Motor racing-Leclerc missed U.S. flight after document doubt

Formula One F1 - United States Grand Prix - Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, U.S. - October 21, 2021 Ferrari's Charles Leclerc ahead of the Grand Prix REUTERS/Mike Blake

(Reuters) - Ferrari Formula One driver Charles Leclerc missed his U.S. Grand Prix flight this week after an official at the airport closest to his Monaco home questioned his travel authorisation, he said on Thursday.

The 24-year-old told reporters at the circuit in Austin, Texas, that he had made an unscheduled detour via New York after missing his original flight from Nice in the south of France due to the mix-up.

"My NIE (National Interest Exception) hadn't been accepted at the airport, so I couldn't take the original flight, so we changed the flight and went to New York last minute," Leclerc explained.

"It was just one guy at the airport of Nice that for some reason didn't really know what was an NIE, and I got stuck there.

"He only realised one minute before closing the flight that the NIE was OK, but I didn't have my passenger locator form, so I had to stay in Nice."

Leclerc said he flew instead to New York, a city he had never before visited, and spent a day there before going on to Milwaukee for the first NBA match of the season.

Foreign citizens are unable to travel to the United States due to the COVID-19 pandemic, unless they fall into one of a number of exempt categories that includes athletes.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ed Osmond)

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