Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020

Leclerc explains why he drove two laps with his seat belts undone

2020 Belgian Grand Prix

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Charles Leclerc has explained how he managed to drive two laps in the Spanish Grand Prix with his seat belts disconnected.

The Ferrari driver detached his belts after coming to a stop at the chicane due to an electrical problem. He was able to restart his engine and continue.

Leclerc said he tried to reconnect his seat belts at that point, but did not immediately realise they were not fully attached. He alerted his team to the problem on his second lap after restarting his engine.

“I unbuckled myself once I knew that there was a problem with the engine,” said Leclerc in today’s FIA press conference. “I didn’t think I would go again.

“Then I put them on the way to go again on the track. I did one slow lap, especially to know whether the engine was working properly again or not, and then on the second lap when I started to push I realised that one of the four buckles that we have as a seat belt was not on. So I told it to the team and I stopped straightaway.”

Leclerc told his team an attachment which held the seat belts in place was missing. The team initially tried to replace the missing part, but subsequently decided to retire Leclerc’s car from the race.

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Leclerc’s radio messages about his seat belt

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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2020 Belgian Grand Prix

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Author information

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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30 comments on “Leclerc explains why he drove two laps with his seat belts undone”

  1. Not as bad as MW in his cool down lap on his retirement F1 race in Interlagos without the helmet….

    1. @svianna, Webber did it during the cool down lap; Leclerc did it during a live race.

  2. He still deserves race bans for driving irresposibly and team needs point docking+fines.

    1. Your blind Ferrari hate is hilarious. You must have really low self esteem!

      1. So it’s acceptable to drive without seatbelts and team telling driver to stay out on track(who has informed them seatbelts are undone) is acceptable on safety grounds? It has nothing to do with hatred for this Italian outfit rather this is 2nd time in handful of races where this team and driver has shown complete apathy towards safety. Last weekend in Moto3, Jaume Masiá was penalised instantly during qualifying for riding irresponsibly(without gloves one of the reasons) and how this team gets away with penalties even when they are risking lives of drivers(their own or rivals) is really mind boggling.

      2. Please don’t feed the trolls

    2. I agree there, this should not just be let happen. Imagine if he had been fiddling with things and hit something without seat belts, that could have been so bad.

    3. @Chaitanya I think he must be put in a pillory on top of Radillon to show what happens when you mess with Chaitanya opinions.

      He had 3 out of 4 buckles attached. He drove one lap slowly and didn’t noticed the one detached because of the low speed. He was dead last, he had a breaking car. Do you really think it was in his interest to go on and drive without seatbelts?

      Really, you’re one of the greatest clowns I ever met online.

      1. Please don’t despise the clowns

    4. The Scuderia team should be liquidated and the proceedings given to Chaitanya

  3. Does the story fit?

    I don’t know enough about the seatbelts but I thought the bit that was missing was something that all the other straps plugged into so if it’s missing then all your straps are undone, not just one of them.

    If they were all undone and the key part was missing/lost in the car then I think some sort of penalty is appropriate.

    If it only impacted one strap and he was otherwise secure then I don’t think a penalty is warranted.

    1. in F1 they use multipoint buckles. they click into a center lock. If you press the unbuckle button, all 4 detach and that center locking device is not attached to anything anymore. it falls on the floor of the car out of reach for a driver.

      I still think it is at least a penalty like unsafe release worthy. Idk is there is any rule preventing them from driving without a helmet or seatbelts

      The story feels like a bad attempt to dodge a penalty

      1. Thanks for explaining the seat buckles there @cdfemke, I guess that makes sense.

        I would think though that Leclerc should have known right away that he did not do them up on his own. BTW. wholly agree that this should get penalized. We cannot have drivers driving fullout, or really at all, without their seatbelts fastened.

        This explanation does give a bit more information. But it is really not an explanation for why he did not come in immediately to have them done. Or stop next to the track since it was unsafe to continue.

  4. I always feel like there is a huge language barrier with Ferrari radio comms. Remember Raikonnen’s drink bottle? You will not have the drink Kimi!

  5. So he had four points out of the five point harness. I will allow it this time Sharl.

  6. Big Deal…

    He never hid this
    He asked twice and gave instruction how to solve the seat belt issue
    As straight forward as one can be expected to be and conduct himself

    Telling his story and admitting it should be the end of it

  7. The first radio quote sounds self-explanatory. But perhaps for the FIA it is a case of “I heard it, but I didn’t see it”.

    1. It was a Ferrari. They didn’t look. Except when they did, but agreed not to tell anyone anything about it.

      1. Sadly, I think I have to agree with you there @falken

  8. Willem Cecchi (@)
    28th August 2020, 7:48

    Add a seatbelt sensor?

  9. On a side note: Why does it often seem the Ferrari engineers don’t communicate clearly with their drivers?

    Here the engineer clearly didn’t listen to Charles and asks questions he already was given the awnsers to. Charles doesn’t seem to trust he ‘got it’ either, and repeats everything again. I also often get this feeling when listening to Seb’s radio conversations. This might well be a big contributer to the numerous Ferrari strategy mishaps, the sheer panic when for example a nose needs to be changed after contact, and just the general chaos they always seem to operate in when things go slightly different than planned. That’s unacceptable for a team with a half a billion budget, no?

    1. @jeffreyj, I would guess it is just the language barriers of everyone being forced to speak English for broadcasting reasons. Some are better at it than others.

      1. @shimks

        Why not hire English race engineers then, so at least one side of the conversation understands English easily?

  10. If it is true, this would exonerate him from knowingly driving without seat belts. However, it seems that a Formula 1 seat belt consists of 6 or 7 straps, firmly connected to the car on one end, and to a single loose buckle on the other end. By twisting a lever on the buckle, the driver can release all straps in 1 motion and get out quickly.

    If he managed to redo most of the straps, they would have to be connected to the buckle, without which, none of the 6 or 7 straps can be buckled in. There is no other piece of the system that can get lost in the car. So if only one strap was loose, Leclerc shouldn’t have been calling for a new ‘attach,’ which has to be the buckle. The story doesn’t add up.

  11. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    28th August 2020, 9:20

    I am still shocked this received no penalty of any sort. Driving at the speed he did for 2 laps without a seatbelt properly was still incredibly dangerous. And he only went a little slower than normal too. He got going about 5 seconds after Latifi went by from a complete standstill. He went into the pits when he was 18 seconds behind Latifi. Given he had to get going form not even moving and he found out his seatbelt was loose, going barely 10 seconds slower than race pace is just idiotic. As soon as he knew it was loose or wouldn’t do back up, he should have pulled over at the side of the track.

  12. I’m a big fan of Leclerc and massivly against pointless penalties, but I feel something needs to be done about this. I think a race ban would be too extreme, but it’s hard because a financial fine means nothing to Ferrari/Leclerc. I can understand people thinking it’s not a big deal, but even while driving slowly he’s still well above standard car speeds for most of the lap. The forces of even a small bump at those speeds could do serious damage if not totally secure in the car.

    It’s a bizzare stitation that he will probably never be in again, but it’s those one in a million situations that have caused us to lose drivers over the years. A few meters here or there has sadly been the difference between life and death. I don’t want to over exaggerate this as thankfuly nothing happened, but I don’t think the right move is to underplay it either. Maybe a grid drop would be the best solution.

  13. Why there isn’t a sensor that cuts off the engine (or at least puts the car in “pit lane” mode) when the seat belt isn’t fastened is beyond me.

    Imagine a seat belt UNKNOWINGLY detaching when a driver is going full whack along a straight (so all the G-force is pushing him back into the seat), that breaking zone is going to turn him inside out…

    1. Good point. I’m surprised this incident has been lately ignoted by the fia, media and therefore drivers too.

    2. The other side of such a sensor is, imagine if the sensor detects such a condition, cuts or restricts the engine, and when the driver thinks he’ll be able to get out of danger or off the racing line, isn’t able to and causes a crash. Never been a fan of such “kill” devices for that reason.

      GM started fitting an economy device on manual transmission vehicles that prevent certain gears from engaging in certain conditions in order to meet EPA fuel mileage targets. Imagine pulling out into traffic, going for a gear that you’ll never get because of an artificial reason. Scary.

  14. It sounded like he didn’t want to admit over the radio what the issue was, because he knew he’d get penalised for it.

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