Charles Leclerc is one of six drivers sanctioned by the FIA who will have to start from the back of the grid for changing various elements of his power unit at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Ferrari decided to fit new parts to its engine separately, receiving a 15-place penalty for changing the MGU-K and battery , followed by a five-place penalty for introducing a fresh ECU.
That exceeds the limit of 15 penalty places that a driver can receive for changes in elements of the power unit that the FIA imposes before forcing them to start from the back of the pack: “If someone incurs a penalty that exceeds 15 places on the starting grid, you will have to start the race from the bottom of the grid.
However, it seems that a small loophole in the regulations has emerged, as Ferrari has chosen to comply with two independent penalties that did not exceed 15 places.
“The wording of the phrase is singular, ‘a penalty’, and neither of the two documents imposed more than 15 places on the grid,” the FIA acknowledged in a statement before qualifying. “Therefore, that could be interpreted as not triggering a ‘bottom of the grid’ penalty.”
That would have allowed Leclerc to carry a new power unit, being able to come out ahead of those who did exceed that limit set by the international federation, including Max Verstappen.
But the FIA has confirmed that the Monegasque will have to start from the back of the grid, which means that his starting place will be defined by the order of classification between those who have the same sanction.
This is because the regulations establish that the penalties of the engines “will be cumulative” and that the penalty of 15 positions that was imposed was for two independent components and, therefore, must be treated in the same way as if it is covered in two separate movements.
“So logically, regardless of how many documents the penalties are published in, all the decisions accumulate throughout the weekend, and anything that goes over the 15-position limit on the grid triggers going to the back. “said the FIA. “Finally, there are other cases in which the regulation of sanctions accumulate over time [such as penalty points], which are added until they force a separate decision provided for in the regulations, and this is similar” .
“It is important to note that the ‘start from the back of the grid’ penalty is fully integrated into Article 28 [Use of power unit], it was introduced specifically in response to the crazy penalties for engine changes, and it has never been used to accumulate penalties imposed by other articles of the regulation”.
“Article 28.3 should be seen in the same way, and this explanation is given because it is the first time that this situation has occurred and it is a precedent,” he continued.
That means Charles Leclerc will join Max Verstappen, Lando Norris, Esteban Ocon, Guanyu Zhou and Mick Schumacher with a ‘back of the grid’ penalty. Valtteri Bottas carries a 20 -place penalty, but he will start ahead of all the drivers mentioned, regardless of how he finishes in the standings, because only 15 of the places are due to changes to power unit elements, which will mean that the slowest without penalty from Q1 will start 13th.
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