Red Bull Formula 1 driver Max Verstappen says Charles Leclerc’s driving at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix was “irresponsible” as the pair clashed on the opening lap.

Leclerc lost ground at the start, enabling Verstappen to look to the outside on the run to the fast, right-hander at Turn 1, but the duo collided at the apex of Turn 2 as Leclerc understeered into the Dutchman.

Verstappen was forced wide and dropped down the order with car damage that ultimately forced him into an early retirement, while Leclerc also suffered front wing damage but recovered to take sixth.

Japanese GP stewards reverted their initial decision not to investigate the incident before summoning both drivers to a post-race hearing to discuss the clash further at 1700 local time.

“We had a really good start for once, so that was the positive and then I just stayed on the outside,” Verstappen explained.

“I felt like I was in third and then suddenly at Turn 2 Charles just drove into the side of my car. From my side I don’t think I could have done anything different there.

“We all know that you lose downforce behind other cars, so that is not an excuse and I think he is experienced enough to know that. “The weird thing for me is that initially they don’t even investigate it, and my whole car is destroyed. There are just holes in the side of the car.

“Then they started to investigate it but now it’s after the race - I mean, what more should he do to get a penalty?,” he added. “I like hard racing but I don’t think this was hard racing, this was just irresponsible driving into Turn 2.

“They had a bad start so for sure he was just trying to recover places but there’s only as much as you can do and it’s still a very long race. It’s a shame that it happened.”

Verstappen also took issue with the stewards decision-making regarding an investigation into an alleged jump start made by polesitter Sebastian Vettel.

“Watching the footage back from Seb’s start, he moves and then he stops, the rules say you cannot move, and that’s fine because he didn’t gain an advantage they said,” Verstappen said.

“So, I really don’t understand what’s going on today with the rules.”

Leclerc said he needed to watch replays of the incident before forming a clear judgement about who was to blame.

“I understeered being behind Seb and Lewis and then we touched,” he said.

“I don’t know what happened and I haven’t seen the full situation from the outside and this I need to look at. But from the car it was just a tricky situation.”

Asked if expects to receive a penalty, Leclerc replied: “I have no idea. As I said, I need to look [at the incident] from the outside of the car.”

 

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