Why the ‘Leclerc precedent’ didn’t spare Ocon a penalty for Vettel clash

2021 Italian Grand Prix

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Esteban Ocon was surprised to receive a penalty for an incident with Sebastian Vettel during the Italian Grand Prix, as he believed a previous case showed he would go unpunished.

The Alpine driver squeezed the Aston Martin in the braking zone approaching the Variante della Roggia. Vettel was forced off, and the stewards handed Ocon a five-second time penalty for the incident.

However Ocon was convinced that a similar incident involving Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton two years earlier showed he should not have been penalised. Leclerc was shown the black-and-white ‘unsporting conduct’ flag for the incident, but did not receive a time penalty, and went on to win the race.

“The same happened to Charles and Lewis in 2019 and there was no action taken,” Ocon pointed out after the race. “We had no damage on the car, nothing really happened.”

The time penalty “cost me a good three places I would say, so it’s a bit frustrating,” he added.

“We were side by side,” Ocon explained, “a bit too close but basically the track narrows once you arrive on braking. So I didn’t really move the steering wheel, it’s just that the track just narrows.

“That’s what happened exactly with Charles and Lewis. And if that incident didn’t have any penalties or things like that, then mine shouldn’t have as well because it’s two of the same thing.”

Leclerc’s Hamilton squeeze went unpunished…

…while Ocon’s move on Vettel earned him a penalty

However Formula 1 race director Michael Masi said a subsequent discussion about the Leclerc and Hamilton incident with teams and drivers led to an agreement that similar moves should be punished in future.

Masi said the incident at the 2019 Italian Grand Prix “was one of the ones we did a complete discussion with all of the drivers, team principals and sporting directors.

“It was sort of deemed in that situation, probably a five-second penalty would have been better than the black and white [flag].”

Ocon did not race in Formula 1 during 2019, as he was working as a simulator driver for Mercedes prior to his return with Renault. He said he wasn’t aware of any change in how the stewards regarded the Leclerc incident.

“To be fair it’s been two years and I was not racing as well,” he said. “So I can’t really tell you what’s been what’s been said in the drivers meeting. I can’t remember.”

Following the 2019 race Hamilton accused the stewards of “inconsistency” for failing to penalise Leclerc.

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2021 Italian Grand Prix

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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...
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19 comments on “Why the ‘Leclerc precedent’ didn’t spare Ocon a penalty for Vettel clash”

  1. Vettel couldn’t get a break in this race, people kept crashing into him… Stroll ruined his race in the opening lap! just not his day!

    1. @nickthegreek

      Vettel couldn’t get a break in this race, people kept crashing into him… Stroll ruined his race in the opening lap! just not his day!

      He also showed little capacity to react against those small misfortunes. During the sprint he failed to hold on in front of Alonso as Stroll just managed to do that. His racecraft has been proven relatively weak for 4X WDC standards.

      Reply moderated
  2. Good they have changed that (back). Squeezing someone off the circuit either at highspeed or in the breaking zone is very dangerous. I don’t think neither Leclerc nor Ocon did it on purpose – they simply misjudged how much road was left – but nonetheless it should definitely be a penalty.

    Slightly off topic: What I still don’t like is the way they punish drivers who overtake off track. As the move should have never happened in the first place the positions should be reversed or a drive through penalties should be applied. Too many drivers and teams just accept the five seconds and press on. Luckily it didn’t work for Perez this time but still he didn’t really have a disadvantage. Furthermore it felt wrong too see him going round and round ahead of Leclerc after having overtaken illegally.

    Reply moderated
    1. Yeah, I agree that this is the right way to look at this kind of incident @roadrunner.

    2. Definitely. Give the car one lap to return the place, even if other cars have slotted inbetween during that time. If they fail to, a drive-through is the suitable punishment.

  3. Informal rules and codes how can driver keep abreast.
    Driving and racing very dynamic activities and while there will be similarities you will never have identical situations just very similar.
    It is much easier with computers to simulate what is allowed and what isn’t. What is marginal and damn right ridiculous
    If you have meetings with current drivers it is only in the minds of those drivers.
    Single seater rules are also different from road like cars.

    1. From what I’ve seen, it’s best to avoid all collisions particularly ones where you may benefit and the other driver doesn’t.

      It also depends on who you are. Obviously, the precedent Ocon referred to was Lewis vs Leclerc. That’s a Ferrari at Monza so they’d never penalize Leclerc. I’m pretty sure if Leclerc had damaged his car while swerving into Lewis, Leiws would have been at risk of getting a drive-through penalty for that.

      I think the rulebook changes based on the driver and team. There’s definitely a lot we don’t know about F1. These decisions are obviously highly swayed and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are massive rewards.

      1. Sometimes I’m also thinking that there is a slight tendency to let the local teams or drivers of the hook easier (apart from the HAM – LEC incident see also Hamilton vs. Grosjean in Silverstone or Verstappen vs. Leclerc in Austria) .

        Sometimes their stewarding – especially pre 2017 – seemed horribly inconsistent but in their defence I don’t see them particularly bias.
        In the end It’s probably because those incidents involving our favorite teams and drivers stick in our mind and we tend to forget the precedents.

        Let’s have a look at two prominent ones involving our favourites:

        HAM vs RAI Spa 2008: the precedence was set by Alonso in Suzuka 2005.
        LEC vs HAM Monza 2019: The black and white flag was shown to Perez for squeezing another driver off track one race earlier.

        And I guess you can name me some precedents why Vettel got the penalty in Canada 2019 which felt so wrong that new rules of engagement were implemented which ironically/arguably cost Ferrari an other win at Austria…

  4. Earlier yesterday in F2, both Zhou and Daruvala as well escaped penalties for same spot and doing something quite similar.

  5. I didn’t understand at the time why Leclerc didn’t get a penalty, but am glad to read that it was effectively agreed that he should have done and that it would be penalised in future.

    1. @kartguy07

      I didn’t understand at the time why Leclerc didn’t get a penalty, but am glad to read that it was effectively agreed that he should have done and that it would be penalised in future.

      For one reason or another Leclerc usually avoids penalty albeit deserving a couple of times (even not disliking him, au contraire, it’s blatantly clear). Sometimes he seems above the rules.

      Reply moderated
  6. “Basically the track narrows once you arrive on braking”, says Ocon. The pictures show that the narrowing, if it indeed occurs, happens on the left of the track – not the right where he squeezed off Vettel. The line in the background goes straight back towards the Curva Grande.

  7. “was one of the ones we did a complete discussion with all of the drivers, team principals and sporting directors. “It was sort of deemed in that situation, probably a five-second penalty would have been better than the black and white [flag].”

    Not surprised someone else had to come and sort FIA out. They should do more of it, as they are really poor at this.

  8. I am happy to see this. These particular moves are very dangerous.

    It has been frustrating recently that they only seem to give penalties like this when there is contact and someone’s race gets ruined.

    Hopefully there will be consistent enforcement at other tracks and drivers will not try to crowd each other at high speeds

  9. Nice to see a bit of common sense. Leclerc should never have gotten away with his move (and no driver should get away with moves like that), glad they’ve ‘patched’ that particular page of the rule book.

  10. Nah, the stewards just don’t like giving penalties to Ferrari at Monza. Simple as that

  11. So why didn’t Vettel get a penalty for squeeze in Lewis on lap one?

    Fair enough it was the first lap incident, but it’s not as if they were in the thick of it is it, it was a deliberate move That could have been avoided

  12. I’m fairly confident, Leclerc didn’t get a penalty because F1 feared a huge backlash from taking a home victory away from Ferrari. I can totally understand that pressure, wrong as it is. If Hamilton and Mercedes had been in a title fight with Leclerc and Ferrari at the time, then they would have rightfully lobbied heavily for a penalty but because they weren’t, they let it slide.

  13. I have a question, if we should mirror flip theese images, and paint a mercedes on ocon and red bull on vettel, why did “Vettel” get 3 place grid penalty for the next race?

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