Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Hockenheimring, 2019

Fine for Leclerc-Grosjean pit lane collision was “consistent with previous penalties”

2019 German Grand Prix

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Ferrari were not treated leniently when the stewards decided against giving Charles Leclerc a time penalty for his pit lane collision with Romain Grosjean, according to FIA race director Michael Masi.

Leclerc made contact with Grosjean when Ferrari released him from his pit box as the Haas driver was passing by.

During this year’s Monaco Grand Prix Max Verstappen was given a five-second time penalty and two points on his licence when he collided with Valtteri Bottas in the pits. However Masi said the two incidents were different.

Verstappen’s penalty was “labelled an ‘unsafe release’ but it was actually ‘causing a collision in the pit lane’,” said Masi after yesterday’s race. “So that was why that was different to the one today, which was clearly an unsafe release.”

Masi said the challenging conditions in yesterday’s race and the likelihood many drivers would pit simultaneously were taken as mitigating factors when considering potential incidents.

“Part of the discussion that we had with team managers the other day, knowing that the conditions could be changeable was also taken into account. If we’ve got everyone coming in pit lane to do tyres at the same time, that’s going to be a factor in it.

“But still, quite clearly and consistent with the previous penalties, [a] €5,000 fine towards the team for what happened.”

Masi added the stewards found few recent precedents for a similar collision happening in the pits.

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Unsafe release investigations, 2017-present

YearRaceDriverTeamOutcomeNotes
2017MonacoPascal WehrleinSauberFive-second time penaltyThe stewards ruled Sauber released Wehrlein too late and forced Jenson Button to take evasive action.
2017HungaryRomain GrosjeanHaas€5000 fineGrosjean was released from the pits with his left-rear wheel not fastened due to a cross-threaded wheel nut. He stopped his car when told to by the team.
2017Abu DhabiCarlos Sainz JnrRenault€5000 fineSainz was released from the pits with his left-front wheel not fastened. He stopped his car when told to by the team.
2018AustraliaKevin MagnussenHaas€5000 fineMagnussen’s car was released with one wheel not fastened. He stopped his car when told to by the team.
2018AustraliaRomain GrosjeanHaas€5000 fineGrosjean’s car was released with one wheel not fastened. He stopped his car when told to by the team.
2018BahrainKimi RaikkonenFerrari€50000 fineRaikkonen’s car was released while the team were still working on it, injuring a mechanic.
2018BritainCharles LeclercSauber€5000 fineLeclerc’s car was released with one wheel not fastened. He stopped his car.
2018MexicoLance StrollWilliams€25000 fineStroll’s car struck a mechanic after the pits stop was complete, injuring a mechanic.
2019MonacoMax VerstappenRed BullFive-second time penalty, two penalty points for VerstappenThe stewards ruled that after Verstappen was released from his pit stop he continued to move towards the fast lane of the pits while Bottas was already alongside him, causing contact. The stewards’ decision described this as an “unsafe release”.
2019BritainLando NorrisMcLarenNo action takenThe stewards ruled Norris’s car was not released in an unsafe fashion.
2019GermanyCharles LeclercFerrari€5000 fineThe stewards ruled Leclerc’s car was released into the path of Grosjean’s causing “minor contact”.

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2019 F1 season

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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  • 53 comments on “Fine for Leclerc-Grosjean pit lane collision was “consistent with previous penalties””

    1. Well, that makes it clear that the Verstappen penalty was inconsistently harsh

      1. In case of Verstappen he pushed Bottas into wall, and if anything his penalty was too lenient.

        1. Bottas was stalling before pit entrance to enable a double stack for the team. Then they performed a relatively slow pitstop, which gave RBR the oppertunity to pull ahead. RBR did a better job than Mercedes and Max was punished for that.

        2. @Chaitanya
          Atleast you’re consistent exposing your bias vs Verstappen………yawn!
          Verstappen was released by the team,did what he had to do, hit Bottas and got a penalty.
          Leclerc was released by the team,did what he had to do, hit Grosjean and walked away.
          Where is your supposed consistency?

          1. Oconomo, as I have explained before, frankly I think that both situations were overly soft penalties that only served to encourage those teams to deliberately take the penalty, as in both cases taking the penalty was actually the better strategic option for those teams.

            In the case of Verstappen in Monaco, Red Bull would either have had to let Max rejoin in 4th place – because, if they waited for Bottas, they’d have also had to wait for Vettel to pass as well – or they could take the penalty and end up in 4th anyway at worst, but have a chance of then passing Hamilton for victory instead. There was no disadvantage in taking the penalty – the worst case was Max would end up where they should have been anyway, making it preferable to take the penalty and take a chance on being able to pass Hamilton for the lead.

            Similarly, in the case of Leclerc, by releasing Leclerc when they did, Ferrari ensured that he rejoined ahead of a queue of traffic and, given that they would have had to wait at least a couple of seconds to let Leclerc go if they had waited, even a 5 second penalty would have probably been worth taking given they’d have lost a similar amount of time holding him in the pits. Again, the upside from the better track position and being able to keep Leclerc’s tyres hotter outweighed the potential penalty cost and made it into a preferable strategy.

            As I’ve stated before, I am of the opinion that both incidents should have been penalised more harshly. In a situation which presents a risk to those personnel in the pit lane, the penalty should be harsher to discourage reckless action – it shouldn’t be the case that taking the penalty becomes the better strategy for a team to adopt.

          2. Bottas’s car was damaged enough to compromise his pace.

            Grosjean’s car was still in good enough condition to collide with Magnussen later.

        3. @chaitania The only reason why there was no contact now was because Grosjean hit the breaks. So that is quite a strange point to make unless you think Leclerc should be awarded for Grosjeans avoiding actions.

      2. No, it makes it 100% clear that Verstappen had only himself to blame for that penalty in Monaco.

        1. It wasn’t his fault but the team for releasing him into Bottas.

    2. Masi said the challenging conditions in yesterday’s race and the likelihood many drivers would pit simultaneously were taken as mitigating factors when considering potential incidents.

      you would think that with the likelihood of many driver simultaneously pitting would be reason for a more strict approach: the likelihood of accidents with potentially dangerous outcomes is higher.

      1. Exactly @mcbosch! Instead of looking at preserving as safe a situation as possible, they more or less say “hey, it’s unsafe, so just hope everything goes right”. Much the same attetude that meant the Japanese GP happened with Jules crashing IMO

    3. How is it consistent? All other $5000 fines were given for loose wheelnuts. The 2017 and 2019 Monaco incidents, which involved (near) contact got a 5 second time penalty. Masi is full of it.

      1. Exactly. They’re nuts. And I’m not referring to what affixes the wheels.

      2. Keith – was that table put together by you, or provided by the FIA? If by the FIA, it actually undermines their argument!

        1. If you think about it, that in itself is in line with recent stewarding standards.

    4. Leclerc made contact with Grosjean when Ferrari released him from his pit box as the Haas driver was passing by.

      Verstappen’s penalty was “labelled an ‘unsafe release’ but it was actually ‘causing a collision in the pit lane’,” said Masi after yesterday’s race. “So that was why that was different to the one today, which was clearly an unsafe release.”

      So both resulted in a collision, both from an unsafe release.
      Just one was a tiny knock and the other a bigger hit. Both shouldn’t happen in the pit lane ever, not even “when its busy”.

      I made this comment yesterday, but I think that under Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car, the pit lane speed limit should be halved. This would be:

      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.

      The only fair point that @anunaki raised was as question if an F1 car could actually travel that slowly for so long without stalling, however @ceevee suggested making the pit lane battery power only like WEC.

      1. @eurobrun actually reduce speed by 40% would be even better as this is in line with VSC requirements. Quite like the idea.

        I don’t remember the event in 2017, but it seemed to me Grosjean breaking is clearly taking evasive action. At the end it doesn’t change the results but could set bad precedence.

      2. difference from the two cases is that in one of them drivers were racing each other and continued to do so until the pitlane exit, yesterday they weren’t

        not that it matters to me, neither should’ve been given a time penalty

      3. Good point about lowering the speed limit in a VSC/SC situation @eurobrun, @jeanrien.

        These periods always bring with them a frantic dive into the pits, and especially when it’s slippery the risk of accidents goes up even more in such a situation.

      4. No need to reduce the speed at all, just penalise unsafe releases properly. By reducing the speed further, you are increasing the likelihood for 1 stop races in the dry, especially at tracks with long pit entries. Sorry, don’t agree with this one. Just the stewards need to do there job properly and penalise for an unsafe release into another car ($5000 is a yoke).

      5. @eurobrun The F1 cars only manage to do pit speed consistently because there’s a pre-configured pit lane button. Deltas for SCs and VSCs are not forced to be at any specific percentage, making it impossible to do likewise for that scenario if anything other than full-speed pitlane is used.

    5. Von Smallhausen (@engelbertvonsmallhausen)
      29th July 2019, 12:25

      So if the one who is impeded backs off you are fine, if he does not you are screwed.

      1. Appearantly not, hence Pascal Wehrleins 5s penalty during Monaco 2017.

        “The stewards ruled Sauber released Wehrlein too late and forced Jenson Button to take evasive action.”

        Please help me understand, because I fail to see the logic here.

      2. Of course not, this Masi story is nts, he is trying to talk the stewards out of a ridiculous decision…

    6. The main difference is that he gained a time advantage by being released into the path of Grosjean. If they release you with one of the tyres still loose you don’t have a time advantage. If you gain time, you should receive a time penalty. And that holds true even without any safety considerations.

    7. this was a clear-cut 5s penalty, no doubt. If the race was the normal procession we usually get, this would have been a slam dunk, but the race was so chaotic that this was taken more lightly. Also, I believe the stewards are a bit more reluctunt on giving Ferrari more penalties lately.

      1. This was just a safety car situation just like in Monaco, no difference, just bad stewarding.

    8. I’m OK with a fine being assessed but come on, 5,000. What’s that, Ferrari’s coffee budget for the weekend? A penalty should hurt and hitting a team with a fine that was probably set in 1969 isn’t going to hurt.

      1. Very dangerous precedent to set.

        Ferrari and every other team would gladly pay $5k for track position.

    9. This is getting more ridiculous by the hour, they just need to admit they made a mistake.

    10. Couldn’t care less if this consistent or not, it is the right decision, shame they didn’t apply the same on to Max back in Monaco. Also a shame they don’t do things like this every-time the driver is not at fault.

      Max getting points on his license because he was told to leave pit box, now that is stupid

      Just increase the fine, and make them pay part to the affected team

      1. Couldn’t care less if this consistent or not

        great.

    11. First let me set the table by saying that I think a lot of the penalties on track are unnecessary and I’m glad they’ve been more hands off as the season has gone on. A lot of those have been for what should be considered racing and we don’t want them to disincentivize that.

      However, when it comes to pit lane violations that put vulnerable pit crew and stewards at risk, it should always be the same penalty for unsafe releases and it should always be harsh. Every unsafe release from the pit is either an effort to beat others out of the pit, or not get stuck behind a train of cars, or is a lack of awareness by the pit crew. In every case it should be something like a drive through to incentivize teams to do the safe thing instead of the expedient thing. I know that the drivers can’t see and must rely completely on the team for when to leave, so it doesn’t seem fair that the driver’s race is impacted. But it’s a team sport and when they make a mistake, financial penalties are just not enough. It’s gotta hurt their results to provide enough disincentive that they don’t even consider it an option. That said, I don’t think drivers should get a point on their record for it because those should only be a result of the driver’s decision making.

      If the stewards decide that the driver banged wheels or deliberately shoved another car out of the way, they can weigh that on top of the unsafe release and impose an additional penalty if necessary and points for the driver would then be appropriate.

      1. @lunaslide – very nicely articulated.

        It’s gotta hurt their results to provide enough disincentive that they don’t even consider it an option.

        Exactly. It’s not a question of “nothing happened, so just pay 5k euros as a slap on the wrist”. It should be a message of “Don’t you even dare think of being rash in the pitlane, we’ll be on you like a tonne of bricks. Save your racing for the track”.

        1. Another excellent point was made on The F1 Word in answer to those saying a harsh penalty unfairly penalizes the driver for the team’s mistake. Grojean had to brake hard to not hit Leclerc (harder?) when he popped out in front of him. As a consequence of this, he lost three or four places on track because of the delay in the pit lane. He wasn’t in the fight for the lead, but he’s in his own race for points, so it still matters. So yes, these incidents do often have a direct on the fortunes of the drivers who gain advantage by it and those who were disadvantaged by it.

          I don’t feel like any unsafe release penalty that allows a driver to keep an advantage when their team does the expedient thing at the cost of pit crew safety is fair or justifiable. A fine is ridiculous. 5 seconds is just not enough because it’s a trade worth making for track position in a cynical calculus. It must be a penalty that will make it totally unworthy of consideration by the team because the consequences would completely negate any advantage gained. The people in the pit lane are so vulnerable to serious injury that it’s simply unacceptable. The contention that it was more acceptable because it was raining and the pit lane was frantic is also ridiculous. It is in those circumstances that it is most important to maintain safety standards, not a situation that excuses a breach of them.

      2. Agreed. There should be zero tolerance.

    12. It affected another competitor, the other ‘fines’ did not. I cannot even comprehend the absolute idiocy of the stewards were it not for them being lenient because of either a) some connection to Ferrari or b) some kind of misplaced guilt induced retribution from Canada. An absolutely disgraceful decision that has made pit lanes more dangerous for the mechanics. Did I say it was a disgrace? ok.

    13. GtisBetter (@)
      29th July 2019, 17:16

      Verstappen’s penalty was “labelled an ‘unsafe release’ but it was actually ‘causing a collision in the pit lane’,” said Masi after yesterday’s race. “So that was why that was different to the one today, which was clearly an unsafe release.”

      Right, we are inventing things now. If you release a driver when another car is already right next to him it’s unsafe, regardless if there is any collision involved. Again this is result based stewarding, which is a wrong way of looking at things. A penalty should be a punishment, but there should also be a discouraging part that makes them say: ”look guys, we don’t want to do this again, cause it’s not worth it.” Right now, as many has already commented, you can just throw him out there and hope for the best, as with both Max and Leclerc the advantage is greater then the potential risk.

      1. @passingisoverrated Come on, the clear difference is that Verstappen pushed Bottas into the wall. If Verstappen had simply kept his line next to Bottas he would have had no penalty at all. But instead he had to move just that half meter extra to the right and “caused a collision” -> penalty.

        1. @F1osaurus The regulations do not support that analysis. Unsafe releases, themselves, are a penalisable offence, and until recently were consistently so based on distance to pit. It’s only that three different penalties (or non-penalty in the British Grand Prix case, something incompatible with regulations) were issued for the same offence, without bothering to clarify the distinctions between them.

          Unfortunately some of the stewards (and only some) agree with you despite having no support in the regulations for their position.

          1. @alianora-la-canta The point is, in Monaco it wasn’t an unsafe release. Red Bull was not fined. The teams are always allowed to release their cars at the same time when they are that close together. We have seen this plenty. No fined or penalties whatsoever. Just two cars in the pit lane side by side. Leclerc and Verstappen did it.

            The only issue was that in Monaco Verstappen went on to put Bottas into the wall. On purpose. Or at least he moved over extra to the right to do so. So it looked on purpose. So he got a penalty for that. Rightly so.

            As Masi explained, they labeled that incident wrong.

            1. @f1osaurus Red Bull was penalised in Monaco, and teams haven’t been allowed to release their cars into each other’s paths. Simply because it is often ignored does not make it permitted, it just means it is handled inconsistently.

            2. @alianora-la-cant Red Bull was NOT penalized. Only Verstappen was.

              It’s not handled inconsistently, you just don’t know the actual rules.

    14. 2017 Monaco – 5-second time penalty – The stewards ruled Sauber released Wehrlein too late and forced Jenson Button to take evasive action.
      Please, someone ask Mr. Masi what is “evasive action”? Is it breaking? If so, then Leclerc must have had 5-second time penalty, because Grosjean was hit by Leclerc and Grosjean had to break to avoid bigger damage to his car.

    15. €5,000 fine

      Seriously, why bother? Is anyone at FIA going to suggest that’s either remotely preventative or punitive for a F1 team? Just say it’s no penalty, has the merit of being honest at least.

      1. @david-br Exactly and that’s why Red Bull does not keep in mind if it’s unsafe or not. They don’t care.

        The guy on the Ferrari radio was screaming about oncoming traffic though. So they did care. Although I assume that’s more because contact like that can be a race ending affair quite easily.

    16. Neil (@neilosjames)
      29th July 2019, 20:44

      Pathetic ‘punishment’. Whatever they do with stuff that happens on the track, unsafe releases put lives at risk for the sake of a few seconds. I was hoping Leclerc would push up towards the front three at the time, but not giving that sort of unsafe release a time penalty is just silly.

    17. A light contact is a type of collision, Mr Masi. You just contradicted yourself. Also, I am nervous of the precedent of re-labelling the reason for a penalty (as Verstappen in Monaco) when it doesn’t fit into the latest narrative.

      I am disgusted with how the FIA handled yesterday, but the gates were opened when no penalty at all was issued for the same offence (sans contact) last race.

    18. I also think that was inconsistent. Hey, Leclerc did gain an advantage while he should have waited for Grosjean to pass. Of course it is the team’s fault, but if it is punished only by a fine, teams will begin to evaluate whether 2-3 seconds on the track are worth $5000 to them.

      As has been pointed out, that is why Verstappen’s Monaco penalty was too lenient. There was both an unsafe release (gaining an advantage) and bumping into another car. Logic dictated that the penalty could not have been the smallest one.

    19. Is it a 10k fine for running down another team’s tire changer? And does the tire changer keep the extra 5k?

    20. 5 grand for a position is cheap !

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