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Russell, Ocon and Gasly hit with two-place grid drops after impeding incidents in Sao Paulo GP qualifying

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SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 03: Esteban Ocon of France driving the (31) Alpine F1 A523 Renault on

Mercedes’ George Russell and Alpine duo Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly have been hit with two-place grid penalties for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix following impeding incidents in the pit lane during qualifying.

Russell – who won his first and so far only Grand Prix at the venue last year – will now start eighth for the race on Sunday, while Ocon and Gasly will drop to 14th and 15th on the grid respectively.

READ MORE: What the teams said – Qualifying in Sao Paulo

The penalties come after a rule specific to this weekend at Interlagos was laid out in the race director’s notes stating that any driver trying to create a gap to the car in front during qualifying must stay as far to the left as possible in the pit lane exit.

This proved a flashpoint during Q1 when Russell was captured driving slowly down the pit exit, with Gasly complaining over team radio that he was being impeded by the Mercedes driver. The stewards subsequently ruled that Russell was “driving slowly in the pit exit and was not as far to the left as possible”.

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 03: George Russell of Great Britain driving the (63) Mercedes AMG

Russell was the victor at Interlagos last year, but will start from 8th at this year's event following his penalty

The stewards’ ruling added: "As a result, following car(s) were not able to overtake, as intended by the Race Director’s instructions. This clearly violates the wording and the spirit of item 14 of the Race Director’s Event Notes."

Gasly and Ocon were also adjudged to have done the same in qualifying, with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez the driver who was impeded, and were hit with the same penalties as a result.

FRIDAY DEBRIEF: Why the Sprint format and some ugly weather has created an unsettled picture for Sao Paulo

The grid drops only apply to Sunday’s Grand Prix, rather than tomorrow’s Sprint race at Interlagos.

Max Verstappen had earlier sealed pole in qualifying, with the on-track action brought to a halt early thanks to torrential rain. Charles Leclerc and Lance Stroll had taken P2 and P3 respectively.

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