FIA race director Michael Masi has explained the difference between Max Verstappen’s pit lane time penalty in Monaco and Charles Leclerc’s incident in the German Grand Prix.
Verstappen was released alongside Valtteri Bottas in Monaco and the two made contact, with Bottas needing an extra pit stop as a result. The stewards at the time gave Verstappen a five-second time penalty that demoted him from second to fourth in the final result, but a similar incident between Leclerc and Romain Grosjean at Hockenheim – in which the Haas driver braked to avoid contact – resulted in Ferrari picking up a fine without any time penalty.
“So what it actually was, and the clarification of the Monaco one, was that it was labelled an unsafe release, but it was actually for causing a collision in the pit lane,” Masi explained. “So that was why that was different to the one (in Germany), which was clearly an unsafe release.
“But part of the discussion we had with the team managers the other day, knowing the conditions could be changeable, was also taking into account if you’ve got everyone coming into the pit lane to do tires at the same time.
“That’s got to be a factor in it, but still quite clearly and consistent with the previous penalties – a €5000 fine for the team for what happened. The fact that every other team thereafter was out, even though the fast lane is as wide as it is, didn’t allow what we’d seen at Silverstone for a car to drive on the painted area.”
Masi insists the incident doesn’t set a precedent, saying he has the teams’ support to make more decisions based on individual circumstances rather than look at past incidents.
“No I don’t think so,” he said. “I’m very much a firm believer – and the teams agree, from the principals down – that you treat each case on its own merits. As much as you can try and group things generally, you have to treat each and every circumstance as it comes up and judge it. I thought that was pretty straightforward.
“It’s not something that’s happening regularly, it’s an isolated matter. I think the teams are pretty well aware of self-preservation, because the dangers of damaging the car and the consequences of that are far greater for them than anything else.”
While Red Bull team principal Christian Horner suggested he agreed with the Leclerc penalty and disagreed with Verstappen’s in Monaco, Haas boss Guenther Steiner says the FIA has to be careful teams don’t try and take advantage in the future.
“If it just costs money… I know what you’re saying – I’ll pay money and I get an advantage!” Steiner said. “I don’t know. Actually I didn’t think about that one, but we do need to think about this because it encourages people to pay, the FIA takes the money and we lose the positions. Everyone else wins except the guy who loses out.”