Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Suzuka, 2019

Why the stewards did a U-turn on investigating Leclerc-Verstappen clash

2019 Japanese Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by and

The Japanese Grand Prix stewards reversed their decision not to investigate the collision between Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen because “new evidence” became available.

FIA race director Michael Masi explained why the stewards took a second look at an incident they originally decided to take no action over.

“Some new evidence became available which they didn’t have available at the time and they chose to effectively reopen the investigation,” said Masi.

“Originally, with what was available to them, they made a determination that there was no investigation necessary. Then they got some other footage which they didn’t have. And well within their rights, it was a new element and they reopened it.”

The stewards chose to investigate the incident after the race, at which point they issued a five-second time penalty to Leclerc and gave him two penalty points on his licence.

The Ferrari driver accepted responsibility for the collision which occured as he was following Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton through turn two.

“With Max I just did a mistake, clearly. I was on the inside and being behind Seb and Lewis I lost a little bit the front but yeah obviously normally you need to anticipate those things so I’m the one to blame.”

Don't miss anything new from RaceFans

Follow RaceFans on social media:

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2019 F1 season

Browse all 2019 F1 season articles

70 comments on “Why the stewards did a U-turn on investigating Leclerc-Verstappen clash”

  1. At least they did (reopen), which is good.
    I wish they do it more often.

    Anyway, solid performance from them this weekend.

    1. I wish they do it more often.

      I hope not!
      It was immediately clear from the onboards (LEC and a following car) that LEC was sliding into VES. They should have investigated this straight away. I don’t buy the excuse of ‘new information became available’.
      And I’m still confused why they needed to hear from the drivers. The conclusion they came to a few hours after the race is what most of us already concluded after seeing the images.

      I like it that they let them race more freely.
      But when a review and decision is required it should be swift (and correct).

      1. Coldfly, be reasonable
        The Russian satellite sobernost had picked up vital magnetic information which they passed on to nasa under bilateral agreements and accords. Nasa sent an urgent telegram to the promoter in Suzuka and this was received at 22.00 hrs by the stewards. They had to act

        1. Situation has gone rogue turkey. Code word fabulous.

      2. There’s a real pattern of both Ferrari drivers getting the benifit of the doubt…if there’s any doubt which I think last Sunday wasn’t…. I think the FIA is glad Ferrari can offer Mercedes a bit of competiton, it the bigger picture that’s what F1 really needs and lacked in the years before…

        Charles and Vettel get away with stuff other drivers are penalized for, fe…
        Unsafe release Monaco Verstappen versus Germany Leclerc
        Oversteering China Kvyat and Verstappen Hungary (2017) versus Leclerc in Japan (than why only 5 sec while Max got 10 sec?)
        False start Kimi versus Vettel
        Pushing a driver off track Verstappen Monza versus Leclerc on Hamilton.

        The rules have changed a bit halfway the season, but especially for the Ferrari drivers it seems

      3. It was super clear and if it had been bumping wheels I would have agreed about not giving a penalty. But this was a very clear case, everyone at home could see clearly, its ridiculous they took so much time.
        If they had given it in the race it would have actually been a punishment because Leclerc would have lost more places. Giving it after the race it didnt impact anything.

      4. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        14th October 2019, 13:37

        @coldfly nothing is swift when it comes to Ferrari. Remember Vettel’s decision to bang into Hamilton’s car under safety car at Baku? They took forever to investigate and the decision and timing helped Vettel enormously causing Lewis to make a statement as he did yesterday about the poor job the stewards and race direction are doing. Vettel was gifted a get out of jail card for a drive through penalty yesterday. Perez got to keep a point even though he technically didn’t finish the race. Of course Renault should keep their points regardless of legality just to be fair to everyone.

        Come to think of it, they should award a few points to Williams due to a malfunction in the scoring system. It’s the perfect opportunity to do so.

        1. And maybe allow Verstappen a do-over today.

        2. Damn straight

        3. There’s clear injustice here. Remember, in 2017 Vettel foul-mouthed Charlie Whiting but they took forever to take a decision and by that time Vettel sent an apology which they claimed to have compensated for the behavior. But Gunther Steiner wasn’t so lucky, unjustly (I feel) receiving a punishment for something he said in the heat of the moment.

      5. @coldfly

        It was immediately clear from the onboards (LEC and a following car) that LEC was sliding into VES. They should have investigated this straight away. I don’t buy the excuse of ‘new information became available’.

        You forgot to say it was immediately 100% clear, so to have doubts and pretend there is a need to wait till after the race in order to decide is not even incompetence, it is corruption as there is obviously an agenda behind it. Also the inevitable justification by race director sounds exactly like Whiting before.

  2. What other evidence, the main feed?
    This is absolute tosh.

    1. Yeah, it also makes me wonder @john-h, aren’t the stewards supposed to have all of the camera’s we could potentially see, and the track system too? Feels like an excuse for why they decided to look into it.

      1. My thoughts exactly @bosyber. I guess someone seriously complained, but informally, otherwise it would have to be public.

      2. Yeah lets shift the field because of a lap shortage, a crash and slow marshalling. I say a do-over on i-racing for the whole grid.

    2. Agreed, this says to me that they didn’t investigate properly and when a damning replay was broadcast they had no choice. F1 needs to sort the way it ajudicates out, it’s not working as stands. My suggestion is that for starters the stewards are isolated from the race and not allowed to watch it, and when a case is referred to them, the videos they see have had the cars digitally altered in colour and sponsors blocked in so they don’t know who they are seeing and can make decisions based only on the incident.

      1. this, a simulation. no bias.

      2. That’s my suspicion too.

    3. Probably Karun Chandhok on the sky pad @john-h 😜

      1. came here to read this

    4. @john-h Yeah ridiculous. I guess they were shown a list of all the Ferrari penalties that they were going to let by unpunished and then someone decided that at least one of them should get penalized to appear to be impartial.

      A clear false start, Leclerc simply plowing into another driver, not pitting a damaged car (spraying the other cars with chunks of wing and other debris). It’s just mind boggling.

  3. What perplexes me is how Albon didn’t get a penalty. One could argue Lando should’ve held back and cut back underneath because Albon would never have made that corner and would’ve been compromised on the exit. But I think it was too late a move and Lando couldn’t have done anything different. Thinking back to Ricciardo’s divebombs on Hamilton in China and Raikkonen in Monza, he had the car under control and took the inside line, leaving enough space on the outside for his his victim. Unlike Albon.

    1. Also Gasly’s move was quite dubious at best. Stewarding this year after Canadian GP has consistently a farce to say the least.

      1. I’d say it started with them turning a blind eye on Max in Austria

        1. That is pertinent not true @PeterF. I can’t believe you are still bringing this up as an incident that should have gotten a penalty. If you would have watched this year’s race in Singapore you could see numerous examples of people being overtaken on the inside, where the car on the outside than yields the corner because they are running out of road and the outside car would crash into the wall. In Austria Leclerc kept on driving on the outside because he knew there would be ample of run-off on the outside of the corner.

          1. Verstappen should have had a penalty. Rosberg did for the exact same offense in exactly the same place.

            He simply didn’t brake on time and ran Leclerc off while Leclerc was in the lead in the braking zone. He crashed into leclerc and that triggers an incident and Verstappen should have had the penalty for that.

            The stewards even acknowledged that Verstappen was doing this to block Leclerc since the lap before Verstappen did play it fair and lost the corner. Illegal block is an illegal block.

    2. @sravan-pe I don’t say that he should get a penalty, but to me it was a divebomb. He only managed to get to the apex thanks to running into Norris. Prost would have been proud.

      1. Please explain why Prost would be proud of this type of maneuver. Enlighten me with your words of wisdom, because I don’t get it.

        1. It was a tongue-in-cheek comment about his 1989 collision with Senna. Just a joke really, and not a very good one I confess.

          1. Sorry for the short fuse. Had a bad case of Prost-vs-Senna-backlash-rash.

    3. @f1osaurus
      Explaining the decision, the stewards said they “Car 33 [Verstappen] sought to overtake car 16 [Leclerc] at Turn 3 on lap 69 by out-braking car 16. When doing so, car 33 was alongside car 16 on the entry of the corner and was in full control of the car while attempting the overtaking move on the inside of car 16.

      “However, both car 33 and car 16 proceeded to negotiate the corner alongside each other but there was clearly insufficient space for both cars to do so. Shortly after the late apex, while exiting the corner, there was contact between the two cars.

      “In the totality of the circumstances, we did not consider that either driver was wholly or predominantly to blame for the incident. We consider that this is a racing incident.

      As usual, you’re spreading false facts and blatant lies!
      Verstappen was fully alongside, lin full control of his car, with the steering wheel fully loched to the right, eaving a cars widt, but not on the side Leclerc preferred, so Leclerc rammed his car into Verstappens car. If anyone should have gotten a penalty, it is Charles.

      1. @f1osaurus
        He out raced, and outsmarted Leclerc, and Leclerc being the dirty, whiny driver he has always been, turned his car in anger and started crying like the little baby he is. Last sunday was new evidence what a dirty driver he is!

        1. I don’t suppose that any Maxiue fanboi’s bothered to notice that Vettle jinked to the right, directly in front of LeClerc, tenths before Charles started to slide into Max Verkrashen?
          I imagine not. If you were drivers, you’d have seen that as the cause of LeClerc’s loss of line, and that Max (in his own words) should have had the experience to recognise that that was coming and given Charles more room? Or that Max was generously to the right of the centreline of the track, leave *only* a car’s width between himself and the kerb, and nowhere for Charles to go when that happened?
          I thought as much…
          Re-check the on-boards again, and have a good long think as you do.

    4. @f1osaurus
      When even Binotto, in an interview with Brundle after the race, admits that what Verstappen did in Austria is exactly what racing should be, you should know to keep your mouth shut.

  4. Now please explain why LeClerc was allowed to pass the pits so often with his car shedding parts into the faces of others?

    1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
      14th October 2019, 8:41

      The replay of that wing mirror flying back towards Hamilton was a scarier incident than they made it out to be on Sky. A good reason to look again at Indycar style aero screens

    2. I agree I can see no reason why the car was allowed to continue in a condition with bits flying off,a fix comes to mind

    3. They were fined for that and post-race time penalties applied. Granted it should’ve happened during the race but it still happened.

      1. I don’t care about the penalty, I care about the car being allowed to remain on track for so long. The race director can order him to stop, but didn’t.

        1. Agree. It’s ridiculous to allow a car with parts flying off to continue on anything more than 1 lap, no matter how the car “feels”.

          This was a pretty embarrassing moment for an organisation that claims to have high safety standards.

        2. They did, on lap three, because Ferrari back tracked on their decision (which they communicated to the stewards) to pit him on the previous laps.

          Because of their change of mind they and Leclerc were fined.

          1. The incident occurred on the first corner. The black and orange flag should have been ready at the start of lap 2, if he didn’t pit.
            Instead they let Ferrari to and fro on the radio for 3 laps, by which time someone could have been seriously injured.

            Not good enough.

  5. Well, imagine if F1 had VAR.

    1. Vitaly Kukshin
      14th October 2019, 8:08


    2. Sometime you don’t even need an image to win the Caption Competition.

  6. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
    14th October 2019, 8:38

    Hard to believe this account without specifying which evidence became available. Seemed to me like they were happy to leave it alone at first, and then once his race was severely compromised anyway, reopened it to appear to take a tougher line than they really had

  7. James Hunt says what i’m thinking here

    1. I completely agree with James Hunt! Michael Masi has embarrassed himself again! He is a real joke!

  8. Stewarding regarding Charles is a joke and an insult to all fans!
    Jean Todt needs to step down to restore faith in the FIA and their stewards.
    A disgraceful joke, reminiscent of the Schumacher era, is what we saw yesterday and Max was 100% right calling out this blatant hypocrisy.
    Todt family business; We love destroying this sport.

  9. Was the new evidence a pair of eyeballs?

    1. No, can’t be. With Vettel (Monza Q lap and false start here), they disabled eyeballs for stewarding.

  10. More important than this was shedding shards of carbon fibre all over the track and directly at another driver for 2 laps and receiving no immediate and forceful action. This was not the kind of thing that should have received a token penalty post race!

    I wish I could say it makes the case for the stewards to have a kill-switch to put certain cars into limp mode but I trust the stewards about as much as this new generation of boy-racers. They’d probably engage it at the end of a straight, cause a massive accident and Masi would release some pathetic excuse afterwards as he does week in week out.

  11. I don’t want every incident to be investigated and I think there should be more leeway for first lap incidents. So I understand that they didn’t investigate it at first. But this was not one of the usual first-lap nudges, this was an incident caused by a driver that refused to yield when he had lost. So a penalty was justified in my opinion. Just like the penalty that Verstappen got in Hugary 2017 was justified when he understeered into Ricciardo.

    1. Exactly. There was no doubt back then, there should be no doubt here. What were the stewards doing?

  12. My main issue with stewards is they should have black flagged Leclerc within a few corners of seeing his front wing end plate destroyed and sprayings parts all over the circuit. Would have been very embarrassing when it fell off if they then had to deploy the safety car, which I always feel ruins the beginning of a race.

    1. *Black and orange flag

  13. I think the penalties he got were deserved but the severity was weak for what he did. Ignoring calls to come into the pits after gaining damage, spraying debris across the track that broke components on two other cars and obviously the lazy collision that caused it all by trying to defend a position he’d already lost.

    As for the stewarding the time it took to apply these pretty obvious penalties is a joke given how much information its said they have access to – let alone intitially it was ruled as no investigation necessary? Ridiculous, extremely poor stewarding.

  14. Probably make it mandatory that damaged cars must drive immediately to the pits to be checked and than be released or not? That costs more time and is safer for the remaining drivers.

  15. Jose Lopes da Silva
    14th October 2019, 15:12

    Vettel and Leclerc turned a possible victory or double podium in a Merc 1-3. The stewards appeared to be trying to help them both. Eventually, they could penalize Leclerc with much damage.

  16. It is great that Michael Masi has set the principle of explaining the stewards’ decisions. Except that he never explains them at all. What additional information, why wasn’t it immediately available, and why was it so unexpected that the stewards had already closed the case ?

    1. I think the “additional information” might have been Masi himself eyeballing the stewards and saying “you’re kidding right?” after they decided that no investigation was warranted. He’s not going to tell us that to protect the integrity of the stewarding process.

      I doubt he was amused by that either.

  17. I think their decision to reopen was the investigation was footage of Leclerc losing the front and sliding into Verstappen. This loss of control of the car is explicitly mentioned in the verdict.

    If not it probably wouldn’t have resulted in a penalty (and thus no initial invesigation) for much the same reason that Verstappens overtake in Austria wasn’t a penalty for Verstappen as Leclerc was more than halfway alongside on the apex of the corner.

  18. They don’t call him MAD MAX for no reason.

    He’s a CRAP driver and drivers should avoid him at all costs

  19. The stewarding and race directing is a farce and a serious put-off, and nothing proved it better than this incident.

    I would go so far as to say it is putting the sport in disrepute.

    Is there any talk of reforming stewarding for the 2021 rules?

  20. In short the stewards jumped to a conclusion and then found they had been premature.

    Was it to favour racing? Or Ferrari? Or simple incompetence?

    What a shambles the race direction and stewarding was in this race.

  21. They admitted to this so that people won’t question the lap early checkered flag as HAM was closing. The initial video of the 1st lap incident clearly shows LEC turning the wheel left in a right hand turn. No one watching the race needed to see the telemetry data, only the “investigators.”

  22. “We see everything. No, we don’t see everything.”

  23. Even with the power of hindsight, the stewards still got it wrong by not penalizing Charles severely enough.

Comments are closed.