Charles Leclerc calls on FIA to give harsher penalties after opening lap incident with Max Verstappen

Charles Leclerc was second to Max Verstappen at the 2023 Las Vegas GP

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Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc has called for harsher punishments for future Formula 1 races, after Max Verstappen‘s penalty during Saturday night’s Las Vegas Grand Prix had little effect.

Leclerc and Verstappen lined up on the front row of the grid for 2023 Las Vegas GP and were level pegging heading into Turn 1 before the Red Bull driver squeezed the Monegasque wide, taking the lead.

The stewards took a dim view of Verstappen’s defending and handed him a five-second penalty, which he served at his first pitstop on Lap 17 before winning his 18th race of 2023. 

Max already came to me and explained the situation, obviously it was over the limits, and I think the five seconds penalty was deserved,” Leclerc explained to the press.

“It was tight. I still tried to push off the track, but it was [such] low grip to try and keep 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.

“I just think that in those kinds of situations, it will be better 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, but it’s the way it is.”

Lessons learned for the future

Despite losing out on his first win of 2023, Leclerc produced a stellar weekend in Las Vegas, taking pole position by just 0.044s from teammate Carlos Sainz.

Following their incident at Turn 1, Leclerc set about hunting Verstappen down, and on Lap 16, he retook the lead of the race, holding it until his first pit stop on Lap 22, which dropped him to third.

Leclerc didn’t pit for fresh rubber when the safety car came out for a second time due to debris caused by Verstappen and George Russell‘s collision at Turn 11 on Lap 25.

When racing resumed, Leclerc was reeled in Sergio Perez, who had stopped under the safety car, with the Mexican taking the lead on Lap 32 before losing it to the Monegasque on Lap 35.

But on the last lap of the race, Leclerc saw an opportunity and overtook Perez for second, ending Red Bull’s aspirations of their first one-two finish since September’s Italian GP.

“I’m happy, however, I think this says a lot about our car, and we are in conditions that are like nowhere else,” added Leclerc.

“It’s very cold, and I think overheating here is not that much of an issue, but it was more graining and trying to keep those tyres in temperatures, and on that, we are pretty good. 

“But whenever it’s warmer, we struggle more, so it doesn’t give me any more confidence for the future because Abu Dhabi is going to be very different compared to here.

“On the other hand, it’s always nice to have a great weekend, and I think we’ve learned a lot as well for the future, so it’s a good weekend overall.”

Ed Spencer
Ed Spencer
FIA accredited journalist
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