Ferrari Formula 1 driver Charles Leclerc accepted complete blame for his Japanese Grand Prix clash with Max Verstappen, while the FIA has explained changing tack over investigating the incident.
Leclerc had a slow start from second on the Suzuka grid and was passed by Verstappen on the outside into Turn 1, then misjudged his speed into Turn 2 and ran wide into the Red Bull.
The clash forced Verstappen off-track and damage forced him to retire early in the race, while Leclerc eventually pitted for a new front wing and recovered to sixth before penalties for the contact and staying out too long with damage dropped him to seventh.
Leclerc said: “I had a poor start. I got a little bit distracted, I saw Seb moving a little bit [when poleman Vettel jumped forward before the lights went out] and then my reaction time was very poor.
“The start was not so bad but the reaction was very poor.
“And with Max I just did a mistake, clearly. I was on the inside and being behind Seb and Lewis I lost the front a little bit.
“Normally you need to anticipate those things and I didn’t.
“Yep, I’m the one to blame.”
Initially, the Leclerc/Verstappen clash was noted by the officials but deemed unworthy of investigation.
A few laps later, the stewards opted to overturn that original decision and then to announce – once Verstappen had retired – that it would be investigated.
FIA race director Michael Masi explained: “Some new evidence became available which they didn’t have available at the time, and they chose to effectively reopen the investigation.
“With what was available to them originally, they made a determination that there was no investigation necessary.
“Then they got some other footage which they didn’t have and were well within their rights [to reconsider because] there was a new element, and they reopened it.”
Leclerc continued with a broken front wing until the third lap, which meant his damaged car initially scattered debris towards those behind – and also damaged his left wing mirror.
Onboard footage showed Leclerc physically hold his mirror in place on the run to 130R and then taking the corner one-handed.
It eventually fell off completely, but Leclerc said there was no significant impact on his car’s performance once he had a new front wing.
“From a driving point of view I was losing the front a bit more,” he said.
“Overall I don’t think it was costing too much. Mostly because it was giving understeer.
“If it had affected the rear of the car I would have lost quite a lot more but that’s it.”