Max Verstappen awarded a five-place grid penalty for the Qatar Grand Prix. Formula 1 News

Max Verstappen has been handed a five-place grid penalty for the Qatar GP.© AFP

Max Verstappen has been handed a five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s Qatar Grand Prix and will start the race from seventh, with his Formula One world title rival Lewis Hamilton in pole position. The Dutchman, who leads Hamilton by 14 points in the standings with three races remaining in the season, has been penalized for “not respecting” the double-waving yellow flag during qualifying. Verstappen had originally qualified in second place, but would be replaced in the front row by Alfa Tauri driver Pierre Gasly. Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas was also slapped with a three-place grid penalty and will start from sixth.

The Finn was penalized for “not slowing down” under a yellow flag during Saturday’s third qualifying session, which was dominated by Hamilton.

The news is a major blow to Verstappen’s hopes of a crown before the World Championships and gives Hamilton a boost in his bid for a record eighth title.

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso has been promoted from fifth to third on the grid, with McLaren’s Lando Norris joining the veteran Spaniard in the second row.

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