FIA race director Charlie Whiting has explained the penalties handed out during the Japanese Grand Prix, including why a collision between Kevin Magnussen and Charles Leclerc went unpunished.
Max Verstappen was handed a five-second time penalty for not returning to the track in a safe manner after running wide at the chicane early in the race, but was then involved in a collision with Sebastian Vettel at Spoon – Vettel claimed Verstappen closed the door on him – that received no further action after an investigation.
“I think the first one was quite clearly a penalty because Max went off the track and rejoined the track unsafely,” Whiting said. “You’re required to rejoin safely, and Kimi [Raikkonen] was there and he pushed him off the track. I think that was a fairly straightforward one for the stewards.
“The second one was a bit of a classic, really. Seb tried to get up the inside, it was a reasonable move, got halfway alongside, Max turned in… a bit of a classic really. As you know, stewards don’t normally give penalties unless they are sure one driver was wholly or predominantly to blame. Opinions will vary whether it was equal blame, but certainly no driver was predominantly to blame.”
A Safety Car was required early in the race to clear debris after contact between Magnussen and Leclerc that left the Haas driver with a puncture. Magnussen had moved to the right as Leclerc pulled out to attempt to pass, and Whiting says the timing of both moves led the stewards to not penalize either driver.
“It was quite an interesting one actually,” he said. “It was in two bits, on the straight and then in the corner. [Magnussen] got the puncture in the first one. And if you analyze it very, very carefully, what you see is two cars coming down with Kevin not moving, and then Charles catches, catches, catches, he decides to go to the right, and at exactly the same time – on the video there’s one frame difference – then Kevin moves.
“I think it’s impossible to say that Kevin blocked him, it was just he made the decision that he was going to go right fractionally after Charles had. You had to look at it quite a few times and analyze it in little detail to see that, but I think that it’s just unfortunate, and that’s what the stewards felt.”