear that he has not attempted to set a meaningful lap time, for practical purposes any driver in a double yellow sector will have that lap time deleted.” 

For single-waved yellows, drivers must “reduce their speed and be prepared to change direction” and “it must be clear that a driver has reduced speed and, in order for this to be clear, a driver would be expected to have braked earlier and/or discernibly reduced speed in the relevant marshalling sector.”

If Verstappen, Sainz and Bottas are found guilty of a rules breach, they could have their final lap times deleted and face a potential grid drop.

Ignoring double-waved yellow flags is the more serious infringement and previous cases have resulted in a five-place grid penalty. 

Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel was hit with a five-place grid penalty for ignoring double yellows during qualifying at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix earlier this year.

Last season, McLaren’s Lando Norris also picked up a five-place grid drop for failing to slow sufficiently for double yellows during qualifying at the Turkish Grand Prix. 

While a five-place grid penalty is likely to be the harshest possible punishment facing Verstappen, Sainz and Bottas could each be in line for three-place grid penalties for not respecting single yellow flags. 

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Precedents for single yellow flag breaches in the past include Hamilton receiving a three-place grid penalty in Austria last year, and Verstappen losing pole in Mexico 2019.

Asked about Verstappen’s incident, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff told the media: “I’ve just seen it. I've seen that he is passing a flashing light, I think a flashing red or flashing yellow light on the left.

"Then he's passing the double waved yellows and there is a standing car on the road. I guess it's a bit of a triple whammy.

"They've gone after us with a yellow flag, passing a yellow flag on the outside. It's in the stewards' hands.

"I wouldn't want to comment much more of what should happen or not happen. I think the stewards are looking at it and they need to come up with a verdict."

Grid penalties are applied in the order they are given before the grid is shuffled forward to fill any empty spaces. 

Therefore, in the event all three were demoted, Verstappen would drop to sixth on the grid - one place behind Bottas - with Sainz falling from seventh to 10th.

In an ironic twist, Gasly could end up being the biggest benefactor of the yellow flag he caused by being promoted onto the front row alongside Hamilton. 

Such a scenario would see Alpine’s Fernando Alonso move up to third, with Norris joining him on the second row. Bottas and Verstappen would make up the third row, with Yuki Tsunoda and Esteban Ocon on row four (P7 and P8), ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Sainz.

It is worth noting that extenuating circumstances can be taken into account by the stewards, who may decide grid penalties are not warranted in these cases.

Verstappen will appear before the stewards at 1pm local time (10am UK time) on Sunday, with Sainz and Bottas at 1.30pm and 1.45pm respectively.