Max Verstappen had a misfortunate weekend in Japan. After a good start, when the Red Bull talent was able to pass Lewis Hamilton, Verstappen collided with Leclerc in turn 2, who ran wide damaging the RB15. Max was forced, then, to an early retirement on turn 15.
Despite the contact, the stewards considered initially the incidence as a race collision, before reopening the case after the race and demoting Leclerc to P7 for clash and late pit stop.
Asked about the dynamics of the accident, Verstappen was furious with the decision, claiming that Leclerc should have been penalized immediately. Verstappen claimed that Leclerc’s conduct was unacceptable as the Ferrari’s driver clearly pushed him off track.
"At Turn 2, Charles just drove into the side of my car," said Verstappen.
"From my side I don't think I could have done anything different there.
"We all know that you lose downforce behind a car so that is not an excuse, he's experienced enough to know that.
"For me, the weird thing is that initially they don't investigate it - the whole car was destroyed, there were just holes in the side of the car.
"I like hard racing but this wasn't hard racing, just irresponsible driving.
"They had a bad start so he was trying to recover but there's only so much you can do in a very long race. It's a shame that it happened."
Ultimately, the stewards deemed Leclerc responsible for the accident, pointing out how Leclerc did not leave space to Verstappen, as communicated after the race.
“Car 33 [Verstappen], which was marginally in front, stayed wide and allowed sufficient room to the inside but car 16 lost front grip in the wake of the car in front and abruptly understeered towards the outside of the track, contacting car 33 and forcing it off the track,” said the stewards in a statement.
“While the loss of front grip on car 16 [Leclerc] caused the contact and was not intentional, that loss of grip in close proximity to the car in front should have been anticipated and allowed for by car 16.”