During the first qualifying round on Saturday morning, Leclerc, driving for Ferrari, obstructed his McLaren rival in the concluding set of corners.
Piastri, the obstructed driver, voiced his concern over the team radio, and post-session, both drivers were called in by the stewards.
After a review, the stewards determined that even though Leclerc hadn’t been adequately warned about Piastri’s approach, he should have been more proactive in avoiding the obstruction.
As a result, Leclerc was penalised with a three-place grid drop for the sprint race on Saturday afternoon, demoting him from sixth to ninth place, moving him behind Fernando Alonso, Lance Stroll, and Esteban Ocon.
The stewards’ issued statement read: “Piastri [Car 81] claimed that he saw Car 16 [Leclerc] moving at a slow pace as he approached Turn 9, causing him to brake and reduce his speed by approximately 45 km/h compared to the previous lap.
This claim was backed by telemetry data from Car 81. The data showed a loss of about 0.5 seconds in that mini sector (5.3s v 4.8s).
Leclerc [Car 16] reported that the last update he received from his team was when he was nearing Turn 4 (“Piastri 6 seconds”) and that he spotted Car 81 in his mirrors as he was at Turn 8 and Car 81 was at Turn 7.
The Ferrari team admitted that they “could have done better” in communicating Car 81’s swift approach and Leclerc noted that “If I had been warned, I could have reacted earlier”.
Although this wasn’t entirely the driver’s fault and the team’s poor communication was a significant factor, a grid penalty was necessary as Car 81 was “unnecessarily impeded” and this could have been avoided.”
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The stewards emphasized that if Leclerc cannot serve his penalty in the Austrian sprint race, the penalty will be carried over to the following sprint race at Spa, instead of Sunday’s main grand prix.
Adding, “The penalty is applicable ONLY to the Sprint. If the driver can’t compete in the Sprint at this event, the penalty will move to the next Sprint, not the Grand Prix.”
In related news, Haas received a €5000 suspended fine for the unsafe release of Nico Hulkenberg during the sprint qualifying session.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Austrian F1 Sprint Race Penalty
Why was Charles Leclerc penalized in the Austrian F1 sprint race?
Leclerc was penalized for impeding his McLaren competitor, Piastri, during the first qualifying round. Despite the lack of clear communication from his team regarding Piastri’s approach, the stewards determined that Leclerc should have made a greater effort to avoid obstructing Piastri’s path. As a result, he was handed a three-place grid penalty.
What is the outcome of Leclerc’s penalty?
The penalty resulted in Leclerc dropping from sixth to ninth place in the sprint race, moving him behind Fernando Alonso, Lance Stroll, and Esteban Ocon.
What happens if Leclerc cannot serve his penalty in the Austria sprint race?
If Leclerc cannot serve his penalty in the Austria sprint race, the stewards have emphasized that the penalty will be carried forward to the next sprint event at Spa, rather than the main grand prix.
Was there any other penalty issued during the sprint qualifying session?
Yes, the Haas team was handed a €5000 suspended fine for the unsafe release of Nico Hulkenberg during the sprint qualifying session.