Sergio Perez collided with Charles Leclerc at the start of the Mexican GP (Photo: Getty)
There was huge drama at the start of Sunday’s race when the two Red Bulls got off the line brilliantly to challenge pole-sitter Leclerc into the first corner.
But while Verstappen was able to take the lead by going up the inside of the Ferrari, Perez’s audacious move around the outside didn’t work out and as things got too close his car made contact with Leclerc’s.
The collision launched the home favourite into the air and while he was able to get back to the pits, his RB19 was damaged beyond repair and, much to the crowd’s dismay, he was forced to retire.
The stewards deemed the crash to just be a racing incident, though that didn’t stop fans from jeering Leclerc as he celebrated finishing third behind Verstappen and Sir Lewis Hamilton.
Addressing the fans post-race, the Monegasque driver said: ‘A lot of booing, a lot of booing, guys. I mean, honestly, I had nowhere to go. I was a bit in between the two Red Bulls and unfortunately I touched Checo [Perez], 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 maximised our race. So it’s life. Of course 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.’
Perez later defended his fellow racer, posting on social media: ‘I just want to say thank you to everyone from the bottom of my heart. You are the best fans in the world.
‘Today, I left everything on the track, saw the space, and took a chance. It wasn’t Charles’ fault; it was just a racing incident.’
The under pressure 33-year-old also told DAZN: ‘I had a very good start and I was only thinking of winning the race. I didn’t want to be on the podium. I’ve been on the podium two years in a row.
‘I saw the opportunity and I went for it. In hindsight, I took a risk, but if I had pulled it off I would have come out of Turn 1 in the lead.’
But when asked about the incident, Verstappen said that his teammate shouldn’t have taken such a risk, and suggested he shared more of the blame for the crash.
‘I mean, I understand because it’s his home Grand Prix. You want to be on the podium, I fully understand that,’ the three-time F1 champion said.
‘He went around the outside, and he tried. Looking at the footage, I think he could have left a little bit more space, but at the other end if it would have worked, you know, you look amazing.
‘And of course, I think it’s just more like that excitement of wanting to be on the podium and this time it didn’t work out, unfortunately.
‘At the time, I didn’t really see a lot. At one point, I just saw that a car was a bit flying in the air, but then I saw the footage after the race and then you can comment on it. But while driving it’s a bit hard because I was mainly focusing on Charles, because I couldn’t see what was happening on the outside.’
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The Red Bull driver crashed out of his home race at the first corner.