Leclerc penalised over ‘reckless’ first-lap crash with Verstappen

Charles Leclerc’s damaged car is craned away

Charles Leclerc has been handed a three-place grid penalty for next week’s Abu Dhabi finale following his Sakhir crash with Max Verstappen, who deemed the move “reckless”.

Verstappen, Leclerc and Racing Point’s Sergio Perez were battling over third on the opening lap heading into Turn 4.

Leclerc dived up the inside of Verstappen, but but the Ferrari driver locked up and ran into Perez, who turned in and was spun around.

Verstappen was forced wide in avoidance, but ran into the gravel and crashed his Red Bull.

Perez, who eventually went on the claim his maiden grand prix win, was sent to the back of the field after he was forced to pit behind the resulting Safety Car.

An enraged Verstappen kicked the barrier and discussed the incident with Leclerc trackside, before both returned to the paddock.

Speaking after the crash, Verstappen was mystified by Leclerc and Perez’s actions.

“The start wasn’t bad, but of course, Valtteri (Bottas) squeezed, which is normal, so I had to back out,” Verstappen explained.

“From there onwards, it was all about surviving in-between the cars. 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.

“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.

“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.”

Leclerc was summoned to see the stewards after the race, and it was decided he was at fault.

“The Stewards heard from the driver of Car 16 (Charles Leclerc), team representatives and have reviewed multiple angles of video evidence,” the stewards’ statement read.

“Car 16 braked too late into Turn 4, locking the front right wheel and colliding with Car 11 which was taking the normal racing line into the corner.”

Leclerc admitted fault, but said he was surprised by Perez’s sharp turn-in.

“I was in fifth I think, and I was side-by-side, a bit behind Max I think, and tried to overtake him into Turn 4,” Leclerc explained.

“I had seen Checo, but I expected him to go around the outside of Valtteri and stay there, but I think he decided after to come back on the inside, and I was there.

“It was too late for me to slow down. I don’t think it’s a mistake from Checo, I’m not putting the blame on Checo.

“If there’s anybody to blame today, it’s me.”

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