Charles Leclerc slapped with grid penalty

Charles Leclerc has suffered a grid drop after an incident in Austria.

Charles Leclerc has received a three-place penalty on the Sprint grid after impeding Oscar Piastri during the qualifying session for the short-form race. 

The incident occurred on Saturday morning, during the initial phase of the session, when Piastri was on a flying lap approaching the second-to-last corner and had to take evasive action to avoid colliding with the slow-moving Ferrari.

The consequences of Leclerc’s impeding manoeuvre proved costly for Piastri, as he was among the first five drivers eliminated from the session. 

Interestingly, Leclerc himself benefitted from the situation, as he was positioned 15th and next in line to be knocked out if Piastri had improved his lap time. 

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Following the session, the incident was brought to the attention of the stewards, who summoned both drivers to present their sides of the story.

Piastri explained that he had to significantly reduce his speed, approximately by 45 kilometres per hour, to avoid a collision with the slow-moving Ferrari. 

The stewards examined telemetry data, which supported Piastri’s claim, revealing that the McLaren driver lost approximately half a second due to the incident. 

Had the interruption not occurred, Piastri would likely have moved out of the danger zone by completing the lap unimpeded.

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In his defence, Leclerc stated that he was informed he was six seconds ahead of Piastri at the last communication point, which was at Turn 4 of that lap. 

Ferrari acknowledged their deficiency in keeping the driver adequately informed about the Australian’s position on the track, conceding that they “could have done better” in this regard.

The stewards concluded that Leclerc had unnecessarily impeded Piastri, resulting in a grid position penalty that dropped him from sixth to ninth for the Sprint race.

The official document announcing the penalty emphasised the stewards’ criticism of Ferrari, stating that the team’s lack of communication was the primary contributing factor. 

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The stewards determined that the incident could have been avoided, leading to their decision to impose the penalty.

This is not the first time this season that Leclerc has been penalised for impeding without receiving timely information from his team. 

In a previous instance during qualifying in Monaco, Leclerc obstructed Lando Norris while his race engineer was preoccupied with informing the Monegasque driver about Max Verstappen’s lap time.