Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Red Bull Ring, 2020

Should Leclerc have been penalised for Vettel collision?

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The only thing Formula 1 drivers don’t do quickly is accept blame. When two drivers collide, there are usually two opposing opinions.

So it was unusual that in Sunday’s race one driver caused a collision with a rival and then accepted complete responsibility for it. Not only that, but they not only escaped a penalty, but weren’t even investigated.

FIA F1 race director Michael Masi confirmed the stewards decided Charles Leclerc’s collision with Sebastian Vettel didn’t merit scrutiny. “The stewards looked at that at the time and determined that the incident didn’t warrant any further investigation,” said Masi.

When incidents involve two team mates, instead of drivers from rival teams, does that affect how Masi and the stewards view them? “I think it certainly does,” said Masi.

“Obviously, it is taken into account. But I don’t know that it is a determining factor either way. We’ve seen incidents between two team mates be penalised before or otherwise.”

Leclerc ended another driver’s race yet received no penalty and no endorsement points on his licence. Did he get off too lightly, or were the stewards right to stay their hands?


The incident should have been treated like any other and it was serious enough that Leclerc should have been penalised. While the stewards tend to prosecute first-lap incidents less vigorously than others because the entire field is usually fighting at close quarters, it is not unprecedented.

This particularly collision was a sufficiently poor misjudgement by Leclerc with serious enough consequences that a penalty was justified.


Leclerc’s error brought its own penalty – retirement from the race. Indeed, it was an even worse penalty than that, as his team suffered a double retirement, and Leclerc has to carry the weight of that responsibility.

First-lap incidents such as this are rarely punished because driving errors like these are so easily made at the start of a race. Penalising Leclerc would therefore have been much too heavy-handed.

I say

I find it very hard to believe that if this had involved any combination of drivers other than two pairs of team mates, the stewards would have at least investigated the incident and ruled ‘no action’. Most likely the driver responsible, in this case Leclerc by his own admission and common consent, would have been given a penalty, as it was a clear misjudgement on his part.

We’ve seen past examples of F1 being reluctant to penalise drivers for hitting their team mates, and this feels like another example of that. Had Leclerc taken out any of the other 18 drivers instead of Vettel, it’s hard to imagine him getting away without at least a rap on the knuckles and a point on his licence.

You say

Do you think Leclerc should have been penalised for causing the collision with Vettel? If so, what sort of penalty would have been appropriate? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.

Do you agree Leclerc should have been penalised for his collision with Vettel?

  • No opinion (1%)
  • Strongly disagree (13%)
  • Slightly disagree (14%)
  • Neither agree nor disagree (6%)
  • Slightly agree (25%)
  • Strongly agree (41%)

Total Voters: 238

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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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62 comments on “Should Leclerc have been penalised for Vettel collision?”

  1. I voted for Neither agree nor disagree, although I was fine with the no further action-decision since both parties involved retired from the race, so that alone more or less served that purpose.

    1. obviously, and this has been fia’s stance all along. If Ferrari was fighting at the top I’m sure rb or merc would lobby the fia but I can’t recall the fia penalizing the victim any further.

    2. If I’m not mistaken, both Schumacher and Bruno Senna reitered from the Spanish GP but Schumi was still given a grid penalty for the next race.

      1. Schumacher and Bruno Senna were from two different teams I think.

  2. Should definitely have been penalised. A dangerous move, other than jeopardising races, can also cause injuries so I see no reason why FIA should not penalise the driver. Injuries doesn’t see if the tangle is between team mates or different team drivers.

  3. DAllein (@)
    13th July 2020, 7:46

    Stewarding must be consistent.
    It can be bad, incorrect, whatever, but it must be consistent.

    When it is not, then there’s no respect for it, no trust, no belief in just decisions.

  4. One reason why incidents between teammates are much less likely to be punished is because the team of the driver who has been taken out won’t protest for a penalty.

    1. Driver penalties always started with a team protest back in the past, Hamilton senior protested Alonso in 2007, stewards took it as a McLaren protest though he didn’t actually work for the team and that was the first we saw of penalty without team protest.

  5. I strongly agree that Leclerc should have been penalised. At least two license points. But I don’t really bother with no action taken because what contribution could those two Ferrari give to change the race result anyway?

    1. Can stewards issue license points without any penalty?
      My preferred option, no action but 2 penalty points, fine with current conclusion. 3 place grid penalty for next race could have been the other end of the bracket.

      1. ColdFly (@)
        13th July 2020, 8:44

        Can stewards issue license points without any penalty?

        They could award him 5s in the race plus penalty points I guess.

        1. Don’t know of any case of 5sec penalty handled after the car has retired. In effect the same as no penalty, but would be a strange decision.

          I think Ferrari has been penalised on track but Leclerc should still have the license points added. We will talk about that if he reaches 10 points.

          1. As an addition to above comments, drivers might have to be extra cautious with penalty points this year as they will carry over more races in the next 12 months (condensed calendar this year and probably a few rounds next year before July)

      2. @jeanrien

        Can stewards issue license points without any penalty?

        To the best of my recollection they never have. I don’t believe there’s anything in the rules preventing them from doing so.

  6. Charles did a stupid move not sure why he did that. But he should got a penaulty anyway causing a collision. Other drivers got penaulties for the same (and didn’t finish the race)

    I hope Ferrari do a talk with Charles explaining that in the first round you never win the race but can lose it. (and driving into his nr.2 teammate) Both drivers had 1 thing todo test the bloody upgrades for the rest of the season and Charles blow it!

  7. I think it is important to make things fair by at least handing out some kind of penalty for this behaviour. Off course penalty points should be part of it and probably some minor grid-penalty for the next race?

    1. Yep indeed @bascb, the fact that penalty points are there, and carry over, mean that it is a matter of keeping the competition fair that all incidents are consistently treated no matter who is involved and what the consequences, which probably isn’t something the FIA fully took on when deciding on them.

  8. If leclerc was still in the race, then a penalty should have been given.

    A single penalty point would have been fair too

  9. ColdFly (@)
    13th July 2020, 8:49

    Slightly Agree.
    Agree that is was a serious misjudgement to be investigated (and penalised), whilst including the ‘slightly’ to reflect it was lap 1.

  10. Yes he should be penalised. He confessed to wrong doing. That in itself should be enough for stewards to smack him with a penalty for the next race. And give him penalty points. Stewards cabt decide not to penalize some one just because they came off tthe worse. If you did something intentionally wrong and come off the worse you still deserve a penalty

  11. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    13th July 2020, 9:06

    Should Hamilton or Rosberg have been penalised for Spain 2016?

    Should Verstappen or Ricciardo have been penalised for Baku 2018?

    Should Grosjean or Magnussen have been penalised for Britain 2019?

    Should Leclerc or Vettel have been penalised for Brazil 2019?

    Then this most recent occurrence.

    There is a pattern. Double retirements for team mates just involving themselves never seem to be investigated further.

    1. For me, though, all those other occurrences were racing incidents, with the possible exception of Brazil last year. This one is different because it was clearly Leclerc’s fault. In the past, the stewards have still given penalties for teammate collisions when it is clearly one driver’s fault, such as Ericsson at Monaco 2016.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        13th July 2020, 15:49

        Yea that is a point about Ericsson’s move, but i don’t really agree. It reminds me that at the time, Wehrlein had been given repeated team orders to let Ericsson by. Given the usual pattern of them often not penalising either driver, I’d actually have left this one. It was basically the same move that Bianchi did in 2014, Leclerc did on Grosjean last year and then Leclerc did the same thing again later on, only hulkenberg rightly didn’t give give him more space. They were all in the same place, totally relying on the other cars to budge out the way when they had no right to.

        If anything, Wehrlein had a reason to budge more than any of the other drivers I’d brought up as they were the only team mates that had actually been given orders. It was a more of clumsy move because of how stubborn and awkward wehrlein was. If this deserved a penalty, I would question about the other overtakes being allowed actually.

    2. @thegianthogweed I’m sure incidents such as you have highlighted are the reason I wasn’t phased one bit at the non-penalty. Didn’t bother me one iota. First lap incident, two teammates, no other cars affected, and full admission of guilt from Leclerc. I don’t think a penalty would have driven a point home to CL nor taught him a lesson. He already must have felt, and likely still does, feel so bad that he wouldn’t even feel the effects of a penalty in terms of it being a deterrent. I’m pretty sure CL never wants to do this again.

      With some of the other non-calls you have cited I wouldn’t be surprised if one driver or the other still feels like he was innocent and it was the other’s fault, and therefore would do the same thing again and would expect the other to do something different. If more contentious and debatable incidents have been overlooked between teammates, and not even during first lap mayhem, then I can see why yesterday’s incident was too.

    3. Ericsson got a penalty in monaco for crashing into nasr.

  12. LeClerc made a move when even a blind man could have seen there was not a chance of making a pass. It was an absolute brain-fade move. You could say a rookie move. He was completely being Vettel and just runs his car up the Inside.

    I guess the only reasons he didn’t get license points and a penalty is Ferrari International Asssistance and he put himself out of the race..
    The golden boy was just that today… A boy.

  13. I don’t think it should have been penalised as such in that a grid drop at the next round would be too harsh given he’d already taken himself out of this race, but I think a penalty point or two would be warranted.

  14. What if we have a collision like that in the second-to-last race between two title contenders from the same team, what happens then?
    What if in an entirely hypothetical scenario, Hamilton is trailing Bottas in the championship by a few points and ‘could’ take advantage of a retirement from Bottas, or he’s leading the Finn and a retirement practicly forces Bottas to look for a miracle with 1 race left. Hamilton, completely by accident, crashes into Bottas at the start of the race resulting in Bottas retiring with a broken rear wing and Hamilton either continues to race without damage as normal and takes valuable points, or retires and has the benefit of not losing any potential points to Bottas.
    Will he get all the potential rewards and none of the punishment just because ‘the team suffered enough, let’s not punish them more’…?
    Or will the stewards then suddenly change their view about not interfering with ‘teammate incindents’ and hold him to the double standards that apply only to incidents involving the ‘championship contenders’, like they seem to have…?

    Leclerc, and any driver who would do a move like that, even at the start of the race, even on their teammate by accident, should be punished, either by a grid drop at the next race and/or by license points. If Grosjean crashed into Norris at the same corner in the same way for example, we wouldn’t hear arguments like “well it was the start of the race…” or “well Romain will have to carry the weight of that responsibility…”.

    1. @black This is my issue with not penalising drivers for teammate collisions too. If that is your policy then you need to make a separate decision as to whether the collision sufficiently affects the championship in one way or the other. You then have the double standard of saying a Mercedes taking out a Mercedes driver will incur a penalty, but a Williams taking out a Williams in an identical incident will not incur a penalty.

      Just have one rule that is applied universally – if a driver causes an avoidable collision which results in another driver retiring or being seriously compromised in the race, then a penalty has to be applied. This is regardless of championship situation, whether it is your teammate, or whether you compromised your own race too.

  15. Should drivers be punished for crashing in to a teammate?

    They already have problems, both their cars retired and they are around P10 on pace.

    No need to punish them further.

    But if Leclerc was driving for any team, that’s a slam dunk punishment. Can be lenient, because it was first lap, or whatever.

  16. Wellbalanced
    13th July 2020, 9:44

    Can you imagine the uproar if it had been Vettel who had collided with Leclerc?

  17. Bruno Verrari
    13th July 2020, 9:48

    The youngster needs the lesson..!
    It’s also another classic example of Pavlov”s dog…

  18. I don’t think Leclerc should Necessarily be penalised, it was Red in Red and the 1st corner after all

    But OCON should have been without a doubt. Completely crowded RIC of the track. Unacceptable!

  19. So why is this less of an issue than Hamilton’s collision with Albon last weekend?? If anything LeClerc’s move was considerably more dangerous than Hamilton’s, that ill judged lunge of his causing his car to launch into the air and wrecking Vettel’s car, as opposed to the tap on a rear wheel with Hamilton/Albon incurring a 5 second penalty and 2 license points

    Why are Ferrari treated so leniently by the stewards???

    1. @kev-f1 LH took out AA nearer the end of the race while they were fighting for podiums and the win, not during the first lap, which is sometimes forgiven. Less so when it is two drivers from two different teams though. Also, Mercedes and Red Bull have had teammate clashes deemed as racing incidents, even well past the first lap, so this is not Ferrari favouritism. Bottom line is that it is just something they do in F1 sometimes, when it is between teammates and they have basically penalized themselves. Way different story when it is between non-teammates.

      1. I understand that what you said is the reality, however I do not agree to it. The move looked like something that I would expect to see while playing my PlayStation, racing others online . In my opinion it was drastically more flagrant than Hamilton gently touching Albon caused by a little bit of understeer. .

  20. I am not a fan of the penalty points system, but given that the system is in place it is doubly unfair Leclerc did not get any penalty. Drivers can accumulate points on their license for the littlest, or most debatable of incidents (and always at least two – I’ve never seen only a single point being handed out), yet here is the most clear-cut case of a penalty in many races (in my opinion), and Leclerc gets off scott free.

  21. I know Brundle apologised more than a couple times, but since f1 is racing as one, prejudice has no place to be. As if there wasn’t enough evidence of sky’s bias. I don’t understand how seb does not see it and how nobody has told him that. Face to face, one thing behind his back another thing entirely, they even insulted his father, live! they insult their subscribers and viewers that write to them by stating and denying their bias whilst giggling, making jokes on vettel and ferrari and sparking controversy on all things red, this is where c4 was a million times more transparent and respectable. I’m pretty sure sky goes so far that they try to influence the championship.

    1. Simple cos it wasn’t Seb’s

      As for Ferrari, they are a joke team at the moment. Joke engine and joke strategies!

  22. isaac (@invincibleisaac)
    13th July 2020, 11:20

    I went for slightly disagree. Whilst it seems clear to me that Leclerc was at fault for the incident, having both cars retire seems like penalty enough.The only penalty they could really give would be a grid drop for the next race and I always find it a shame whenever a drive has to carry bad results from one weekend into the next.

  23. It makes a mockery of the “safety first” approach of F1 and half of the driving infringement rules when they rule that a driver can’t make unnecessary contact or put the lives of the drivers, stewards and fans around them unless they’re infringing a car of the same colour.

    The assumption is that they let the teams handle it in-house but what does that even mean? A telling off from Toto? An hour’s pay docked from their wages? Fair enough if teams were going to suspend their drivers or pull them from practice sessions etc but that’s never going to happen. For F1 and the FIA to hold any respect on this the judgements and associated punishments need to be comparable if not transparent or explained by the teams.

    It seems silly that LeClerc can torpedo Vettel who could’ve set of a chain reaction, and not even get investigated yet Hamilton last week get 2pts and a 5 second penalty for what many judged a 50/50 collision which unfortunately resulted in Albon spinning down the grid. If I was Ham/Bot I’d be tempted to at least threaten to knock the other off the track every week knowing full well that Merc wouldn’t pull them and the FIA would be in full support, worked for Rosberg I guess?

  24. RocketTankski
    13th July 2020, 11:46

    They could be made to start from the midfield for the rest of the season

  25. A grid penalty for next race and 3 points on his license would be fair.

    Hamilton got 2 points for a lot less.

    1. If you watch last weekend from Hamiltons onboard he went into the corner in the lead never turned his wheel to cause the collision yet got got a penalty and 2 points on his licence ???

  26. I don’t understand why the stewards tolerate accidents between team mates and rarely made an investigation. We saw that several times during the last years for every team.
    Is it an unwritten rule? Does teams agreed that with FIA? it’s unfair.

  27. I slightly agree. In fact, I would have strongly agreed with a penalty had they not established a strong and recent precedent in Baku when Ricciardo and Verstappen came together.

    I also think that if Leclerc had been another 20 cm further forward then there two Ferrari’s would have banged wheels and not much more. But he wasn’t.

  28. Neil (@neilosjames)
    13th July 2020, 14:24

    Slightly agree, although due to the nature of the incident – first lap, between team-mates, and the driver at fault retiring due to it – thought of a penalty hadn’t actually crossed my mind before now.

  29. Strongly agree. It’s quite simple. We all know, even FIA, that had two drivers from different teams been involved, the collision would have been investigated. There are two points here:
    1. FIA stewards should investigate irrespective of whether a team complains or who is involved. Ferrari may have obvious reason not to complain, but we can’t know if Vettel (in this case) would have preferred an investigation or not. He’s an employee and can’t really complain against his own team without potentially compromising his employment conditions. And as a driver already on the way out, he may have good cause to complain.
    2. The fact Leclerc later dropped out of the race is neither here nor there. A penalty was still due. Even worse, though, is his avoidance of points: that places him at an unjustified advantage in the championship compared to Hamilton, say, who was (in my view) unjustly penalized for a racing incident and picked up 2 more points. That’s just plain wrong.

  30. Surely Leclerc should have been penalised, Vettel was pushed into Magnussen who got damage, drivers behind had to slow down, it did not only affect Ferrari.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      13th July 2020, 15:52

      It affected 4 out of 6 Ferrari powered cars…

    2. drivers behind had to slow down

      Reminds me of the golden years when Hamilton got penalized at the race start in Japan for causing Raikkonen (coincidentally, Ferrari) to move off his line. Quite why Hamilton wasn’t immediately disqualified for ruffling Kimi’s composure, I’ve no idea, must have been a lenient day at FIA-Ferrari HQ.

  31. I think part of the reason for why and how collisions between teammates are judged differently from other collisions is a difference in perception of intentional risktaking versus honest mistakes. Drivers from different teams, drivers who aren’t throwing their arms up and admit fault immediately are often met with presumptions of much more premeditation than there is (or can be) in split-second decisions, and thus they are often penalised too harshly. Maybe we should go back to giving drivers, especially in the first lap melee, more benefit of the doubt, and stop adding penalties on top of damage/retirements even if the colliding drivers are on rival teams.

  32. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    13th July 2020, 15:52

    Clear penalty… but the stewards at least maintain their pristine record of being more inconsistenc than all drivers combined.

    1. No, there are consistent here. Collisions between teammates are rarely penalized.

  33. The move was not as crazy as some are making it out to be. It wasn’t a dive bomb and they were 3-4 wide going into the turn. LEC was fully alongside when it happened. It was not a smart move by LEC but cars left of VET pushed VET right, and LEC was there.

    1. Not to mention it was turn 3 (2, really) of the grand prix.

  34. If it had happened anywhere other than the first couple of turns on the first lap, then yeah a penality.

    However we’ve seen many times that incdents like this, even between two teams, usually doesn’t end in a penality.

  35. I think an in-race penalty wouldn’t be appropriate– after all, as has been pointed out, how much worse could they punish LeClerc than losing points, taking both cars out, and having to deal with the Italian press?

    However– if Hamilton got two penalty points for holding his line all the way through turn 4 and apparently being held responsible for Albon’s somewhat ambitious pass, then LeClerc should be handed a reprimand and two penalty points for causing an avoidable collision.

  36. I was rather shocked that Hamilton was given penalty points for the incident with Albon last weekend. Given that level of response to what seemed like a racing incident, not awarding penalty points to Leclerc for this incident seems bizarrely inconsistent.

    Sure, Ferrari bore the impact of the collision. But the idea of penalty points is surely that there are issues beyond who is immediately impacted by the collision. They’re there to ensure there is a sanction for driving dangerously.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      13th July 2020, 22:40

      @dkor this kind of sound reasoning is why you’d never be a steward :)

  37. When this kind of scenarios happens it reminds me BUT-HAM collision in Canada 2011. It was BUT who is 100% at fault, HAM retired and at the end he won one of the craziest races in last decades.

    I’m not sure if it’s safe or fair to treat inter-team battles like this, I don’t understand why FIA let drivers try to kill their teammates, but no other.

  38. There really is no space for debate here. He made a mistake that cost two races and caused immediate danger for them and other drivers.

    It doesn’t matter, where you are in the standings, or wether you retire or not. Many silly things are sanctioned, this should have been, more so than most.

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