Charles Leclerc addressed fans booing him after the Mexico City Grand Prix, stating he had nowhere to go in the collision that ended Sergio Perez’s race.
Perez had made an excellent start and tried to overtake both Leclerc and Max Verstappen around the outside into Turn 1. As Perez turned in on the Ferrari, Leclerc had Verstappen on his inside and was sandwiched. The contact saw Perez sustain significant right rear damage and retire, leading to a hostile reaction towards third-placed Leclerc after the checkered flag.
“A lot of booing, a lot of booing,” Leclerc said. “Guys, I mean honestly, I had nowhere to go. I was…in between the two Red Bulls. Unfortunately I touched Checo, but I had nowhere to go. It’s life; it damaged my car and unfortunately it ended the race of Checo, but on our end we maximized our race. I’m disappointed to end the race of Checo like that, but I really didn’t do it on purpose and I had nowhere to go.”
With Perez himself describing it as a racing incident after he tried to pull off a high-risk move, Leclerc agreed that it was just the combination of three cars into one corner.
“I think exactly the same,” the Ferrari driver said. “I had nowhere to go. I tried to stay on the right as much as possible, as close as I could to Max, but unfortunately there was no space anymore for me to be any further to the right. I think Checo was probably not aware that I had Max on my right and started to turn in, and when I saw that I knew that we would collide at one point, which we did. After that I was extremely surprised that I could finish the race anyway.”
Leclerc ran second for a long spell but was overtaken by Lewis Hamilton after the red flag period caused by Kevin Magnussen’s crash, and says he thought his race was over after rate initial contact.
“Well we broke part of the front wing into Turn 1, and then on the radio I think they told me that we were lacking 10 or 15 points [of downforce], but to be honest I managed to drive around it and it didn’t feel too bad, so that was positive,” Leclerc said. “It’s not ideal to lose so many downforce points into Turn 1, but…we managed to do a good race from that moment onwards. It compromised our race a little bit.
“I’m pretty sure the car was better with a full front wing than before when we had half. Other than that, I don’t know if the car is completely fine. We’ll have to check it tonight because when I saw Checo with his rear wheel touching my front wheel I was like, ‘OK, that’s done for me,’ but I did two or three corners and it didn’t feel too bad — obviously not great, but not too bad — and I could finish the race. After the red flag we could fix the front wing, but it might be that we also find some other small things that weren’t in the right place.”
Although the podium was unexpected, Leclerc says it’s frustrating to have so many pole positions that are yet to be converted into a victory this season after his fourth such result.
“Very pleased is not the word because yesterday was, again, a really good day, a really good Saturday, really good pace in qualifying, but then we don’t quite have the car to win races on a Sunday,” he said. “That’s where we are going to try and put all our effort into for next year, in order to be better for the Sunday.”