Three-place grid penalty for Leclerc for Norris block!

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Charles Leclerc will start tomorrow's Monaco Grand Prix from sixth place after being handed a three place grid drop for impeding Lando Norris in the tunnel during the third round of qualifying.

A formal statement from the FIA race stewards said that they had discussed the incident with both drivers as well as team representatives, and had reviewed telemetry, video footage, timing data, team radio and in-car video evidence.

They concluded that Leclerc had just finished his final Q3 lap and was going through the turn 4 to 10 section at the time. Norris was behind him on a fast lap and caught the Ferrari in the middle of the tunnel, where he was clearly impeded.

The nature of the tunnel meant that there was little Leclerc could do to get out of the way of the McLaren and stewards accepted that at that point the driver reacted in a sensible manner in response to marshals waving a blue flag.

However by then it was too late, as the Ferrari pit wall had failed to warn Leclerc over the radio about the approaching car before then because they had been too focussed on talking about competing drivers rather than nearby traffic.

As a result Leclerc did not take the action he should have done before entering the tunnel. The stewards said that the team's failure to inform Leclerc in time was not acceptable mitigation and duly applied the standard three place penalty.

Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren MCL60. 27.05.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 7, Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo, Monaco, Qualifying Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Price / XPB Images

From his point of view, Norris said that he "just got blocked completely in my fastest lap in Q3, which wasn’t our fault".

"There's one rule which is don't slow down in the middle of the tunnel, and that's what he did," Norris complained to Sky Sports F1 afterwards.

Asked what penalty he wanted to see Leclerc receive, Norris had quipped: "I don't know, disqualified or something?", before settling on the somewhat more proportionate: "It's not up to me."

"Sadly not the result we wanted," added Norris, who will now start from tenth. "We probably wouldn’t have achieved a lot more, but maybe a P8 was possible, which around Monaco means a lot."

Leclerc had already been unhappy to end qualifying in third place behind Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso, so this will hardly make him any more cheerful overnight.

"We need to look at the situation we are in with the car," he said. "It was a very tricky qualifying, but weekend especially, for me. I’ve struggled a lot with the car; we struggled a lot on bumps compared to other cars.

“In qualifying the car was a bit more alive, I was a bit more at ease with the car," he added, speculating that possible rain showers on Sunday might help him overcome his grid position.

"I don’t know how is the forecast. Yesterday it looked like maybe we may have some rain, and if it’s the case anything is possible. I will go for it anyway and we will see where we end up."

The penalty means that Esteban Ocon picks up third on the grid tomorrow, starting alongside Leclerc's team mate Carlos Sainz.

"I think we are in a strong position for tomorrow in terms of pace, not in terms of position," admitted Sainz. "And we know how important track position is in Monaco.”

Lewis Hamilton will move up to fifth and will be joined on the third row by Leclerc slotting back in, with Pierre Gasly and George Russell remaining in P7 and P8 respectively for the line-up when the lights go out.

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