Charles Leclerc admits he feels “lucky” to have walked away unscathed from a spectacular first-corner incident at the Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix.

In what was a dramatic start to the race, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg ploughed into the back of Fernando Alonso under braking at La Source, pitching the Spaniard’s McLaren over the top of Leclerc.

Alonso’s MCL33 struck the Halo on Leclerc’s Sauber, leaving black marks clearly visible across the cockpit protection device. All three drivers emerged unhurt from the incident, with Leclerc left feeling thankful for the role Halo played.

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“I don’t know how it will have ended up without it but looking at it I’m happy it was there. I’ve been lucky on this one. Looking at the halo it’s not looking good,” Leclerc explained.

“I felt the impact but the impact was not that big. The image was quite spectacular but it was not that big in the car. I’m not angry or anything just a shame for us that we had the car to stay on the road.”

The Monegasque said he had no prior warning before the impact as he could not see the incident unfolding behind him in his mirrors.

“It went all very quick so obviously in the moment you don’t really realise what’s happening,” he said.

“I’m always checking the mirrors unconsciously and at this point I was already in the corner so I couldn’t see much in the mirrors.

“He was also quite high at that point and couldn’t see him so was quite sudden. I didn’t see anything coming.

“Obviously I knew it was an orange car, I knew Fernando was behind me so guessed it was Fernando passing over me,” he added.

“At first I thought it was, not a mistake, but just Fernando that went into me but looking back at the images I saw it was Nico that hit Fernando.”

Leclerc revealed he received a number of phone calls from his mother in the direct aftermath of the incident, and asked his physio to send her a picture to let her know he was fine.

“My Mum called me a lot of times. Everyone was quite worried but in the car it was not so big and these cars are now so safe it was fine,” he said.

“My physio sent a picture to my Mum so she knew I was fine. She was a bit more calm when I was on the phone, like any mother I guess.”

Leclerc joined Alonso and Hulkenberg on the sidelines having suffered significant damage to the rear of his C37.

“It’s just a shame for us to end the race like this at the first corner, I really think the potential was there, race pace looked strong, the pace in general was very strong in the whole weekend,” he said.

“Yesterday we couldn’t really how it in Q2 because of the brake problem but I think we have been very strong so it’s a shame not to really show our real performance.”

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