Leclerc demoted to P7 in Japan after double post-race penalty
Charles Leclerc’s Japanese GP weekend went from bad to worse after the chequered flag at Suzuka had fallen as the stewards opted to hand him not just one but two post-race penalties that dropped him from sixth to seventh…
The Monegasque bogged down at the start, losing a place to the fast-starting Valtteri Bottas, to run third and then went side-by-side with Max Verstappen’s Red Bull through Turn 2 with the pair making contact.
Verstappen was furious with Leclerc, describing his rival’s driving as “irresponsible” after the race. The stewards initially deemed it a racing incident, but subsequently opened an investigation after the race.
They deemed Leclerc to be “predominantly” at fault for the incident and handed him a five-second time penalty as well as two penalty points on his license.
“Car 33 [Verstappen], 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,” said the stewards in a statement.
“While the loss of front grip on car 16 [Leclerc] 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.”
That wasn’t the end of it, though, as the stewards also investigated Leclerc and Ferrari for driving a car “in an unsafe conditions” following the collision.
The Monegasque suffered front wing damage, with a small piece of it detaching on lap two and then a larger piece breaking off and hitting Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes.
The stewards said: “This piece of wing narrowly avoided an impact in the area of the cockpit of car 44 [Hamilton] 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.”
As a result, he was given a further 10-second time penalty while Ferrari were fined €25,000. The combined penalty dropped him from sixth to seventh, behind Renault's Daniel Ricciardo.
Renault, however, have been protested by rivals Racing Point, and could face sanction.