The Ferrari driver came under pressure from Sergio Pérez at the end of the 2022 F1 Japanese Grand Prix race, and under braking for the Casio Triangle on the final lap, the Monegasque over-braked and took a “lasting lead” when rejoining the track ahead of the Mexican. Charles Leclerc crossed the finish line three-tenths clear of Checo, but the stewards quickly ruled he deserved a five-second penalty for the action and that dropped him to third behind the Red Bull driver.
That also saw race winner Max Verstappen score enough points to clinch his second world title in motorsport’s top flight. Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto acknowledged he was “shocked and disappointed” by the decision, especially as his driver was unable to argue why he did it, but Leclerc himself felt it was a fair punishment.
“I made a mistake, I tried to minimize it by trying to go straight,” he said. “I wasn’t aware it was the last lap, but a five-second penalty was the right thing to do, to be honest.
The Ferrari driver managed to draw parallel with Verstappen for the race lead at Suzuka, but the Dutchman traced better around the outside of the first corner and stayed in the lead. However, he had a second chance at victory when the event resumed, but the Monaco driver was more than 26 seconds behind after 28 laps had been completed.
Leclerc said he was “very fast for four or five laps” before his front tires started to degrade, causing him to fall into the clutches of Checo Pérez: “It was about trying to survive until the end of the race.”
“The end was extremely difficult, Checo [Perez] was pushing quite a bit from behind, and I was struggling with the front tires,” he continued. “I ended up making a mistake, but we were suffering.”
The Prancing Horse director explained that “it wasn’t possible” for Leclerc to hold on after initially squeezing with his intermediate compounds, and said the team would investigate after the event to better understand the levels of degradation.
“Maybe he was pushing too hard to try to close the gap, maybe he destroyed [the tyres] and as a consequence he didn’t have the right pace for the next few laps anymore,” Binotto said. “On the one lap, I think the pace and speed was there, but form-management-wise, we could have done something different.
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