Esteban Ocon was surprised to receive a penalty for an incident with Sebastian Vettel during the Italian Grand Prix, as he believed a previous case showed he would go unpunished.
The Alpine driver squeezed the Aston Martin in the braking zone approaching the Variante della Roggia. Vettel was forced off, and the stewards handed Ocon a five-second time penalty for the incident.
However Ocon was convinced that a similar incident involving Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton two years earlier showed he should not have been penalised. Leclerc was shown the black-and-white ‘unsporting conduct’ flag for the incident, but did not receive a time penalty, and went on to win the race.
“The same happened to Charles and Lewis in 2019 and there was no action taken,” Ocon pointed out after the race. “We had no damage on the car, nothing really happened.”
The time penalty “cost me a good three places I would say, so it’s a bit frustrating,” he added.
“We were side by side,” Ocon explained, “a bit too close but basically the track narrows once you arrive on braking. So I didn’t really move the steering wheel, it’s just that the track just narrows.
“That’s what happened exactly with Charles and Lewis. And if that incident didn’t have any penalties or things like that, then mine shouldn’t have as well because it’s two of the same thing.”
However Formula 1 race director Michael Masi said a subsequent discussion about the Leclerc and Hamilton incident with teams and drivers led to an agreement that similar moves should be punished in future.
Masi said the incident at the 2019 Italian Grand Prix “was one of the ones we did a complete discussion with all of the drivers, team principals and sporting directors.
“It was sort of deemed in that situation, probably a five-second penalty would have been better than the black and white [flag].”
Ocon did not race in Formula 1 during 2019, as he was working as a simulator driver for Mercedes prior to his return with Renault. He said he wasn’t aware of any change in how the stewards regarded the Leclerc incident.
“To be fair it’s been two years and I was not racing as well,” he said. “So I can’t really tell you what’s been what’s been said in the drivers meeting. I can’t remember.”
Following the 2019 race Hamilton accused the stewards of “inconsistency” for failing to penalise Leclerc.
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