Japanese Grand Prix – Esteban Ocon has been given a three-place grid penalty for failing to slow down sufficiently under red flag conditions.
Following Nico Hulkenberg’s crash in free practice three, Ocon was informed that he will be facing the stewards after qualifying for allegedly driving too fast under the resulting red flag conditions.
With the investigation looming, Ocon – who has looked quick throughout the weekend – managed to progress into Q3 and qualify in eight place, ahead of the out-of-place Sebastian Vettel and team-mate Sergio Perez.
Whilst the stewards accepted that Ocon had been confused by Force India’s system for managing a driver’s pace under red flags, they handed him a three-place grid penalty, which demotes him to eleventh on the grid.
“The driver informed the Stewards, and the telemetry showed, that he had slowed down for the red flags. However, after Turn 4, he heard some beeps on the radio that suggested he was too slow and sped up briefly to regularise his speed,” the stewards said in a statement.
“In doing so, he briefly exceeded the delta by a maximum of -1.68 [seconds] over three mini sectors.
“As a result, he had failed to maintain the speed delta required under the regulations, resulting in an infringement.
“He acknowledged the infringement and attributed it to confusion caused by the beeps and the system currently being used by the team in such situations. In the end, given the importance of observance of the speed restrictions while red flags are being shown and recognising the limited extend of the breach, we decided to impose the above penalty.”
The resulting penalty demotes him to eleventh place, which promotes Vettel, Perez and Sauber’s Charles Leclerc by one place each.
The penalty could have a big impact on Ocon’s and Force India’s race; the Frenchman now starts behind team-mate Perez and could be hampered by team orders if the pair are racing closely on-track, whilst the team now have one car behind a Sauber, who were expected to provide tough competition this weekend.