Start, Hockenheimring, 2019

Stewards rule Leclerc-Grosjean pit collision was “minor”

2019 German Grand Prix

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The German Grand Prix stewards have explained the decision to fine Ferrari after Charles Leclerc was released from his pit box unsafely during the race.

Leclerc made contact with Romain Grosjean when many drivers pitted together during an early Safety Car period. The collision occured as Ferrari sent him out of his pit box during the race.

After re-watching today’s incident the stewards ruled Ferrari did release Leclerc “into the path of the approaching car eight [Grosjean].” As a result “the cars made minor contact.”

The Ferrari driver had to squeeze between Grosjean’s car and the waiting mechanics of other teams, the stewards noted. “Leclerc drove at an acute angle to avoid a tyre changer in the next pit and had no opportunity to drive in the merge area.”

Ferrari was fined €5,000 for the incident but Leclerc avoided a sporting penalty for the collision. Max Verstappen was given a five-second time penalty in the Monaco Grand Prix for a similar incident with Valtteri Bottas.

Last year there were five investigations for unsafe releases in the pit lane during races, all of which resulted in fines of between €5,000 and €50,000. Many of these related to incidents where cars were sent from their pit boxes before their new tyres were fully secured.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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57 comments on “Stewards rule Leclerc-Grosjean pit collision was “minor””

  1. Strange how Hamilton got a 5 second penalty for a technicality then they let this go with no penalty when it put many people in actual risk of harm. Bonkers stewarding.

    1. Right, Lewis should’ve gotten a penalty at least in line with the time he saved by not going around the track for a full lap without a front wing. In the wet.

      1. I agree or at least a stop-and-go.

      2. @proesterchen Which would have made him a liability for everyone else on the circuit, including the chance of more bits dropping off the car. His entry to the pit lane was safe. I get the 5 second penalty is application of the regulations, and following the debates this season, Mercedes can’t complain about the principle. But he took the right action for himself and the rest of the grid. It’s not as though he’d have got any fewer points with a tougher penalty anyhow.

        The Leclerc decision is weird, though. FIA point out it was unsafe and risked a mechanic. The fine basically says feel free to do it again whenever you want.

        1. @david-br
          I don’t think they are saying he risked a mechanic, I read it as saying he drove out at such an angle to avoid the mechanic, contributing to nearly colliding with Grosjean. I do think it sets a dangerous precedent, though, because – rather ironically – Mercedes (correctly under the rules) held Bottas to avoid releasing him into the path of Leclerc and lost several seconds because of it. Will they bother next time if they think they will only get a fine and not a time penalty?

      3. Funny. There is a rule for driving dangerously and this would have been applied to him if he drove with a damaged car under wet conditions. His incident WAS MINOR if stewards ruled LEC incident as minor.

        1. If you think Hamilton’s penalty was too lenient then you clearly have no idea why the rule was introduced. The point of the rule was to stop drivers cutting parts of the track to enter the pits at the last second for strategic gain. The bollard rule meant a clear limit on the track as to when drivers could take to the pit lane which is the same for all. This was clearly not a driver taking a late entry for gain but due to safety and the move was done safely.

          I’m not saying the stewards were wrong to penalise Hamilton but what is wrong is they chose to take the nature of the incident into account for Leclerc but not for Hamilton. Either you penalise all consistently in line with other incidents or give all the same consideration. The Verstappen incident in Monaco is a clear precident here that it should be a 5 second penalty.

          Penalties are not given based on what punishment is seen as fitting for the incident, they’re specific penalties assigned in advance for the rule that was broken.

  2. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    28th July 2019, 17:34

    Have to admit I thought this was a slam dunk unsafe release penalty. I was surprised it ended up as just a fine.

    1. So did I.
      Imagine a shred from a wing flying toward somebody else’s eye?

      1. @humb – Quite true. For example, it was quite annoying to see that during Hamilton’s emergency stop, there were people running around without helmets/eye protection. I sincerely hope that the FIA become stricter before something untoward happens to someone.

        1. @plylyp I hadn’t noticed that in the confusion of the pit stop, and it really, really shouldn’t have happened.

    2. I was super surprised, f1 has been so unfair to ferrari and now they make another mistake, this one actually benefitted them, I don’t think it was an unsafe release, grosjean was slow to react and maybe hard to brake in the pits but Leclerc hit grosjean so it should have been like max in monaco.

  3. GtisBetter (@)
    28th July 2019, 17:34

    This is horrible stewarding. You should penalize the action, not the outcome. It shouldn’t matter if it’s major or minor (not to mention the can of worms with this very subjective discription)

  4. Needlessly endangering everyone in the pit lane.

    Now a fine.

    Blind incompetence.

    1. -1
      Why? Because it is the team’s fault — the driver cannot see a thing. I might have been much happier to see a million euro fine, probably peanuts to a “bigger” team but it could wake them up…

      1. He gained an advantage, since he came out in front of Grosjean instead of behind Grosjean, so should have gotten a 5s penalty

  5. This is crazy decision! Hamilton didn’t hurt anyone and gets 5 sec. penalty, but here when Grosjean was hit and delayed by Leclerc there is no penalty. Absurd stewarding at its best!

    1. @bulgarian both should have been given the same penalty.

  6. This is a surprise. Of course we can claim Grosjean wasn’t a direct rival of Leclerc but they weren’t seperated by a lot so he therefore impeded a close competitior. I doubt it that is a valid excuse as well. Normally, a driver pays a penalty in those situations. Should have got 5s.

  7. I do not understand the stewards sometimes. For me, this should be the biggest no-no of all the rules as you have people within metres of the cars. The cars are still traveling at a fast enough speed to do a lot of damage as well. We seem to be getting closer and closer to a proper crash in the pitlane, and I feel like the stewards are going to keep doing nothing until someone gets seriously hurt or killed.

  8. It was minor because grosjean braked. It was worse than the release of Max in Monaco.

    1. @anunaki no it wasn’t. either way should have been a penalty. when these situations are between top teams one manages to penalize the other, or when penalizing the top team benefits other top teams.

      1. What do you mean it wasn’t? Just look at where GRO was when they released LEC. They were alongside.

  9. Sigh. So we need someone in the pitlane to lose a foot (or worse) before the FIA clamps down.

    First Max at Monaco, now Leclerc here. The precedent has been set. Teams are now going to gamble on the lines of “Rush him out of the pit to beat the car ahead, the worst is we pay €5k, LOL”.

    To the FIA: the pitlane is like the deck of an aircraft carrier or oil rig – a lot of high-powered and unforgiving machinery in close proximity to tender human flesh and bones. Let’s not rashly increase risk in what is meant to be sport/entertainment.

    1. Max got a 5 sec penalty, dropping him from 2nd to 4th… hard to spot an incentive for gambling.
      This penalty is a joke.

      1. Max’s action against Bottas was much more wilful, bumping wheels – a car could have easily ricocheted off the pitwall and back into the mechanics/staff near the pit exit. To me, that deserved an in-race paddlin’

        1. No it was not. That was in a direct battle for a position in which Mercedes’ pitcrew simply got beaten on speed by RBR. Additionally, Bottas was driving unnecessarily slow to allow the team to do a double stacked pitstop. Leclerc just pulled out.

        2. Both were slam dunk penalties, the only reason there was no damage in this incident was that Grosjean breaked.

      2. Oconomo, the answer is simple – under more normal conditions, Verstappen would probably have focussed on pulling out a 5 second gap to ensure he retained the position relative to Bottas anyway. The flimsiness of the penalty meant that, to Red Bull, it wasn’t a deterrent, they saw it as a strategic gamble worth taking because it put them ahead of Bottas and gave them the chance of victory that they otherwise wouldn’t have had.

        If they’d waited in their pit box as they were meant to do, they’d have been in 4th because Vettel was directly behind Bottas. The weak penalty made taking the penalty a better strategy – the worst case was falling back into the 4th place you’d have been anyway if you had waited to be released safely, but taking the penalty gave them a chance of bettering that position and taking a win, making it a situation with no real downside and a lot of upsides.

        Similarly, in this case the decision here was simple – Ferrari knew that letting Leclerc out then would mean his tyres would be that little bit warmer and he would be that bit closer to the leading drivers, rather than being stuck further down in the pack. Once again, it came down to a strategic gamble that Ferrari decided was worth taking – if it had been another 5 second penalty, I suspect Ferrari would still have taken it because they would have probably lost a similar amount of time if they’d held Leclerc in their pit box, so again they’d have had very little to lose and far more to gain from that gamble.

        Again, I agree wholeheartedly with @phylyp on this point – the weakness of the penalties have removed the disincentive for the teams and turned it into a strategic gamble that the teams will now take because the benefits outweigh the potential downsides. I believe the Verstappen penalty should have been stronger, and the penalty for Leclerc definitely should have been stronger – in both cases, the weakness of the penalty made it preferable to take the penalty, and that mentality is not the sort of mentality that should be practised.

        1. Thank you, anon, very nicely explained.

        2. Ideally for an ‘unsafe release’ one would only penalise the team; there is nothing the driver can do.
          But most teams (especially the rich ones) would prefer a financial slap on the wrist over losing a position in the pitlane. Maybe the penalty should be the loss of 5-10% of WCC points (of the season so far including this race). And if you round it up it would even impede Williams from releasing their drivers unsafely.

          PS – I’d want to see fewer rules and penalties, but I dislike the building a gap for the 2nd driver behind the safety car to facilitate double stacking. Cars should not be allowed to increase the gap to the car in front when behind the safety car. The double stacking adds some excitement during the pit stops.

  10. Disrespectful to the mechanics in the pit lane. Dangerous precedent.

  11. If stewards would have decided to set fine at say $1Million that would have been a good deterant for teams but this is a joke I say. Seems like Mafia at work for Castrated donkeys to save the day.

    1. @Chaitanya Setting the fine that high isn’t an option unless the International Sporting Code is changed – the stewards aren’t authorise to fine anyone more than $50,000 for a single offence.

      1. (in-race, I should clarify. Post-race is a whole different ball game).

  12. Can only imagine the calls for penalty if it was a Mercedes. Lewis got a penalty when he spun and broke his front wing and it was clearly unavoidable. But Ferrari escaped a clear slam dunk penalty. So much politics.

    1. Lewis took a deliberate shortcut, he could have driven another lap and don’t brake the rules (a rule that was a legacy from Hamiltons action last year) but he choose to brake the law and gain a huge advantage. Penalty deserved.
      Leclerc’s penalty was a joke, agree.

      1. How is that safe to complete a whole lap with a broken front wing? And see the onboard of Lewis. He spun right into pits entry and just continued straight. It wasnt a ‘deliberate shortcut’

        1. If it’s unsafe to complete another lap, he should have retired.

  13. I don’t mind Leclerc wasn’t penalised, but I’m expecting Verstappen wants his second place from Monaco back.

    1. @matthijs – fair argument. RBR could pay the max of 50k euros and get the trophy/points for 2nd.

  14. Having said this before, I will say this again – this sort of decision is setting a bad precedent for the teams and, sooner or later, something is going to go badly wrong.

    In a crowded pit lane environment like that, where you have people frantically rushing back and forth and the amount of working room is much more limited, even a slower speed collision runs the risk of seeing somebody getting run over or injured if something goes wrong.

    Whilst the focus is on driver safety, it does feel as if there is rather less interest in the safety of those who aren’t big name stars – which, frankly, is the wrong attitude to take. By being so lenient, the FIA is actively encouraging these sorts of scenarios because, when the penalties have been so cheap, there is no disincentive for them not to take the risk – after all, what is a €5,000 fine to a team like Ferrari?

    Furthermore, it just fuels the sense that the FIA is afraid to tackle the bigger teams and the big name stars – let’s be blunt, if the situation had been reversed, with Grosjean being released into the path of Leclerc and Leclerc having to stamp on the brakes and clipping Grosjean, would the FIA really have just given Haas a penalty?

    You can’t help but suspect that, if it had been the reverse scenario and Grosjean was released into Leclerc’s path in that way, the stewards would have instantly hit him with a far harsher penalty. Just like the Verstappen incident at Monaco, I suspect that, given that incident allowed Leclerc to catch the leading pack, the priority was given to “livening up the show” instead – they know that fans will scream if those drivers are penalised, so they go soft on them, whilst the midfield drivers who don’t have that popular clout can be penalised without causing outrage.

    If the FIA continues letting this sort of behaviour slide, or even effectively encourage it by making the penalty so cheap, you know that the teams will just keep on pushing it until something does go wrong.

    1. Yep, as we have come to expect from you: well put.

    2. €5,000 fine to a team like Ferrari

      I’d even go so far as to argue – what is even a €50,000 fine for a backmarker? Even teams with the budgets of the erstwhile Force India and Williams are able to host gleaming hospitality centres. That fine amount is missing quite a few zeros for it to be as effective as an in-race penalty.

    3. I think the 5 seconds is too lenient too, should be 10 seconds. Guarantee it will stop this happening.

    4. @anon I think it would have depended entirely on the stewards’ mood that day. Already seen 3 different approaches to the topic this season, and I’ve no doubt we’ll see more by the end of 2019.

  15. Typical FIA stewarding. Let’s wait before someone is killed to make a change, like Senna and Bianchi showed us.

  16. Why they did not give penalty to Hamilton for unnecessarily slow moving at the back of safety car.

    1. Briefly: it only looked like he was driving too slow, he was actually driving to the correct delta. Link to story.

      1. Thanks.

  17. @keithcollantine
    Suggested new rule:

    Under Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car, pit lane speed limit is halved.

    1) safer for pit crews considering likely more people in pit lane
    2) more opportunity to blend in and out with less risk (bigger gaps at lower speed), so less chance of unsafe release or crashes.
    3) less benefit to the “free pit stop” as pit lane also slower, not just the race track.

    I can’t see a downside?

    1. I don’t think these cars can run 30 or 40 for such long time without stalling

      1. John Toad (@)
        28th July 2019, 22:30

        Do the same as WEC then and make the pit lane battery power only.

        1. And adhere to European rules by emiting an artificial sound when at low speed on battery power.
          I’d opt for the ice cream truck jingle.

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