Citroen driver Yvan Muller has been given a formal reprimand by WTCC stewards for what they deemed as dangerous behaviour under yellow flags during qualifying at Marrakech.
Muller, who carried a five-place penalty after an incident in race two in Argentina last month involving Mehdi Bennani, was called to the stewards after qualifying when a protest was made by Honda Racing Team JAS.
The Italian-based team believed that Muller braked dangerously when the yellow flags were out at the end of Q2, when Tom Coronel’s ROAL Motorsport suffered a problem with his air jacks.
“On my second attempt with new tyres following Yvan there was a yellow flag, and from my perspective Yvan slowed down too dangerously,” said Honda's Gabriele Tarquini.
“I passed him as I couldn’t brake as strongly as him, as I didn’t expect him to brake so hard, I had to do it just to avoid contact.”
Muller was given a formal reprimand by the stewards that means tomorrow’s grids are unchanged, but will pick-up another grid penalty should he receive two more reprimands during the season.
“I slowed down at the yellow and I pulled to the right, and (Tarquini) then overtook me,” said Muller.
“Then at the next chicane I decided to come in, I could see many cars behind so I pulled off the racing line, and now the stewards are not happy because I went off the line, it’s strange. A formal reprimand after being nice and try and get out of people’s way, it’s something I don’t understand.”
The Frenchman will nonetheless start from pole on race two having qualified tenth, despite having initially indicated he wouldn’t make a play for a strategic grid spot for qualifying ahead of the weekend.
But when it came to qualifying, it became all too clear that was his plan as teammate Jose María Lopez went on to take his fifth consecutive pole position.
After his five-place penalty is applied, but taking into account the five engine change penalties, Muller will start race one from 13th on the grid, but crucially race two from pole position.
“We were not sure whether we should do that, but I didn’t really have a choice,” said Muller. “If I set pole position, I’d start sixth for race one and then race two I’d still start tenth, so I didn’t see the point."
On how much ground the four-time champion hopes to make up in race one tomorrow, Muller wasn’t too optimistic given the improvement in pace seen from Citroen’s rivals since last year’s race.
“We are not that fast in the straight compared to some of the others. When I was following the Ladas in practice this morning I was not that much faster than them, only in the braking zones, so we will see tomorrow, but it will not as it was last year.”