Lance Stroll avoided a second Las Vegas Grand Prix grid drop after being called before the stewards for an alleged yellow flag breach during qualifying.
The Canadian had allegedly failed to slow for a yellow flag in the closing moments of Q1 as the AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda ran deep at Turn 5.
Stroll passed through the yellow-flagged segment on his way to three personal best sectors, which saw him jump from P18 to P11 to eliminate Lando Norris.
After examining telemetry, the stewards determined that Stroll had lifted off throttle earlier than team-mate Fernando Alonso through the yellow flags, and accelerated later than the Spaniard upon corner exit.
Despite improving his overall lap time by almost two-tenths, Stroll avoided penalty as his mini-segments through the affected Turn 5 had been slower than previous attempts.
The Aston Martin driver had already been slapped with a five-place grid penalty, having been found to have overtaken Carlos Sainz under yellow flags during FP3.
In the wake of Alex Albon’s crash in the earlier session, the Stewards’ acknowledged that an issue had arisen with the lighting panels around the circuit, although “the regulations are clear that the flags and light panels have the same meaning”.
“I’d normally get it on the dash and the yellow board, but there was nothing that came up on the monitors,” Stroll explained of his punishment. “I think it was a problem with the system, so I missed the flags.”
While Stroll had felt comfortable with the AMR23 during Vegas qualifying, he felt that his progress was hampered by the Aston Martin’s straight line deficit.
He had qualified P14 but will line up P19 following the application of his penalty.
“I actually felt good in the car, but yeah, just missing a few tenths in Q2. We had a lot of problems with the straight line speed in Q2,” he surmised.
“I’m not sure if something went wrong with the engine or whatever, but all of of our time was lost on the straights.”
Aston Martin’s underlying top-speed deficit was also noted by Alonso who claimed: “We’ve been the slowest car on the straights for 22 races so there is not a surprise that on the longest straight of the championship we are struggling a little bit.”
The Red Bull of Sergio Perez was fastest through the speed trap on the 1.9km run down the Strip, hitting 348.3km/h during Qualifying with DRS.
Meanwhile, Alonso was 11th fastest, reaching 344.7km/h with Stroll limited to 340.6km/h and 15th in terms of the top speed charts.
Aston Martin languished when it came to top speeds across the start/finish line, however, recording the slowest speeds of the session. George Russell had reached 323.3km/h across the line while both Aston Martin drivers failed to exceed 315km/h when rounding the final corner.
Intriguingly, the Aston Martin drivers were second and third fastest at the first intermediate, both within 0.3km/h of the 189.8km/h standard set by polesitter Charles Leclerc in the short sprint out of the 90-degree Turn 5.
Speaking after the session, the two-time champion told the media that he would “100%” be vulnerable during the race given the concerning top speeds through the DRS zones.
“Even if we drop the rear wing then you balance corners and the straight, and the pace is what it is but to be in Q3 is a nice surprise. Tomorrow, we’ll see if we can score some points.
“I think it has been good. Generally, I think we are happier with the car after Brazil and here I think we had a good car that we could drive, we could push, we could trust close to the walls. I’m happy with the car. I think the circuit characteristics is not great for us.”