Charles Leclerc drops to seventh after two time penalties

Charles Leclerc at Suzuka

Charles Leclerc has been demoted to seventh place at Formula 1’s Japanese Grand Prix after receiving two time penalties for separate transgressions.

Leclerc was involved in a collision with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen at the start of the race, which resulted in the Dutchman spinning and eventually retiring.

Stewards initially declined to investigate but later changed their minds and launched an inquiry post-race.

It was decided that Leclerc was responsible for the clash and five seconds was added to his race time, along with two penalty points.

“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,” read the report. 

“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.”

In that incident Leclerc sustained damage to his front wing endplate, with the part dragging along the ground, before eventually breaking off.

It was revealed that the FIA had informed Ferrari to pit on safety grounds but that Leclerc was kept out for an undue period of time.

A 10-second time penalty was applied which, allied to the five-second demotion, relegates Leclerc behind Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo.

“The Stewards reviewed audio and video evidence, heard from the driver of car 16 (Charles Leclerc), and team representative,” confirmed the stewards.

“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.”

Ferrari was also fined €25,000 for the incident.