Charles Leclerc will start ninth rather than sixth in the Austrian Grand Prix sprint race after he was found to have impeded McLaren Formula 1 driver Oscar Piastri in Saturday’s qualifying session.
Leclerc was handed a three-place grid penalty for blocking Piastri into the penultimate corner during the first segment of sprint qualifying.
Piastri was dumped out of SQ1 in 17th, ultimately ending up half a tenth from safety – ironically 15th-placed driver Leclerc.
Piastri told the stewards that he saw Leclerc’s slowing Ferrari as he approached the Turn 9 right-hander and had to reduce his speed “by approximately 45km/h” compared to his previous push lap.
The stewards verified this by looking at Piastri’s telemetry and confirming that he lost half a second in the relevant mini-sector.
Leclerc revealed to the stewards that the last communication about Piastri’s position he received from the team was on the approach to Turn 4 when Piastri was six seconds behind.
A Ferrari team representative admitted to the stewards that the team “could have done better” in better communicating the rapid approach of Piastri.
“Accordingly we determine that although this was not entirely the fault of the driver, and that the team’s lack of communication was the major contributing factor, a grid position penalty must be imposed as car #81 was “unnecessarily impeded”, because there is no doubt that the situation could have been avoided,” the stewards’ statement read.
The stewards also issued a reminder as part of its decision that the penalty can only be applied to the sprint grid so, if Leclerc was unable to take the start of the race, his penalty would only be applied at the next sprint race – which is taking place at Spa at the end of July.