‘What did he expect?’ – Verstappen says 'reckless' Leclerc has to accept blame over first-lap crash in Sakhir
With Lewis Hamilton out of the picture and with Max Verstappen having run the Mercedes very close in qualifying, the Dutchman might have fancied his chances of winning the Sakhir Grand Prix. As it was the Red Bull driver only lasted a few corners – and he was clear who was to blame: Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc…
Having held third place off the line, Verstappen then found himself under attack approaching Turn 4 as Sergio Perez’s Racing Point went around the outside and Leclerc charged up the inside – the two drivers then coming together at the apex.
The Dutchman swerved left to take avoiding action, but then ended up in the gravel and was powerless to prevent his Red Bull from sliding into the tyre barrier, as Leclerc hit the wall beside him. Both of them were instantly out of the race, as Perez dived back into the pits for a new set of tyres.
A furious Verstappen kicked the tyre barriers in anger as he climbed out of his car, and was clearly still irked when he spoke to the media, saying the whole thing started when he had to get off the throttle following polesitter Valtteri Bottas around Turn 2.
“I think actually the start wasn’t bad but of course Valtteri [Bottas] squeezed which is normal, so I had to back out, and basically from there onwards it was all about surviving in between the cars,” he said.
“I don’t know why they were being so aggressive and so reckless. We were all up in the front and at the end of the day now three cars were the victim of that, two cars of course heavily.
“I don’t really know why, especially Charles, in Turn 4, why he dives into the inside of that. Especially brake that late as well. What do you expect? Checo [Perez] cannot see what is happening in the inside and he basically locks a wheel and understeered into him. And because of that when Checo was spinning backwards I tried to go round the outside, I tried not to damage my car. But there’s nothing you can do there…”
Verstappen was quick to say that Leclerc should take the blame, and the Monegasque driver agreed the lion’s share was on him.
“I was side by side a bit behind Max and tried to overtake him into turn 4,” said the Ferrari man. “I had seen Checo but I expected him to go round the outside of Valtteri and stay there - but I think he decided to come back into the inside and I was there and then 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 but I would say it’s more unfortunate than a blame.”
The incident is set to be investigated by the stewards after the race, but Verstappen – who’d been hoping to challenge Bottas for second in the drivers’ standings – said that it was largely irrelevant what they decided.
“I mean at the end of the day it doesn’t matter anymore does it. We’re out of the race, they can give him any penalty they want. It’s not going to change especially my race. it’s just unfortunate.”