Former double world champion Mika Hakkinen is of the opinion that Charles Leclerc deserved his Japanese GP penalty. According to the Finn, it could have been “many times worse” with a damaged wing shedding debris.
In fact, he revealed that Roland Ratzenberger’s fatal crash during that dark weekend in 1994 was caused by a broken front wing. However, the late Austrian continued lapping, but disaster struck as the wing broke completely, lodging under his car.
This severely hampered the handling of his Simtek-Ford as it was unable to turn into the Villeneuve Corner. As a result, it veered off the track and crashed into the outside wall, sadly, Ratzenberger did not survive the ordeal.
Fortunately Leclerc’s broken front wing did not cause much harm, to the driver or others around him. The only damage was Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes losing a mirror when the end plate flew off the SF90. Hakkinen believes that the 10-second time penalty for Charles Leclerc for racing an unsafe car was deserved.
“There has been a lot to do around Ferrari and Leclerc with regard to the failure after the crash with Verstappen,” Hakkinen wrote in a column.
“In my view, he should have done that immediately, since it makes little sense to drive on with a broken flail that drags on the ground. You lose performance, you damage the tyres and you become a danger to yourself and others.”
“It is so incredibly important to keep the wing whole at high speeds: Let’s not forget that a damaged front wing was responsible for the fatal crash of Roland Ratzenberger in San Marino in 1994.”
“I think we were lucky that when piece wing was released from Leclerc’s car, this part only damaged Lewis Hamilton’s car. It could have been many times worse. This once again showed why the Halo has been so incredibly important.”
The 1998 and 1999 World Champion did not blame Leclerc for insisting on continuing his race. The Ferrari driver reported no issues, but could not see the damage from his vantage point in the cockpit.