Ferrari's Charles Leclerc had admitted that Formula 1 stewards "were right" in giving him a time penalty in the Japanese Grand Prix that ultimately decided the World Championship, disagreeing with the team. Heading into the Suzuka weekend, Leclerc knew that if Max Verstappen out-scored him by eight points and Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez by six, the title was his. In reality, a Verstappen-led Red Bull one-two with Leclerc third would have given him the title - although Leclerc crossed the line second, albeit after cutting the final chicane. As he gained an advantage on Perez, the stewards handed him a five-second time penalty - thus fulfilling the criteria needed for Verstappen to win the title - as full points were awarded on a technicality. Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto stated his "surprise" at how quickly the penalty was issued - especially in the aftermath of Perez's ruling post-race in Singapore which took two hours. However, Leclerc admitted that the stewards were in fact correct in dishing out the punishment.
Leclerc reflects on race result
"Well, I don't have much to say," Leclerc told media post-race. "I did a mistake and tried to minimize it by trying to go straight. "I was not aware this was the last lap but the five-second penalty was the right thing to do be honest." Leclerc is now one point behind Perez in the fight for second in the standings, with four rounds remaining in the United States, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
Ferrari were struggling
After the race restarted, the field quickly switched to the Intermediate tyres, but Leclerc quickly fell well off Verstappen's pace. He fell from 4.5s to more than 10s behind and eventually 26.7s before the penalty meant he was 31.7s down. The Monegasque admitted that he went into 'survival mode' after enquiring about a further pit-stop for fresh tyres. "We were very fast for four or five laps, but unfortunately, the race was a bit longer than that," he said. "The fronts were just gone after four or five laps, and after that was all about trying to survive until the end of the race. The end was extremely difficult. "Obviously, Checo put in quite a bit of pressure behind and I was really, really struggling with with both of my front tyres. "At the end, I ended up making a mistake. But we were really, really struggling today."