Charles Leclerc said he knew Sergio Perez would crash into him as soon as the Red Bull was alongside him and turning into the first corner of the 2023 Mexico City Grand Prix, with Max Verstappen on the other side of the Ferrari.
The collision sparked violence in the stands between Red Bull and Ferrari fans but Leclerc agreed with both Perez and Verstappen that it was a racing incident, and he went on to take third-place at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
That means it’s now 11 successive pole positions that Leclerc‘s failed to turn into a win, but he was able to see the positives post-race after it looked like he might not even finish the grand prix at one stage.
“I had nowhere to go,” Leclerc told the media. “I tried to stay on the right as much as possible, as close as I could to Max, but unfortunately there was no space any more for me to be any more 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 will collide, which we did. And after that, I was extremely surprised that I could finish the race anyway.”
Perez stayed in his RB19 even after entering the pit garage as Red Bull mechanics tried desperately to patch up the gash in his sidepod, but after three laps he was forced to give up the ghost.
It was always an optimistic move from the Mexican but with the chance to lead his home race, Perez said he had no regrets.
Leclerc: Collision cost 10-15 downforce points
Despite the damage, Leclerc was actually quicker than teammate Carlos Sainz in the first stint and was handed a further lifeline when Kevin Magnussen brought out the red flags halfway through the race for a heavy shunt at turn 10.
That meant Leclerc could change his front-wing in the stoppage and restart on the hards, but Ferrari were out-thought by Mercedes who put both drivers on medium tyres.
That allowed Hamilton to fly past Leclerc within a few laps of the second lights out, and he handled his softer rubber expertly with the gap always extending lap-on-lap right up to the chequered flag.
“We broke part of the front wing into turn one and on the radio, they told me that we were lacking I think 10 or 15 points,” Leclerc added. “But to be honest, I managed to drive around it and it didn’t feel too bad.
“So that was positive. Of course it’s never ideal to lose so many downforce points into turn one but it’s like this and then we managed to do a good race from that moment onwards. But of it compromised our race a little bit.”