Charles Leclerc escapes Australian GP penalty, keeps pole position

Leclerc 'very happy' with Australian Grand Prix pole (0:37)

Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen speak after completing qualifying for the Australian GP. (0:37)

Charles Leclerc will start the Australian Grand Prix from pole position after avoiding a penalty for driving unnecessarily slowly during qualifying.

Leclerc beat Red Bull's Max Verstappen to pole position on Saturday evening by 0.2s to set up another fight between the pair.

However, on Saturday night it looked like that starting position might be under threat when Leclerc was summoned to see the stewards in Melbourne.

Stewards were investigating whether Leclerc had breached a minimum time requirement on in-laps to the pits during the first qualifying session.

The minimum time is designed to ensure drivers are not a safety hazard and are not impeding rivals setting a timed lap.

Having heard from the Ferrari driver the stewards decided not to hand down a penalty.

In the verdict, the stewards wrote: "LEC started a lap that was intended to be a cool down lap, not an in lap, which would not be subject to the minimum time restriction of the regulation.

"Part way through the lap, the decision was made to come in. During the lap there was heavy traffic and LEC took effort to ensure that he did not impede other drivers on push laps. These efforts significantly slowed his lap time.

"As a result, the minimum time was breached. The Stewards accept the driver's rationale for his actions; find that he acted reasonably under the circumstances; and, therefore, take no further action."

Leclerc is the championship leader after two races, having won the Bahrain Grand Prix and then second to Verstappen at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Alfa Romeo's Gaunyu Zhou and AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda were also summoned to the stewards for similar incidents.

Zhou was let off for similar reasons to Leclerc, although Tsunoda was handed a reprimand.

Tsunoda's verdict said: "The Stewards heard from the driver of Car 22 (Yuki Tsunoda) and team representatives and reviewed timing evidence and footage from the onboard camera. TSU drove a slow in lap at the end of the session without other traffic that impacted his driving.

"The required minimum lap time was breached without good or apparent reason. The Stewards, therefore, reprimand him for breaching the regulation."