Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020

Leclerc drove two laps with seat belts “off” after engine glitch

2020 Spanish Grand Prix

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Charles Leclerc revealed he drove two laps during the Spanish Grand Prix with his seatbelts “off” before retiring from the race.

The Ferrari driver detached his belts after he spun at the turn 14/15 chicane. He described how an electrical failure, believed to have been triggered by contact with a kerb, caused his power unit to switch off unexpectedly.

“The whole car switched off,” Leclerc explained after the race. “It locked completely the rear wheels. I don’t know what happened, the team doesn’t know what happened yet. We need to investigate that.”

Leclerc was able to restart his engine, but had already undone his seat belts by that point.

“I tried to start the engine after the issue and it was not starting,” he said. “So I took off the seat belt getting ready to get out. But then they asked me to try one last time and actually the last time it actually worked again. So then I had no seat belts so I had to stop.”

After restarting his car, Leclerc initially told the team he was going to pit. However after being told his power unit was working properly he stayed out for another lap.

He told the team his seat belts were loose shortly after passing the pit lane entrance for the second time after his spin. “I’m pretty sure nobody will be happy with me driving without seat belts,” he said on the radio.

Leclerc told the team he needed to pit for a new attachment to secure him in the car properly. However the team did not have one ready when he arrived. The decision was then taken to retire his car.

“It’s a shame,” said Leclerc. “I think the one-stop strategy was working very well on my side. We managed very well the soft tyres but unfortunately we couldn’t finish the race today.”

Formula 1 race director Michael Masi said he monitored Leclerc’s radio immediately after his spin and came close to deploying the Safety Car so the Ferrari could be recovered.

“I was listening to Charles’s radio and his communication with the team and monitoring it with the engine still going,” he said. “I got in contact with the team immediately to see if he was going to restart or not. So it was close.”

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Leclerc’s radio from engine stoppage to retirement

LeclercEngine stopped, locked, I don’t know what happened. The car switched off completely.
To LeclercOK copy.
LeclercDo I try to start the car again or not? do I try to start the car again or not?
To LeclercI will let you know. You can try, try to start. You are in third gear.
To LeclercOK track is clear, track is clear.
Begins new lap
LeclercNo, no, there is something strange. I will box this lap.
To LeclercAnd radio off. I will come back to you.
LeclercYeah but… No, box this lap.
To LeclercFor us everything is fine, you can try.
To LeclercRadio off.
To LeclercEngine three, engine three and radio off.
LeclercWhat position are we?
To LeclercSo we are P20. Switch radio off.
Begins new lap
LeclercGuys, we need to box, we need to box. When I went for the button to switch the car on again… My seatbelts are off now. So when I brake I am moving quite a bit. I don’t mind but I’m pretty sure nobody will be happy with me driving without seat belts.
To LeclercCopy.
To LeclercAnd box now, box.
LeclercPrepare the attached. I don’t know whether it is in the car.
To LeclercCopy. Box now and we’ll try to fix it.
To LeclercLet me know if you need help with seat belts. We’ll try to fix it.
LeclercFor sure I need help. It’s like if I was going on the car. In the car.
To LeclercOK copy, copy, we’ll fix it.
To LeclercAnd we’ll try to fix the seat belts, OK.
LeclercI told you to prepare another attach. We need another attach. I don’t have the attach. It flew off.
To LeclercCopy.
LeclercI said that earlier though. Should I switch off the engine, or?
To LeclercSwitch off the engine. Switch off the engine.
LeclercOK, done. What happened with the engine though? Why everything switched off completely?
To LeclercI will come back to you.
LeclercI’ll get out, explain to me later.
To LeclercCopy.

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Keith Collantine
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58 comments on “Leclerc drove two laps with seat belts “off” after engine glitch”

  1. Is that a breach of the safety regulations? It sounds like a fairly daft idea.

    1. I am pretty sure it is. If not, can you even imagine the stupidity.

    2. I would imagine its like driving without helmet. Must be something like a unsafe release penalty

    3. This is not the first time Leclerc/Ferrari disregard safety, remember Suzuka 2019? It’s completely ridiculous. The FIA must punish such incidents much more severely.

      1. Remember Germany 2019 or Baku 2017? this team will not be penalised by FIA.

        1. Also Canada 2017

      2. if they had lied it would be fine and dandy.

    4. F1 regulations
      1st October 2020, 13:41

      I can not find the regulations about Seatbelts among FIA regulations. I’m sure there’s written somewhere but where? It would be interesting so see what the written word is actually saying. Right now everyone just assume things and that’s not correct.

  2. Jeez. Having a driver just casually drive a lap or 2 without seatbelts. The same weekend we see in Moto GP a horrible example of things that can go wrong during a motorrace (luckily it seems the people are not in a critical state), I really think the FIA has to come down hard on that kind of stupidily neglect of reasonable safety measures.

    1. MotoGP accidents were a lot different category to what happened here.

    2. motogp is riding on tracks they should have never even tested on. airbags are motogps halo, an excuse to do dangerous stuff.

  3. GtisBetter (@)
    16th August 2020, 21:40

    This is how terrible freak accidents happen, an accumulation of small things that go wrong. Hopefully Leclerc will do the right thing and go into the pits right away next time, or even better, don’t drive at all.

  4. What an utter mess.

  5. Honestly I think he should get a ban for a race for that, and I’m a Ferrari and Leclerc fan. What an absolutely insanely stupid thing to do. As someone else said these are how freak accidents happen. Nine times out of ten nothing will come of it but then one time he’d end up seriously injured. This seems like a really blasé response.

    1. Especially when you’re driving a car that has just shown a tendency to lock its back wheels for no reason…

  6. Why are they calling ‘radio off’, what does it mean?

    1. Maybe they were telling him to stop pushing the radio button.. Maybe it got stuck somehow or maybe there is a switch that keeps it open and they were telling him to turn it off??

      1. Leclerc was holding down the radio button the whole lap. He was actually using extra grip on the wheel to try and stabilise himself in the car is what I read somewhere. Very dangerous. I don’t really blame Ferrari for this at all.

        It took Leclerc 1.5 laps to properly communicate that he didn’t have his seatbelt/harness on. He went past the pits on the first lap but was told to stay out, because all he had told the team was “something is strange I need to box” basically. And they were like no, it seems fine. He should have driven straight in and told them one he got there.

        Better yet just stop the car where it is safe and explain later what happened. Don’t take such a huge risk.

        Even better yet, wait the 7 second between when he asks if he can restart the car to when he is told to restart the car. He waited less that 7 seconds before assuming his race was over and undoing his harness. Completely on Leclerc sorry. That’s coming from an admirer.

  7. Honestly got a chill when I heard that radio call from Leclerc.

    Also, the Ferrari pitwall look like buffoons between this and Vettel needing to coax some form of strategy call out of them.

    1. Typical Ferrari: More passion than brains…and that’s putting it politely.

  8. Well, that was pretty dumb.

    Must be pretty hard in those 5 g corners.

    Maybe it would be wise for drivers to have seatbelts that they can fasten themself.

    1. Unless you’ve driven a single seater you wouldn’t know it’s not possible to attach your own belts. There is no way to move your arms to thread the submarine straps through or push the buckles in. Pit crew have to fasten the belts and as a driver you learn not to mind some intimate touches….. That’s why you see the crew crowding the cockpit after the driver gets in; they are doing up the belts. The system is a six point harness, with two submarine straps that pass up over your thighs, the two horizontal belts, and the two shoulder straps. Once you’re strapped in you can’t move at all; it is possible to pull the shoulder straps to tighten the system. The horizontal belts are not adjustable and are clamped in position on the car floor.

  9. I can’t understand why he mentioned unbuckling only after passing pit entry twice.

    Had he went straight into the pits after the spin I would have let him free, but not now. I’m pretty sure someone in FIA should have heard the team radio message during the race and therefore referred it to the stewards.

  10. Sounds like a new directive will be released for the next race.

  11. F1 uploaded a while back, in sucession, some videos showing the driver’s debrief with Charlie Whiting. I remember one time Grosjean asked Whiting about the seat belt situation because some drivers were undoing them after the checkered flag, to celebrate. Hamilton did it a couple of times I remember.

    I think Whiting said that you should have them on, even in the slow down lap after the race…

    1. 1:20 Grosjean asks Charlie about the seatbelts

    2. @fer-no65 These behind the scenes viewpoint of the drivers briefing from previous years were really good. Hopefully they post more of them on the F1 Youtube channel. Would love to see some from 2020.

  12. Silly thing for Leclerc to do, silly for for Ferrari pitwall to let him do.

    There’s a sensor for just about everything on a Formula 1 car, heck there’s a sensor in my Suzuki telling me when someone doesn’t have their seat belt fastened, so surely the pitwall would have known after the spin that the car wasn’t safe to go back to racing conditions?!

    If the FIA doesn’t fine Ferrari for this, all the “safety is everything” talking they’ve been doing over the past few years will look completely redundant – there’s 2 things that we all know you don’t do when driving, be it a Formula 1 car or a family hatchback, that’s drink and not wear a seat belt…

  13. The car just shut off which was an extremely dangerous for him and for anyone close behind him. Even without having his seat belt unfastened, he should have gone into the pits immediately to have the car fully checked out. When was the last time one of these cars just stopped working after hitting a curb??? Most are still working after colliding with walls and other cars.

    1. In Austria MB had trouble with curbs creating electrical issues or interference in the transmission. But that was from repeated trips over washboard type curbing. A while ago Montoya had the car go into some kind of failsafe after he went off in Australia and hit some ruts in the grass. I had the impression, maybe a false memory, that the cars shut down automatically after a major impact to avoid fire and fluid leaks or spinning drive wheels.

  14. What a stupid thing to do.

    Leclerc should get at least 6 points on his license.

    1. Gees, a lot of overreactions on this website

      1. In France, seatbelt not attached is 3 points on 12.
        Jean Todt is very vocal about road safety.
        For an f1 car, I struggle to see more important devices than seatbelt, the helmet is good because there is no windshield, otherwise it could be secondary.

        Then, I will be extremely astonished if Jean Todt will pass on this incredible situation, where in no case the driver should have continued. And the garage should have asked to not move because as one said, we can hope that there is some sensor.

  15. Besides the big wurst in the last corner I’m not aware of some huge curb that would cause a car to just glitch out from the impact. But maybe this is the same one that caused the mysterious Galael incident? It seemed to be in the same area of track.

  16. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    17th August 2020, 3:05

    McLaren and Red Bull need to protest and ask for immediate clarity!

  17. Pretty stunning admission. Incredible safety issue and I’m surprised the PU would even operate with the seatbelts undone.

    You’d expect there to be a pretty big fine coming, or worse, but given the team that did it…….

    1. @dbradock Sometimes I’m surprised that drivers don’t bite their tongue more often, rather than say something over the radio that’s obviously going to get them in (some sort of) trouble.

  18. That’s absolute insanity. It only needs to be a low speed accident to be seriously harmed with no seat belt.

    Even more stupid when you consider the race was over and there was no chance of getting any points once he spun.

    Hopefully he is penalised for this foolishness.

    All because he couldn’t be bothered walking back to the pits on a hot day I’m guessing.

  19. I don’t understand. Can’t F1 seatbelts be put in place by the driver on his own? and what is an attach that can ‘fly off’?
    I presume that whatever the current seat-belts specifications are; are there to optimize the driver removal time by track marshals in the case of a fire and/or accident. But would be good to get some insight on what those exactly are.

    1. It’s almost impossible for the driver to do up and secure (tighten) a six-point safety harness in the confines of an F1 cockpit. Watch the grid next time – you’ll see at least two people helping the driver do up his harness.

    2. and what is an attach that can ‘fly off’?

      The “attachment is the buckle that each of the 6points attach to. Its not like a car seatbelt or that in a baby seat, where the crotch belts incorporate the buckle…. each belt separately attaches to the buckle

  20. I think that a serious fine is warranted here. Leclerc shouldn’t have undone his seat belts until he was given the all-clear to leave his car and should’ve gone into the pits at the first opportunity after he did undo them. So two serious safety mistakes.

  21. Lots of armchair pilots bringing their very enlightened analysis I see (eg just because he didn’t want to walk to the pits I guess). In the context he was in, when the engine restarted I understand why he went for it… but it was indeed a mistake and a breach of basic security not to pit immediately. I suppose he wanted the team to be prepared (apparently they needed to get some piece of equipment that flies off when remove in emergency). It certainly deserves a good discussion with CL and a reminder to all driver that this must be a priority)

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      17th August 2020, 9:48

      Sorry, but if you have taken your seal belt off, your race is done and you shouldn’t keep driving…. If you have to “drive” back to the pits to fix the seat belt, that that makes the purpose of the seatbelt pointless.

    2. Lots of armchair pilots

      But safe armchair pilots..
      You do not need a buckle for an armchair.. and not for a Ferrari now that i think off.. to slow to cause any harm to the driver.

  22. He did the sensible thing but not as quickly as he could have. He made the comments that implicated himself. He could easily have led and said the belt just got loose after a few laps.
    A reprimand is sufficient.

  23. Can someone tell me what an “attach” is? Is it the buckle or something?

    1. @justrhysism The central link that the six belts / harnesses click into, wherever it went (in the cockpit somewhere I assume), it would be impossible for him to find it and then strap himself back in.

      As bonkers as it is to drive whilst not being strapped in, I’m surprised he could do it at all, braking into turns 1 and 10 must have surely thrown his body forward and onto the pedals, unless he could put a foot up against the bottom of foot well and try to push himself back? Also with a car that’s just had it’s rear wheels seize up on him, fast corners and no belts is either brave or stupid.

    2. Its the heavy round disc that links the harness centrally. You see the drivers with it in their hands sometimes when they get out the car, or hand it to one of the mechanics.

  24. Maybe time motogp introduces seat belts?

    1. Yes, we need to see riders strapped into these two bikes.

  25. Going by the majority of comments above, I think it is great f1 fans are starting to embrace safety. Remember a couple years back people complaining about the halo? Does anyone even notice it now? Or indycar screen? You end up watching the racing, not focusing your eyes on a halo device. The safer the sport is, the longer it will last. I imagine in the next 50 years, speed might improve by God knows how much, drivers might be pulling 10g in turns, so all this safety is necessary.

  26. Stupid decision by Leclerc to keep driving with unbuckled seat belt in a sport like this. Leclerc has been doing stupid for a couple weeks, like calling BLM and kneeling for human rights a political movement when it is a humanitarian movement.

    1. Right coz burning, looting and terrorising is humanitarian, get a grip!

  27. Pit immediately ffs.
    Why does it even enter is mind to drive around like this? He seems an intelligent guy. Baffling to be honest.
    FIA will do nothing of course.

    1. Leclerc intelligent? What a joke, remember last year at Suzuka he disregarded call for pitting while his car was shedding parts on track endangering lives of fellow drivers. This goon will get away with murder as he is managed by Todt and drives for Mafia. For this action Leclerc deserves a ban with the team penalised heavily as well.

  28. This needs a serious fine. If you unbuckled your seat belt, I don’t care if the engine has come back to life or not. Once you unbuckle the seat belts, there is only one thing you can do which is jump out of the car. End of.

  29. Headline: Racing driver forgets he needs seat belts in a Formula 1 car for two laps.

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