Sebastian Vettel, who qualified third for tomorrow's Austrian Grand Prix, will now start the race from the third row after the stewards found that he impeded Carlos Sainz during the second phase of today's session.
"Car 5 (Vettel) had just finished a push lap and was on an in lap, travelling quite slowly into and around turn 1, on the racing line. The driver conceded that he had passed car 55 (Sainz) between turns 7 and 8 but assumed it had pitted after," said the stewards in their statement.
"However, car 55 was actually commencing a push lap and closed on car 5 rapidly along the pit straight and into turn 1. During evidence, the driver of car 55 stated that he felt the driver of car 5 was completely unaware of his approach. This was confirmed by the driver of car 5 who stated he was unable to see car 55 in his mirrors and that his team had not informed him of its approach, by radio. The latter was confirmed by the team representative.
"It is the belief of the Stewards that notwithstanding the absence of a radio call, the driver of car 5, being aware of the issue of rear vision with his mirrors, should not have been so slow and on the racing line, during a slowdown lap in qualification," deemed the stewards.
"Having reviewed all alleged impeding incidents since the beginning of 2016, the penalty of a drop of 3 grid positions is consistent with all other similar incidents," they ruled.
In addition to the grid penalty, Vettel was handed a penalty point thereby bringing his 12-month total up to 6.
Speaking in the post-qualifying press conference, when asked about the incident, the German said: "I passed him on my fast lap in Turns 7 and 8, and I was looking down the main straight and I didn't see him.
"I was turning into Turn 1, trying again to look because I was thinking he must be there somewhere," he continued, "I don't know if he was pitting or starting his lap.
"But as it turned out obviously he was trying to go for a fast lap. I couldn't see him, I wasn't told on the radio, so I can only apologise to him.
"There was no intention," he insisted. "I was looking down the straight, I turned around Turn 1, I was done with my lap and just wanted to make sure and there was nothing in the mirrors after Turn 1, which was obvious because I saw in the replay that we were side-by-side."
"In the end it didn't change my qualy much," Sainz told Sky Sports. "It made me damage a front wing, which obviously costs money and it takes work to repair and you don't know if the wing will continue to work as well as before, but it didn't affect me too much.
"I think he simply didn't see me. He didn't do it on purpose. He wasn't warned on the radio."
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