EXCLUSIVE: Did the FIA accidentally give Leclerc the wrong penalty?

14-10-2019 15:42 | Updated: 15-10-2019 17:18
by Nicolás Quarles van Ufford
General
EXCLUSIVE: Did the FIA accidentally give Leclerc the wrong penalty?

Ferrari star Charles Leclerc received a 10-second penalty in the wake of his collision with Max Verstappen at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix for driving around with a damaged car for too long. In their statement, the FIA quoted a regulation that refers to this type of incident. However, have they given Leclerc the wrong penalty?

Update: The FIA have responded to this article. Read their statement here.

Initially, Leclerc got given a five-second penalty for causing a collision with Verstappen on lap one and a bigger, 10-second penalty for staying out after the collision despite having a damaged car. Pieces of carbon fibre were flying off the SF90 as well as the left rear-view mirror.

After looking at the regulations from the FIA that were referenced in the statement in which they awarded Leclerc's penalty, we have discovered the punishment for the second infringement should be 30 seconds rather than 10. If this is indeed the case, the 21-year-old would drop to P12, five places below his current finishing position and six places below where he crossed the finish line. It would propel Pierre Gasly to seventh, Sergio Perez to eighth, Nico Hulkenberg to ninth, Lance Stroll to 10th and Daniil Kvyat to 11th.

The wrong punishment

In the FIA's statement, article 22.11 gets mentioned. Said article states that a driver who is driving a damaged car should leave the track as soon as he can do so safely. The fact that Leclerc stayed out for as long as he did takes us to article 38.3 d).

This is the punishment the FIA say it's giving Leclerc, but has it been executed correctly? If you take a look at the regulations, it states 38.3 d) means a 10-second time penalty, as well as a stop-and-go penalty. However, if the penalty is given within three laps of the checkered flag or after the race (the latter of the two being the case here), a 30-second time penalty should be awarded.

These are the regulations:

"If any of the four penalties above are imposed during the last three laps, or after the end of a race, Article 38.4(b) below will not apply and five seconds will be added to the elapsed race time of the driver concerned in the case of (a) above, 10 seconds in the case of (b), 20 seconds in the case of (c) and 30 seconds in the case of (d)."

FIA/Ferrari...?

This 30-second penalty didn't get awarded. A 10-second penalty, which Leclerc got, would be article 38.3 b), but this gets awarded for a lesser offence, and the FIA applied article d) rather than b).

Have the FIA made a big mistake here or have they knowingly given Leclerc a lighter penalty? Why haven't the FIA mentioned the correct article, if it was indeed a mistake? This could be because article b) deals with smaller infringements. So, they referenced article d) as if it's a big infringement, but they still gave a soft penalty.

All of this plays into the narrative of Ferrari being favoured by the FIA, and there is another interesting detail. If the driver would have retired from the race, a grid penalty would be awarded for the next race. With the wrong penalty having been give, could this be the right solution? Or should the FIA increase Leclerc's penalty from 10 to 30 seconds, making the penalty a total of 35 seconds?

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