Ferrari’s weekend in Japan went from bad to worse when Charles Leclerc received to post-race penalties that demoted him from sixth-place, when he crossed the finish line, to seventh after the FIA race stewards had a final say before the lights went out at Suzuka.
Leclerc infuriated Max Verstappen on the opening lap when he appeared to escape without sanction ramming into the Red Bull with his Ferrari as he carried too much speed for the inside of Turn 2, drifted into Verstappen’s car and compromised both their races.
Verstappen’s car was damaged in the incident and the team parked it on lap 15.
The official reason for the penalty: “The Stewards reviewed video evidence, heard from the driver of car 16 (Charles Leclerc), the driver of car 33 (Max Verstappen) and team representatives.
“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.”
The penalty decision: “Five-second time penalty imposed after the race in accordance with Article 38.3 d) of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations. (5 seconds added to elapsed race time). 2 penalty points imposed (total of 2 in the 12 month period).”
After the contact Leclerc continued while the left endplate on his front wing shredded and spewed carbon as it came apart, endangering Lewis Hamilton who was chasing the Ferrari at that early point in the race.
The stewards observed: “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.
“Competitors are reminded that they have the right to appeal certain decisions of the Stewards, in accordance with Article 15 of the FIA International Sporting Code and Article 9.1.1 of the FIA Judicial and Disciplinary Rules, within the applicable time limits.”
The penalty imposed: “Ten-second time penalty imposed after the race in accordance with Article 38.3 d) of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations. (10 seconds added to elapsed race time.) The competitor (Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow) are fined €25,000.”