Ferrari suspect a tear-off belonging to Max Verstappen hampered the recovery effort of his F1 title rival Charles Leclerc at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Leclerc started directly behind Verstappen from 15th on the grid at Spa-Francorchamps after both drivers were hit by grid penalties for using too many engine components.
While Verstappen crushed his rivals en route to securing a dominant victory, Leclerc could only recover to fifth, which later became sixth when he was handed a post-race five-second time penalty for speeding in the pit lane.
Leclerc’s race was made harder when he was forced into an unscheduled early pit stop on Lap 3 after his front-right began overheating when a tear-off became stuck in his brake duct.
Verstappen had removed a visor tear-off from the cockpit of his Red Bull towards the end of the first lap when Leclerc was running behind him in ninth.
“People were going off in the gravel, coming back on the track and of course they are defending their spots,” Verstappen explained. “I was literally just trying to stay out of it. But you also don’t want to lose too much time.
“Then of course with Lewis driving there, I don’t know, the car was broken, I think he was holding up everything. And then everyone of course tries to benefit from that.
“So then people were going two wide and I went on the inside, but then of course Lewis pulled off, which is correct to do. But then I had to move to the left.
“It was super-hectic and so much dirt as well. I pulled off my tear-off because I barely could see anything just because of the previous sector, like everyone just going on the grass and the gravel. But we survived without damage.”
Verstappen said he only found out Leclerc’s issue was caused by a tear-off when he was informed by Carlos Sainz.
“Carlos told me it was a tear-off,” he added. “I didn’t know. I hope it’s not mine, but there was a lot of stuff. Honestly, people were all pulling stuff out.
“It’s just super-unlucky, to be honest, that that happens. You’re always scared that it happens, especially when you are in the pack, especially on a track like this, you are taking them off very quickly.
“That is your worst nightmare that these things happen. But unfortunately they do happen.”
Ferrari believe the tear-off came from Verstappen, with team principal Mattia Binotto suggesting the overheating issue may have affected the sensors measuring Leclerc’s speed, leading to him picking up a time penalty for speeding in the pit lane.
“We were not using our normal sensors measuring the speed because they have been failed during the overheating of the front-right due to the tear-off of Max,” said Binotto.
“I think overall it has been an unlucky situation and we should not stop deciding to be brave to go for a fast lap when conditions are there to go for it.”