Leclerc and Vettel apologise for race-ending clash as Ferrari boss reserves judgement on blame
The aftershocks from the sensational 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix may rumble long after the chequered flag at Ferrari, with their race ending in sensational fashion when Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel dramatically collided with just six laps to go.
Neither driver was punished by the Stewards post-race for their role in the incident – a silver lining for Ferrari, who left Interlagos red-faced after split-second contact sent Leclerc and Vettel limping into retirement.
In the aftermath, Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto said he would reserve judgement on who was to blame for the incident, and it was with a lump in his throat that Leclerc admitted: “Everything happened very quick”.
“From my side I overtook in Turn 1, I enjoyed this overtake – and then in Turn 3 I [was] too close because I was aware that Seb would try again, and he did – he went round the outside where there was little space," added the 22-year-old.
I think at the end that both of them have got at least a small or part percentage of responsibility
“And I left the space, which he took, and then towards the end of the straight he started to squeeze me a little bit to the inside and we were very close... and as soon as he went to the inside we touched and I had a puncture.
“I haven’t seen Seb yet but I’m pretty sure we are mature enough to put that behind us at the moment we feel extremely sorry for the team, this is the end result: both of the cars didn’t finish and that’s very disappointing. For the future we’ll put that behind us and continue to work together.”
The shower of sparks and debris dashed the Monegasque’s hopes of a podium from P14, as the Ferrari driver had made his way up seven positions in the first seven laps to pit for hard tyres on lap 29 before taking a late gamble for softs when a Safety Car was pulled out on lap 54 for Valtteri Bottas’s mechanical retirement.
Vettel, who started on the front row, went longer than his front-running rivals by pitting on lap 25 on soft tyres, before going for mediums on lap 49 – five laps before the first Safety Car – which put Leclerc on his tail for the impending restart and led to a coming together on lap 65.
He unpacked the events tersely: “I didn’t have much space on the right and I obviously had a better run out of Turn 2, and tried to pass in Turn 3, that was it.
“It’s a shame for the team, obviously, we didn’t finish the race. That has priority.”
There’s no doubt that there will be an important debrief for Ferrari before the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - but Binotto said it would happen when emotions had subsided.
“We feel, I feel, sorry for the team," he explained. "I think the drivers need to feel sorry for the team because at the end they were free to fight – I think our second position in the constructors’ was given – and they were battling for their own position in the drivers’ championship.
Drivers' standings after Brazil
|3 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing
|4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari
|5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
“I think anyway when [two drivers crash], I think at the end that both of them have got at least a small or part percentage of responsibility. But I don’t want to judge now and tell my own opinion on the crash… in the heat [of the moment].
“There will be time to judge. We will do that together,” he said.
Ferrari’s pain was Pierre Gasly and Max Verstappen's gain, however. The Toro Rosso driver took his first F1 career podium and Verstappen has the advantage in the fight for third in the standings.