FIA race director Michael Masi has given an explanation as to why Charles Leclerc was not penalised for his defensive driving whilst battling Lewis Hamilton during the Italian Grand Prix.
Hamilton closed on Leclerc’s gearbox following the pitstop phase, pulling alongside the Ferrari driver at the second chicane where the pair came close to tangling.
The Briton took to the run-off area, complaining Leclerc had not given him the permitted one cars width of space.
Race control showed Leclerc the black-and-white flag as a warning to be mindful of his behaviour in wheel-to-wheel combat, a decision Hamilton questioned after the race.
Explaining the reason behind the stewards’ decision to Sky Sports, Masi said: “The rules remain with regards to a car’s width of room.
“It’s quite obvious here that Charles has squeezed Lewis and, consistent with what happened last weekend in Spa with Pierre Gasly, as a result it was the bad sportsmanship flag, or the black-and-white flag, that was displayed to Car 16 for the move and the squeeze in the braking area.”
The black-and-white flag was reinstated at Spa having not been in use in Formula 1 since 2010. Masi revealed it would be more commonly used as a one-off warning to drivers in racing situations.
“For small infringements that are, let’s call it, a ‘professional foul’ but don’t go beyond the line, we’ll be absolutely using the black-and-white flag more and more,” he said.
“It’s a sign to everyone that the driver’s on notice because you only get one for the race. If you do it again, the drivers have all been advised that any other infraction will be referred to the stewards.”
Following the outcry of Sebastian Vettel’s time penalty in Canada that cost the German victory despite crossing the line in first place, drivers and teams have protested that they should be allowed to race more freely.
Masi says this revised approach, at a request for harder racing, will continue.
“If there was resultant contact [in the Leclerc and Hamilton incident] we would have looked at it in a bit more detail.
“But effectively under the ‘let them race philosophy’ that the teams, the F1 Group, the drivers and the FIA have worked together on throughout the year, and giving the teams the advice at the last event in Spa, we will be using the black-and-white flag more often – at their request I must say.
“And that was a prime incident where everyone continued, black and white flag, motorsport’s version of the yellow card.”