Ferrari and Leclerc penalised for staying out with damaged wing

Charles Leclerc has been penalised by the FIA Formula 1 stewards for not pitting to replace his Ferrari's damaged front wing on the Japanese Grand Prix's opening lap

Ferrari and Leclerc penalised for staying out with damaged wing

He has received a 15-second time penalty, 5s for his initial collision with Max Verstappen and 10s for Ferrari leaving him out with a damaged car, dropping him from sixth to seventh.

Leclerc broke the left front endplate of his car in a second corner clash with Verstappen at Suzuka, and the part dragged along the ground for the opening lap.

F1 race director Michael Masi had safety concerns about the part breaking off, but Ferrari advised him that Leclerc would be pitted at the end of the second lap.

But, with Leclerc not losing much time initially, Ferrari kept him out - with the part then breaking off during lap two.

The flying parts struck Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes, ripping off his right hand side mirror, and pieces also ended up in the front brake duct of Lando Norris's McLaren.

The stewards' statement noted: "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 three the race director called the team and directed the car be brought to the pits for inspection."

Asked by Autosport about the Leclerc situation, Masi said: "I was originally advised that they would be pitting the car.

"They then chose not to and subsequently Ferrari were instructed by me to pit Charles' car, which it did.

"On the second lap, the elements came off and they were still instructed to pit because we could not confirm if there was going to be anything else that was going to come off."

Pushed further on whether or not he was slightly annoyed the Ferrari did not pit when he expected it to, Masi said: "More than slightly annoyed from a safety perspective."

The stewards' statement concluded: "By not bringing car #16 into the pits at the end of lap one, 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 team principal Mattia Binotto admitted it knew Leclerc would need to stop to change the wing.

As well as the stewards' claim that Ferrari was appeased when it saw part of the wing detach, Binotto suggested that the delay in pitting was also a response to Leclerc's pace.

He said that the team was willing to pit as soon as the FIA demanded it.

"What happened is we got the damage and Charles is the one who is driving and can feel the car, and how it behaves," he said.

"From outside we saw the wing was broken so it would have needed to be changed at some stage.

"He still had the right pace, stayed out, but then the FIA asked us to come in for safety reasons and we immediately accepted the decision.

"The stewards realised maybe we should have come in earlier and we have been penalised for that as well."

Leclerc recovered to sixth place, but fell behind Daniel Ricciardo to seventh when the penalty was applied.

McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl hit out at Ferrari for its handling of the incident.

Norris was battling for fifth place with Alex Albon when he went over the debris, and eventually finished 13th after the consequent additional pitstop.

"We obviously strongly disagree with competitors leaving cars out on track with entire front wing endplates hanging down, putting everyone at risk," he said.

"Unfortunately when this endplate then exploded, we caught in our front right brake duct debris from Ferrari.

"Brake temperature went through the roof so we had to box him to clean it. And then the race was over.

"If a part of that size and that material is hanging off the car, there should be no tolerance in being allowed to go flat out."

Penalty points for Verstappen incident

Leclerc also received two penalty points on his licence - his first of the current period - for the initial touch with Verstappen.

The stewards had initially announced that no investigation was necessary over this incident, before later declaring it would be discussed after the race.

They acknowledged that the cause of the incident was Leclerc understeering wide.

"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," said the stewards' report.

"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."

Verstappen ultimately retired due to the damage from the clash.

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