Leclerc escapes with reprimand after FP3 VSC breach

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Ferrari's Charles Leclerc has been handed a reprimand from race stewards for failing to slow down sufficiently under a Virtual Safety Car in final practice for the Monaco Grand Prix.

Ironically the VSC was triggered by Leclerc's Ferrari team mate Sebastian Vettel running into the wall at Sainte-Devote early in the 60-minute session.

With the team already anxious about getting the damaged SF90 back to pit lane in time to get front wing and left suspension repaired for qualifying, word came down to the Ferrari management that Leclerc would have to face the stewards for a VSC breach that could have resulted in a grid penalty for Sunday's race.

Fortunately however the stewards took a more lenient view and opted to give the local hero a mere slap on the wrist that will have no impact on his race weekend.

"The Stewards reviewed video and telemetry evidence and heard from the driver of car 16 (Charles Leclerc) and team representative," the official statement from the FIA explained.

"The driver clearly and appropriately braked before turn 1 in reaction to the incident at the corner. The VSC appeared when the driver was between turn 1 and turn 2," the statement continued.

"The driver did slow significantly, however he remained below the minimum time set by the FIA ECU until past turn 8."

The notice went on to confirm that this was a de facto breach of Article 40.5 of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations.

"The Stewards recognised that the driver was considerably slower than a normal lap throughout the sequence. However, as the VSC is imposed for safety reasons, the Stewards determined that the breach needed to be recognized."

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari SF90 crashed in the third practice session.

Opting to limit the penalty to a mere reprimand - the first Leclerc has received so far this season - the stewards explained that this was in line with previous decision.

"The Stewards therefore impose a Reprimand, which is consistent with similar cases during practice sessions," the FIA notice stated.

Although Ferrari and Leclerc have the right to appeal the reprimand, there is little reason for them to do so, and everyone in the garage is likely feeling relieved to be able to brush the scare to one side and get back to repairing Vettel's car in time for Q1.

After the VSC incident, Leclerc went on to set the fastest time in FP3 with his best lap of 1:11.265s putting him half a tenth faster than Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas, with Lewis Hamilton a further two tenths off the Ferrari's benchmark time.

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