Leclerc surprised to finish Mexico GP after Perez clash

Charles Leclerc has recounted his opening corner clash with Sergio Perez in Mexico. Image: XPB Images

Charles Leclerc has recounted his opening corner clash with Sergio Perez in Mexico. Image: XPB Images

Charles Leclerc explained he had nowhere to go in his clash with Sergio Perez at the start of the Mexico City Grand Prix.

The pair came together as the field entered Turn 1 on the opening lap of the race, launching the Red Bull into the run-off and ending the local favourite’s race.

Leclerc had started from pole but found himself flanked on the run to the first corner by Max Verstappen on his right and Perez on the left.

“I had nowhere to go,” Leclerc, who ended the race third, said.

“I tried to stay on the right as much as possible, as closed as I could to Max, but unfortunately there was no space anymore for me to be any more on the right.

“I think Checo [Perez] was probably not aware that I had Max on my right, then started to turn in.

“When I saw that, I knew that we will collide at one point, which we did.

“I was extremely surprised I could finish the race anyway.”

The impact saw Perez fired into the run-off area with damage to the right-hand sidepod of the RB19.

He managed to limp the car back to the pits where he retired, leaving him to describe it as the saddest moment of his career.

“I’ve had some really sad moments in my career, but certainly this is, as a race, the saddest one, because of the end result,” he said when asked about the clash by Speedcafe.

“But at the end of the day, this is just racing. I go home very sad, but I also go very proud of my team, of myself.

“We gave it all. I knew that today a podium was not enough for me. I really wanted to go further, and when I saw the gap, I went for it.”

Leclerc picked up damage to his front wing in the encounter, the left end fence handing off the Ferrari for the first four laps.

It eventually broke free, triggering a brief Virtual Safety Car, but the pole-sitter was able to carry on and ultimately changed the front wing under the red flag for Kevin Magnussen’s crash.

“We broke part of the front wing in Turn 1, and then on the radio they told me we were lacking I think 10 or 15 points [of downforce],” Leclerc said.

“To be honest, I managed to drive around it and it didn’t feel too bad, so that was positive.

“Of course, it’s never ideal to lose so many points [of downforce] into Turn 1, but it’s like this and we then managed to do a good race from that moment onwards.”

Verstappen, who won the race in the other Red Bull, suggested his team-mate should have left more room entering the opening corner.

“It’s just horrible,” he said of Perez’s early retirement from his home grand prix.

“You want to be on the podium, I fully understand that.

“He went around the outside and he tried… looking at the footage, I think he could have left a little bit more space.

“But on the other hand, if it would have worked you look amazing.

“I think it’s just more like that excitement of wanting to be on the podium, and this time it didn’t work out unfortunately.”

It’s the latest blow for Perez as pressure builds on the Mexican.

Lewis Hamilton finished second in Mexico to now sit just 20 points back in the battle for second in the drivers’ championship with three races remaining.

Compounding matters was Daniel Ricciardo, who delivered Scuderia AlphaTauri its best result of the year and, in doing so, lifted it off the foot of the constructors’ championship.

Formula 1 moves immediately to Brazil for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, with track action beginning on Friday (local time).

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