Leclerc handed Monaco grid penalty for Norris tunnel incident

Leclerc was judged to have impeded Lando Norris in the final part of qualifying for the Monaco GP.

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Charles Leclerc has received a three-place grid penalty for impeding the McLaren of Lando Norris during qualifying for the Monaco GP.

The Ferrari driver was judged to have blocked Norris, who was on a flying lap, in the tunnel section of the track during Q3, causing him to lose his final chance to improve his time.

The drivers have an agreement not to go slowly in the tunnel section in Monaco, given that vision is impeded by the change of light and blind corner.

The incident marks another disappointment for Leclerc at his home race after initially qualifying in third behind pole-sitter Max Verstappen and the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso.

Steward’s Decision

“The¬†Stewards¬†heard¬†from¬†the¬†driver¬†of¬†Car¬†16¬†(Charles¬†Leclerc),¬†the¬†driver¬†of¬†Car¬†4 (Lando¬†Norris),¬†team¬†representatives¬†and¬†reviewed¬†positioning/marshalling¬†system data,¬†video,¬†timing¬†data,¬†team¬†radio¬†and¬†in-car¬†video¬†evidence.

Leclerc had finished his final lap of Q3 and was in the Turn 4 through Turn 10 complex. Norris was on a fast lap and caught Leclerc in the middle of the tunnel and was clearly impeded.

Both drivers agreed that there was little that Leclerc could have safely done in the tunnel to avoid impeding Norris, given the difficulty in vision due to the light entering and in the tunnel and the change of lines from one side of the tunnel to the other. 

In fact, the Stewards observed that Leclerc reacted in a sensible way to a blue flag displayed by the marshals, but at this point it was too late.

However, the Stewards reviewed team radio, and Leclerc’s team failed to give him any warning about Norris’ approach until Norris was already directly behind him.

Further, the discussion during the preceding portion of the track was entirely about competing drivers, not the traffic behind, which is a critical task at this track.

The Stewards believe that there is much that Leclerc could have done prior to the tunnel to avoid the impeding had he received warning from the team at an appropriate time, especially considering that Norris’ approach was clear on the marshalling system. 

Thus,¬†the¬†Stewards¬†consider¬†that¬†the¬†impeding¬†was¬†unnecessary.¬†The¬†Stewards¬†reviewed¬†all the¬†preceding¬†unnecessarily¬†impeding¬†penalties¬†in¬†the¬†past few¬†years.¬†In¬†every¬†case,¬†the¬†actions,¬†or¬†inaction¬†of¬†the¬†team¬†did¬†not¬†mitigate¬†the unnecessary¬†impeding.¬†Thus¬†the¬†Stewards¬†impose¬†the¬†usual¬†penalty¬†of¬†a¬†three¬†grid drop.”

Ed Spencer
Ed Spencer
FIA accredited journalist
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