Charles Leclerc relegated to seventh position after penalties at the Japanese Grand Prix

by Sudha Sundararaj

Charles Leclerc‘s eventful 2019 Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka International Racing Course has ended with a double-penalty from the stewards after the race that has relegated him from sixth position to seventh position in the race classification. Daniel Ricciardo has been promoted to sixth position now.

The post-race investigation of the Leclerc and Verstappen incident on lap 1 has resulted in a 5-second time penalty and a further 10-seconds time penalty for continuing to drive the car in an ‘unsafe condition’ after the lap 1 incident.

Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen first lap incident

On the initial clash between Leclerc and Verstappen the stewards’ ruled: “Car 16 and car 33 were side by side as they transited turn 1 and approached turn 2 on the first lap, with car 16 on the inside.

As the cars approached the apex of turn 2, car 33, which was marginally in front, stayed wide and allowed sufficient room to the inside but car 16 lost front grip in the wake of the car in front and abruptly understeered towards the outside of the track, contacting car 33 and forcing it off the track.

“While the loss of front grip on car 16 caused the contact and was not intentional, that loss of
grip in close proximity to the car in front should have been anticipated and allowed for by car 16.

Car 16 is judged predominantly at fault for the incident. This is a somewhat unusual first lap incident, as only these cars were directly involved, so few of the normal mitigating circumstances exist.”

Leclerc was penalized with a five seconds time penalty added to his race time and two penalty points on his license.

Penalty for Unsafe Driving after Lap 1 incident

After the first lap clash, Leclerc suffered serious front-wing damage but continued in the race even as he was spewing debris all over the track. Some of the shards flew in the direction of Lewis Hamilton who was following in close proximity.

Part of the debris damaged Hamilton’ right-side mirror and got caught in the front brake duct of Lando Norris. The stewards’ deemed the driving with the damaged wing could have resulted in a serious incident.

The stewards’ noted: “The Stewards reviewed audio and video evidence, heard from the driver of car 16
(Charles Leclerc), and team representative. Car 16 received front wing damage in an incident on lap 1 at turn 2. The car continued on after the incident and did not pit at the end of lap 1.

During lap 2, anticipating a call about the car, the team told the Race Director they were calling the car into the pits at the end of lap 2. During lap 2, at turn 11 one section of the front wing detached from the car. Later on that lap, after turn 14 a larger section of front wing detached from car 16 and impacted car 44 which was closely following car 16.

“This piece of wing narrowly avoided an impact in the area of the cockpit of car 44 and destroyed the right-side mirror of car 44. After this second piece detached, the team felt the car was now in a safe condition and despite previously telling the Race Director that the car would be called to the pits, they told car 16 to remain out and not to pit. On lap 3 the Race Director called the team and directed the car be brought to the pits for inspection. Car 16 pitted at the end of lap 3.

“By not bringing car 16 into the pits at the end of lap 1, immediately after the incident for a safety inspection when there was damage clearly visible and then by telling the driver to remain out for an additional lap after telling the Race Director otherwise, the team created an unsafe condition on the circuit which only narrowly avoided being a major incident and also increased the likelihood of additional incidents after the one noted.”

Leclerc was given a 10-second time penalty that was added to his race time and the Scuderia Ferrari team were fined € 25,000 for this incident.

The resultant time penalty of 15-seconds has dropped Leclerc from sixth to seventh position at the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix.

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