Palmer blasts Leclerc for driving without seatbelt

Date published: August 18 2020

Charles Leclerc PA

Ex-F1 driver Jolyon Palmer says Charles Leclerc’s actions of driving without a seatbelt at the Spanish Grand Prix were “dangerous”.

The Monegasque driver looked set to challenge for a points finish as he harried Lando Norris in the McLaren for P10, but Leclerc’s afternoon soon fell apart.

On lap 36 it seemed that Leclerc had hired team-mate Sebastian Vettel’s spinning Ferrari as he lost control at the final chicane.

But replays showed the engine had cut out on him, causing the wheels to lock and send Leclerc into a spin.

Leclerc would get his SF1000 started again but it was clear his afternoon was over as he tiptoed around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya before returning to his garage to retire.

Ferrari soon afterwards said Leclerc’s issues were electrical, and he added that there were actually two problems with the Ferrari.

As it turned out though, Leclerc had taken his seatbelt off after giving up on his race before Ferrari asked him to try to start the SF1000 again.

That time it worked, but since his belt was now detached he was forced to stop.

And Palmer took a dim view of the situation, saying Leclerc’s actions were probably the most dangerous possible in a Formula 1 race.

“Driving a lap with seatbelts undone in Formula 1 seems like the most dangerous think you could possibly do,” said Palmer on the Chequered Flag podcast.

“You can’t drive in a 30 zone without your seatbelt on, let alone doing 150mph with 19 racing cars going wheel-to-wheel either side of you.

“Barriers not all that far away at times as well, I’m sure Leclerc came back as steadily as he could, but you’re still on a live race track in the middle of a grand prix, there’s no Safety Car.

“It’s a really sketchy thing, things could break on the car, you never know what could put you into the wall.

“If you’re not wearing a seatbelt, you are strapped in, but it’s not going to stop you impaling yourself on the steering wheel.”

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Since Leclerc spun at the final chicane he could have gone into the pits after restarting his Ferrari, but Palmer thinks he must have drove past them forgetting that he had taken his belt off.

“He was basically stopped in the perfect place to get back to the pits but he must have momentarily forgotten, driven past the pits, and then thought he hasn’t done his seabelts up,” he said.

“The FIA and Formula 1 do good work in improving safety, Leclerc himself was helped by having the halo on the car which was introduced a couple of years ago when he had Fernando Alonso’s McLaren launching into it at the start of the Belgian Grand Prix.

“So to then, with all these safety improvements, do the first lap that I know of in a Formula 1 car without a seatbelt on since the 70s, it’s just not clever at all.”

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