‘I let the team down’, says Leclerc as he accepts blame for first-lap clash with Vettel
When Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel clashed in Brazil, just three races ago, both drivers apologised to the team for their part in the incident. But after the Ferrari duo’s latest coming together, on the opening lap of the Styrian Grand Prix, there was only one man accepting the blame: Charles Leclerc.
The incident occurred at Turn 3 of the opening lap, as Leclerc lunged up the inside of Vettel as the tightly bunched pack rounded the right hander. The red cars collided, with Vettel’s rear wing being ripped off and Leclerc’s front wing and floor being badly damaged.
Both men made it back to the pits, but having sustained so much damage Vettel was forced into immediate retirement, with Leclerc only able to soldier on for three more laps before accepting the same fate.
Both drivers faced the media shortly afterwards – though by that stage Leclerc had already made a bee-line to see his team mate…
“I apologised [to Vettel],” said Leclerc, taking full responsibility for a move he agreed was too optimistic. “Obviously excuses are not enough in times like this. I am just disappointed in myself. I’ve done a very bad job today. I let the team down.
“I can only be sorry, even though I know it’s not enough. I hope I will learn from this and we will come back stronger for the next races.”
For his part, Vettel said he’d been “very surprised” Leclerc had tried a move, adding there was “not much that I could have done differently”.
“I was fighting two other cars, we were already three cars into Turn 3…”
The incident compounded what has been an extremely trying start to the season for the Scuderia, with Team Principal Mattia Binotto accepting that his squad’s performances are “not good enough for a team by the name of Ferrari”.
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Leclerc took advantage of circumstances to finish a strong second in last weekend’s season opener, but both he and Vettel have struggled for performance, with the team rushing some updates forward for Styria in a bid to arrest their form.
For Vettel, the biggest shame was not being able to see what those upgrades would have done to the team’s race pace.
“That is a shame,” he rued. “It was a bonus to come back to the same track and also today is very similar in terms of conditions. But we will not get that answer I’m afraid. Also for the update we would really like to get the race on the line and some laps to see where the car is, but unfortunately we will not get that.”
Ferrari now have to pick up the pieces ahead of next weekend’s race in Hungary, where they are expected to have a full package of upgrades with which to try and reverse their poor form.
“It’s a tough time for the team,” said Leclerc. “We don’t need [what happened today], the team doesn’t need that, and I put all the thoughts of the team in the bin. I’m very sorry, but it’s not enough, again.”