Penalty loses Fuoco front row starting slot in Bahrain

by Paul Hensby

Antonio Fuoco has been handed a three-place grid penalty for the Feature race at the Bahrain International Circuit after being found guilty of impeding another driver during qualifying on Friday.

The Italian had looked set to have joined Prema Racing team-mate and fellow Ferrari Driver Academy member Charles Leclerc on the front row of the grid for Saturdays race, but will now start fifth after impeding Artem Markelov.

The penalty promotes Rapax driver Nyck de Vries to the front row, while Norman Nato and Luca Ghiotto will now share row two ahead of Fuoco and Nobuharu Matsushita.

Four other drivers were also handed penalties after the conclusion of the qualifying session, with Gustav Malja receiving a five-place grid drop for his part in the collision with Nabil Jeffri that saw the Virtual Safety Car needed in the closing moments of the session.

The Swede was found by the stewards to have driven in a ‘potentially dangerous manner’ and will start seventeenth on the grid as a result, ironically just behind Jeffri, as the final three drivers penalised – Sean Gelael, Sergio Canamasas and Stefano Coletti – will all start from the pit lane.

All three drivers were found guilty of failing to slow sufficiently for the virtual safety car and as they qualified seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth respectively, they cannot take their full penalty on the grid, and as a result will start the first race of the year from pit lane.

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