Scuderia Ferrari Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc is set to start the 2022 Belgian Grand Prix ahead of Red Bull Dutch driver Max Verstappen and the four other drivers that have received power unit penalties at the Spa Francorchamps circuit for Sunday’s race.
The idea behind this is, as explained by The Race, related to a ‘quirk of the sporting regulations’ which states how the grid order is determined when more than one driver receive grid penalties for the same race.
Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen, who are currently involved in the duel for the 2022 Formula 1 world title, are on a lost of six drivers who this weekend are using new power unit components, having exceeded their quota of engine parts for the 2022 F1 campaign. As a result, they have all received grid penalty for the Belgian Grand Prix.
Their actual starting position for Sunday’s race at Spa depends on the number of places they are penalised due to the number of new components taken beyond the allowed limit.
This weekend, Max Verstappen, Lando Norris and Esteban Ocon have all received automatic back-of-the-grid sanctions given the fact that they each received an individual penalty which is more than 15 positions. Yet Charles Leclerc, Valtteri Bottas and Mick Schumacher are in a different situation: none of them have been sent automatically to the back of the grid and therefore, as things stand, will start ahead of the other trio.
Ahead of the first free practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix, the Monegasque driver had his third energy store and fifth MGU-K of the 2022 Formula One championship mounted to his Ferrari F1-75 car. This means that Charles got grid penalties of ten and five places respectively.
For the second free practice session at Spa, Charles Leclerc also received his fourth control electronics system of this year, which meant an extra five-place penalty. And depite the fact that the total is 20 places, they are not added together to form just one penalty, as explained by The Race earlier today, which means that Charles Leclerc is able to avoid the same penalty received by Max Verstappen, Lando Norris and Esteban Ocon that automatically sends them to the back for Sunday’s race start.
It also means that if, as expected, the Maranello team mount other new power unit parts on his F1-75 car on Saturday at Spa, it would still not mean he drops behind the man he is chasing for the World Championship at a distant 80-point margin. This is because each of the individual parts which could still be potentially changed on the Ferrari F1-75 would not exceed the 15 places that would send Leclerc automatically to the back of the grid.
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Unless anything else alters the situation before the qualifying session in Belgium, there will be two separate battles for grid positions 15-17 and then 18-20. Charles Leclerc would be expected to qualify ahead of the Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas and the Haas of Mick Schumacher, and Max Verstappen in front of Lando Norris and Esteban Ocon – although the threat of a wet Saturday afternoon, as was the case at Spa in 2021, may in fact turn those expected outcomes on their head.