Sakhir Grand Prix – Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc has been given a three place grid penalty for next week’s race in Abu Dhabi, after colliding with Sergio Perez on the first lap.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc has been given a three place grid penalty for this weekend’s race in Abu Dhabi. The Ferrari driver was found to have been the catalyst for a first lap incident that resulted in the elimination of himself and Max Verstappen from the race, as well as spinning Sergio Perez out.
Leclerc, having started from P4, was racing with Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas, and Perez on the run up to Turn 3 after Bottas had made a slight error going through Turn 2.
Perez stayed to the outside of the Mercedes driver, with Verstappen sticking to the middle as Leclerc dived up the inside. Locking up his brakes, Leclerc arrived at the apex too quickly as Perez swung in. The Ferrari collided with the right rear of the Racing Point, spinning Perez out. Leclerc slid straight on into the barrier and out of the race. Verstappen, successfully avoiding the collision by staying out wide, took to the gravel in a bid to recover the track. However, he lost control on the gravel and slid straight into the barrier beside Leclerc.
“The start wasn’t bad, but of course, Valtteri squeezed, which is normal, so I had to back out.” Verstappen said after retiring from the race. “From there onwards, it was all about surviving in between the cars.”
Continuing, Verstappen was critical about the level of aggression shown on the first lap: “I don’t know why they were being so aggressive and so reckless. We are all up in the front, and at the end of the day now, three cars basically were the victim of that, two cars heavily.”
Leclerc took out teammate Sebastian Vettel on the first lap at the Styrian Grand Prix in what was a similar incident, as well as coming in for criticism from Vettel for making a move into Turn 1 during last week’s Bahrain Grand Prix in which Sebastian felt his teammate had forced him to yield in order to avoid contact.
Verstappen singled out Leclerc for his part in the accident, saying: “I don’t really know why, especially Charles in Turn 4, why he dives up the inside like that,? Especially to brake that late as well. What do you expect? Checo [Perez] cannot see what is happening on the inside, and he basically just locked his wheel and understeered into him.”
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“When Checo was spinning backwards, I tried to go around the outside, tried not to damage my car, but there’s nothing you can do there. I respect Charles a lot and he is a great driver but I think that was a bit too much.It’s frustrating to retire so soon in a race where we had a racy car and a good chance of doing well.”
Verstappen was told that Leclerc had accepted the blame, and replied: “As he should.”
Leclerc was given two penalty points for the incident, as well as the three place grid penalty that he will serve this weekend in Abu Dhabi. Leclerc held his hands up for the error, explaining the accident from his point of view: “It was a shame to be out of the race on the first lap. I was on the inside of Max, a bit behind, and I tried to go side by side with him to the first corner and tried to brake a bit later. I had seen Checo in front of me but expected him to stay round the outside of Valtteri, which didn’t happen because he braked a bit earlier than Valtteri and came back towards the inside of the corner.”
“As soon as I saw him coming back, I braked but it was too late as I locked up my front wheel and collided with him. I am not putting the blame on anyone else, if anyone is to blame, it’s me. Of course I am disappointed and it will be good to be back in the car in just a few days so that I can put this race behind me.”