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Leclerc sets F1 precedent with penalty accumulation

Leclerc sets F1 precedent with penalty accumulation

Leclerc sets F1 precedent with penalty accumulation

Leclerc sets F1 precedent with penalty accumulation

The FIA has been forced to clarify Charles Leclerc's Belgian Grand Prix grid penalty situation after the Ferrari driver set a precedent in F1.

On Friday, whilst Ferrari confirmed Leclerc would be taking on a new power unit this weekend, only two elements - MGU-K and energy store - were confirmed, incurring a 15-place penalty.

It later emerged the Scuderia had also changed the control electronics unit, leading to an additional five-place penalty.

In addition, on Friday, Leclerc was handed 10-place penalties on two occasions for taking new gearbox cases and cassettes, as well as gearbox driveline, gear change components and auxiliary components.

These, however, only come into the reckoning once all the power unit penalties have been applied.

For FIA purposes, at that stage, Leclerc was effectively starting the race at Spa-Francorchamps with a 20-place penalty.

Due to this situation, the FIA was forced to issue a clarification document confirming Leclerc would actually be forced to start from the back of the grid.

The clarification was important as simple grid penalties precede any back-of-the-grid penalties, which meant on Friday evening, Leclerc was starting ahead of all the drivers who were handed the latter that day - Red Bull's Max Verstappen, McLaren's Lando Norris and Alpine's Esteban Ocon.

Explaining the situation, the stewards' document read: "As car 16 has accumulated 20 grid-place penalties...this is in excess of the 15 permitted and therefore the car will be required to start the race from the back of the starting grid.

"The stewards consider this to be the logical conclusion reading article 28.3 [of the sporting regulations].

"However, it is possible to interpret it differently. The third paragraph of article 28.3 states that 'if a driver incurs a penalty exceeding 15 grid places he will be required to start the race from the back of the starting grid'.

"The stewards published a decision which imposed a 15-place grid penalty. The competitor subsequently changed the control electronics and the stewards published a separate decision imposing a five grid-place penalty.

"This exact situation has not happened since this rule was put in place in 2018. The wording of the sentence is singular 'a penalty' and neither document imposed more than 15 grid places. So it could be interpreted that this does not trigger a 'back of grid' penalty.

"However, the first paragraph of the regulation states that 'penalties will be applied according to the following table and will be cumulative' [in each competition].

"The stewards further note that in fact, Document 14 combines two separate penalties (a 10 place and a five place) and is therefore two separate penalties in a single document.

"So logically, regardless of how many documents the penalties are published in, all decisions accumulate over the competition, and anything over the 15 grid-place limit triggers the back-of-the-grid penalty.

"It is important to note the 'start the race from the back of the starting grid' penalty is fully embedded in Article 28 [power unit usage], which was specifically introduced in response to nonsensically high grid penalties from PU changes, and has never been used to accumulate grid penalties imposed from other articles of the regulations.

"It should be read holistically as part of Article 28.3 and does not refer to other articles.

"This explanation is provided as this is the first time this situation has occurred and this is a precedent."

Ironically, on Saturday, additional new PU elements were taken by Leclerc - internal combustion engine, turbocharger and MGU-H - and a back-of-the-grid penalty was definitively imposed.

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