Verstappen gained advantage by taking penalty instead of giving up lead – Leclerc

Formula 1

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Charles Leclerc says the FIA should have told Max Verstappen to let him past after the Red Bull driver forced him off the track at the start of the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

The pair lined up on the front row but went off at the first corner as the field struggled for grip at the start of the race. Leclerc started from pole position but Verstappen moved to pass him on the inside and ended up forcing his rival wide.

While Red Bull told their driver not to give up the position he had gained, Leclerc told his team on the radio it was a “joke” Verstappen had not been ordered to let him back past. The stewards eventually handed Verstappen a five-second time penalty.

Leclerc said he understood how difficult it had been for Verstappen to avoid running wide, but felt he deserved to be penalised.

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“Max already came to me and explained the situation,” said the Ferrari driver. “Obviously it was on the limit, over the limit and I think the five seconds penalty is deserved.

“It was tight. I still tried to push off the track – but it was so low grip – to try and keep that that position. But it’s the way it is. He has been penalised, he paid the penalty and I think that was the right penalty to give. So it’s like this.”

However Leclerc said the correct thing for the FIA to do would have been to order Verstappen to let him past again. By staying ahead, Verstappen was able to keep his tyres in better condition, said Leclerc.

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“I just think that in those kind of situations it would be better to for the FIA to ask to give the place back because I think there’s quite a bit of an advantage to take care of tyres when you have free air.”

Verstappen and Leclerc ran wide at the start
Verstappen said he accepted his penalty. “The start was good but we both braked quite late to defend the position, but I was a bit on the inside on the dirt, I guess.

“As soon as you’re a bit off-line here it’s super-low grip and that’s what happened. I braked and there was no grip. I didn’t mean to push Charles off the track, but I couldn’t slow down, I just kept sliding on four wheels, wide. So that’s why we had to go wide.

“At the time you’re also full of adrenaline and I was not happy with the decision but looking back at it, it was probably the right call. After that, of course, with that five seconds, it was definitely a bit harder to come back to the front.”

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The stewards ruled Verstappen “appeared to miss the apex of turn one, did not follow the racing line and consequently forced car 16 [Leclerc] off the track.” He was given a five-second time penalty and two points on his licence, which are his first of the current 12-month period.

Although the team could have avoided a penalty by letting Leclerc past, Verstappen said they chose not to. “We opted to just stay ahead at that point,” he said. “So then you take the five second penalty.

“I don’t know what’s better at the end. I mean, I paid the penalty, right? So it doesn’t matter in a way, you know, like if you go back behind, you probably also end up losing whatever, five seconds. So it’s pretty similar, I guess at the end.”

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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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33 comments on “Verstappen gained advantage by taking penalty instead of giving up lead – Leclerc”

  1. Pretty tough weekend for Ferrari, but on the bright side they only got a 10 place grid penalty for the organisers being responsible for shredding one of their cars. Whereas a time deficit in the race is nullified under SC for everyone.

    1. It’s not nullified if you came out behind. It’s clear that this five second penalty is such a damaging loophole for the sport. The stewards should have simply ordered him to swap positions or be given a drive-through. Essentially this loophole has to be closed via precedent in how the stewards treat it or it needs to be closed in the rulebook. Personally, i’d prefer the storage treated in a common sense manner like above rather than trying to shirk responsibility with a dinky penalty or wait for the FIA to change the rule and away that will prevent commonsense decisions and over the top penalties in the future when things aren’t so clear cut.

  2. Max ran wide at the first corner and got a deserved 5 second penalty. What about the others, like Alonso, who then caused others damage?

    1. That was a bit inconsistent indeed. Agree with Max penalty. Don’t think he gained further advantage by taking 5s instead of switching positions. Wouldn’t have mattered either way for sure given his pace later in the race.

    2. The difference is the mistake which Alonso and multiple other drivers made at T1 didn’t reward Alonso like they did with Max. You can say the five second penalty covered that and that the SC helped nullify it but that was just through. circumstance. But in a normal race Max would’ve driven away and the penalty wouldn’t have made it fair, especially if this had happened on a track where it wasn’t super easy to pass.

  3. The 5 second penalty was worse, in this case. Had he just let Leclerc past, he’d have not ceded position to Russell after the first pit stop.

  4. 5 second penalty is standard for losing control of thr car and pushing thr other car off the track. Surprised they have given it to Max as they haven’t done to others this same year. Vegas had more mitigating circumstances with far colder track Temps and it being L1 T1. Anyways right penalty and Verstappen drove a great race from thereon to win a race competing with similarly matched Ferrari.

  5. Verstappen gained advantage by taking penalty instead of giving up lead – Leclerc

    Well done Racefans! /s
    You made up a title by mingling Leclerc’s quotes and gave it a whole new meaning.
    But it clearly serves a purpose; more kliqs and comments, including mine.
    Not the first time, and not surprised.

  6. BLS (@brightlampshade)
    19th November 2023, 11:51

    It’s the correct penalty, it’s just we’re used to certain drivers getting away with this, especially on the first lap in the first corner.

    Should they remove the penalty and force drivers to swap back going forward? It’s a tricky one. I’ve always wondered if we’ll reach a point where drivers cut the chicane at monaco etc to overtake someone and just take the 5s penalty as they scoot up the road at 1 sec+ a lap faster pace.

  7. Regardless of whether it was the right penalty, Max would’ve won. If he’d given the place back he would’ve just passed Leclerc on the main straight with DRS.

    1. The problem is is that doesn’t matter. Because if you did the same thing at a place like hungry you’re essentially costing Leclerc a possible win.

      1. We can discuss about it when it happens at Hungary. The funny thing about the incident is how no one wants to even consider any mitigating factors – oil, coldest track of the year and Verstappen trying not to touch Leclerc all after getting a rocket start. It’s funny really. Not saying the mitigating factors should mean the penalty must be annulled but just saying that context is important.

  8. Charles is perhaps too nice for this game?
    I think one day Leclerc will snap and become the dirtiest, most aggressive driver on the grid! That is the year he will become champion..

    1. Charles is perhaps too nice for this game?

      Would Schumacher have won this race in that Ferrari? We’ll never know, but the doubt is the answer.

      Leclerc’s approach isn’t entirely without merit; had to score today. He’s losing to Sainz, again. He now still has a small chance at ‘correcting’ that situation. But this is not the way to win championships. Or even races.

      1. I really don’t think he’s too nice for this game. His defense from Hamilton in Monza 2019 is a perfect example. I’m sure he’ll return the favour to Max at the very next chance he gets.

        1. His defense from Hamilton in Monza 2019 is a perfect example.

          Your example is the perfect example that he probably IS too nice for this game.
          You had to go back four and a half seasons (some 90 races) to find that perfect example

  9. Ferrari desperately need to address their poor starts. They lose their pole positions to Verstappen on the start every single time. Every. Single. Time. Even when its their drivers starting on the clean side! It makes no sense.

  10. When Verstappen messed up on the dirt/oil (who would have thunk that would go wrong?) you could clearly see he would receive a penalty for it. RBR should have advised him to give up the place as soon as possible. He lost more time taking the penalty. Sure the Ferrari seemed better on the mediums but with the pace shown it seems unrealistic LeClerc would have pulled out a big gap in the first stint anyway. Verstappen having to make overtakes and losing time behind other cars was way worse. In the end the hypothetical difference didn’t matter since Ferrari didn’t pit him during that SC

    1. …actually, if Verstappen would have given up the place back at lap 1, he wouldn’t get the 5 second penalty for it.. Then he would stay ahead of Russell with his pit stop.. and therefore the shunt that caused the SC might not have taken place…
      Then we would have a situation where LeClerc would have track position and the tire advantage. That might have been enough to stay ahead and win it

      Butterfly effect..

      1. Tire advantage didn’t matter much for Leclerc. Ferrari was just bad on the hards relative to the mediums. Verstappen was quicker on the hards by 2 tenths a lap to Leclerc. He might have in fact won it regardless. Only thing is Leclerc could have tried to defend better.

        It’d not surprise me if Verstappen tried to swap strategically either as he has shown to do in the past… would have been a more entertaining race for sure.

  11. If Leclerc had lost one more position due to Max pushing him wide, they probably would hand a different penalty.

    Time to bring back the drive through penalties. Too many complaints about this 5 sec. crap already.

  12. I thought the rules had changed and the stewards no longer tell teams to give a position back but only give penalties if one is deserved. It’s up to the team to decide to give a position back, in which case they would avoid a penalty and stewards would not even investige.

  13. I don’t understand why it takes the stewards so long to decide if a penalty is needed. Max not only forced LeClerc off track, but he took himself wholly off track as well. What was there to debate? I can understand they’d wait a couple of corners to see if MV yielded the position again, but it seemed to take forever for them to make a decision.

    1. Max was not ahead of Charles for a tiny fraction. So yes, the penalty was deserved. But this was not immediately apparent. Had Max been a bit ahead no penalty would we warranted IMO, considering the circumstances (first corner, extremely sliperry track etc)

      1. Melanos, if Max was ahead when they entered the corner then he’d have the right to take the racing line. However, the racing line doesn’t include going clean across the track and all four wheels off the other side. Surely that means he’d gone too fast to make the corner and gained his advantage by going off track. What other interpretation is there? Regardless, I stand by my original point that if they have to have a committee meeting for 10 minutes and review countless bits of footage before they can come up with a ruling, the system just doesn’t work.

      2. In fact if Max had hit the apex while being alongside Leclerc (which he was) it wouldn’t be a penalty as you can legally push drivers off the track if you’re on the inside.

  14. So can we finally put the hyperbole surrounding the HAM-VER incident at Silverstone a few years ago to rest. HAM’s move was identical to VER’s move today except for 2 things; 1 HAM stayed on the track at Silverstone, VER was completely off the track today, and 2 LEC avoided the collision, whereas VER tried to stay on the track at Silverstone. HAM’s move had Red Bull asking for HAM to be suspended for 1 or more races for his move. Again, HAM stayed on the track in that corner.

    1. Comparing two totally unrelated moves. Well done, Jim.

    2. Brazil 2021 is a better example of pushing people off and going off as well.
      And that puppet that Liberty hired to make F1 into a soap opera just said “let them race”.

      1. Suzuka 2023 is just as good an example. I tend to prefer recent cases when it comes to racing incidents. Maybe the puppet and today’s puppet both are consistent. In 3 events the only event that went punished was the only one with any mitigating factor.

        Maybe if we stop with idolising and consistent frustration over past events we can all move on.

        1. Then it should warrant a penalty.

          Picking cases for this, track limits and others is what put them on scrutiny with the public so often. Want to squeeze somebody out? At least make sure you look like you’re under control of your car while doing it.

  15. Anyone saying Max gained an advantage taking the 5 seconds over giving the place back should visit a shrink. If it wasn’t for Russell’s clash there would be no safety car for Max to capitalize on, com the second round of stops. So Max would have to fight a lot harder. Besides, did keeping 1st place really allow Max to keep his tires in better shape? Cause what I saw was Max facing massive graining while Leclerc could overtake him on track just fine.

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