Daniel Ricciardo has been hit with a three-place grid penalty for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after being found guilty of blocking Esteban Ocon in qualifying.
The stewards at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit imposed the penalty for an incident at Turn 9 in Q2 which also earned the Australian one penalty point on his super-licence and a fine of 10,000 euros for the McLaren team.
McLaren were found culpable as they had not informed Ricciardo that Ocon was coming up behind him on a ‘hot’ lap – a situation exacerbated by the nature of a track where the 27 corners come thick and fast.
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The statement announcing the verdict read: “The stewards heard from the driver of Car 3 (Ricciardo), the driver of Car 31 (Ocon) and team representatives, and examined video and team radio evidence and found Car 3 impeded Car 31.
“The driver admitted he did not know Car 31 was coming on a fast lap as he was not told of that by his team. By the time he saw Car 31 approaching, it was too late. The team representative admitted they had made an error in not warning their driver about Car 31 approaching.
“The driver of Car 31 stated his lap had to be aborted as a result of him being unnecessarily impeded by Car 3. Having said that, he stated his overall performance during the session was not adversely impacted by the aborted lap.
“It was clear Car 31 was unnecessarily impeded by Car 3. The fact Car 31 was ultimately able to record a faster lap is irrelevant to the fact the infringement occurred, such that a timed lap had to be aborted.
“It was also clear the team failed in its duty to keep the driver of Car 3 properly informed of approaching cars. This is particularly so given the tight nature of this circuit. In the circumstances, we impose a penalty of a drop of three grid positions to the driver of Car 3 and a fine of Euro 10,000 to the team.”
Ultimately, Ocon outqualified Ricciardo in any case as the Frenchman advanced to Q3 and will start the race an excellent fifth, just ahead of George Russell in the Mercedes and his own Alpine team-mate Fernando Alonso.
Ricciardo, meanwhile, drops from 12th to 14th, rather than 15th, promoting Zhou Guanyu and Lance Stroll, with only 19 cars set to line up as Mick Schumacher was withdrawn by Haas due to the heavy crash he sustained just after the Ricciardo-Ocon blocking incident had occurred in Q2.
Schumacher’s absence means there will be no empty slot on the grid and that Ricciardo’s three-place grid drop becomes only two, rather than dropping behind Lewis Hamilton.