October 13, 2019 / 8:36 AM / 2 months ago

Motor racing-Verstappen blames 'irresponsible' Leclerc for collision

SUZUKA, Japan, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Max Verstappen accused Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc of irresponsible driving at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday after a first lap collision between the two put the Red Bull driver out of the race.

The 22-year-old Dutch driver also questioned the stewards’ response, with an initial announcement that they were taking no further action before then deciding to summon both drivers afterwards.

“Suddenly into Turn Two Charles just drove into the side of my car,” Verstappen told Sky Sports television. “From my side I don’t think I could have done anything different there.

“The weird thing is that initially they don’t even investigate it, I mean my whole car is destroyed. The whole side. There were just holes in the side of the car. And then they start to investigate it but now it’s after the race.

“I mean, what more should he (Leclerc) do to get a penalty? I like hard racing, but I don’t think this was hard racing. This was just irresponsible driving into Turn Two.”

Verstappen, who was forced off, eventually retired in the pitlane after 15 laps while Leclerc had to pit for a new front wing.

The Monegasque had started on the front row, with team mate Sebastian Vettel on pole, but both Ferraris made poor starts with Valtteri Bottas seizing the lead for Mercedes into the first corner.

Verstappen had made a strong start, from the third row, in a home race for Red Bull’s engine partner Honda.

Vettel moved slightly before the lights went out and then stopped, escaping punishment because his tyres did not cross the line to trigger a sensor — a decision Verstappen also questioned.

“Just watching the footage back from Seb’s start — I mean, he moves, he stops,” he said.

“The rule says you cannot move, and that’s fine because he didn’t gain an advantage they said. I really don’t understand what’s going on today with the rules.”

Leclerc defended himself and said it was a ‘tricky situation’.

“Obviously I understeered being behind Seb and Lewis (Hamilton), and then we touched, I don’t know what happened from the full situation from the outside, and this I need to look at,” he said. (Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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