F1 race director Michael Masi says the Monaco Grand Prix stewards did assess whether Charles Leclerc might have deliberately crashed in qualifying.
But they swiftly decided there had been nothing sinister about the accident which safeguarded the Ferrari driver’s pole position.
In the end, it was all academic because Leclerc was unable to take the start in his home grand prix, which means he has still yet to see the chequered flag in any F1 or F2 race on the streets of his Monte Carlo home.
The 23-year-old had been given the go-ahead hours before the race by his team to start without a gearbox change, which would have incurred a grid penalty.
But on the installation lap, Leclerc agonisingly flagged up a problem over the team radio and headed back to the garage, where the car remained without making it onto the track again.
The Monegasque driver said during the race he sensed the issue was from the rear left of the car rather than the gearbox, and it turned out to be a driveshaft failure – which may or may not have been related to the crash.
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— Charles Leclerc (@Charles_Leclerc) May 23, 2021
As for the incident that ended qualifying by bringing out the red flags with only seconds left on the clock, ruining the final runs of his rivals and thus ensuring Leclerc was on pole, Masi said it was concluded nothing more than a simple driving mistake had been made.
“The incident was looked at immediately in race control and it was quite clear to us that it was an error at the first part, at turn 15,” said Masi, quoted by RaceFans.
Clipping the barrier at high speed damaged Leclerc’s steering, which caused him to hit a kerb and then make heavier contact with the wall.
“Having looked at it, looked at the data and also listening to the team communication, I don’t think any driver would go out there to severely damage their car to that degree in any circumstance because of the consequences that may arise out of that,” added Masi.
Leclerc’s withdrawal from the race meant his pole position grid slot remained empty, with the rest of the field occupying their intended berths.
A much more competitive weekend for Ferrari than at any point since 2019 ended with Leclerc’s team-mate Carlos Sainz finishing second to Max Verstappen, repeating the highest grand prix finish he had achieved with McLaren at Monza last year.
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