Ferrari teammates Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc collided on the opening lap of the Styrian Grand Prix, forcing both out of the race.
Ferrari has endured a tough weekend so far in Austria, hosting its second F1 race in two weeks, and it unraveled even further in the opening moments of the race. Leclerc tried an optimistic move on the inside of Turn 3, at the top of the hill, and ended up sliding into Vettel’s car.
After the contact, Vettel opened his radio channel to say: “I don’t know what that was. I was taking it easy into turn three and then someone went completely up the inside.”
The impact left Vettel with a smashed rear wing, while Leclerc also needed to pit for a replacement front wing. The scattered debris briefly prompted a Safety Car to be deployed.
A few laps later, Leclerc pitted to retire his damaged car.
Speaking to TV reports afterwards, Vettel said: “I was very surprised. I had the inside and wasn’t expecting Charles to try something. I was taking it easy as it was busy all around us.”
The pair were shown talking to each other before their respective interviews. Leclerc took full responsibility for what happened.
“I apologised,” Leclerc said. “Excuses are not enough in a time like this.
“I did a very bad job today, I let the team down. I can only be sorry even though I let the team down. The team don’t need that and I put all the hopes of the team in the bin. I’m very sorry, but it’s not enough, again.”
It is not the first time the two have collided. They did so at last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix — on that occasion, Vettel was forced to retire from the race on the spot.
Earlier this year Ferrari opted against renewing Vettel’s current deal, which expires at the end of the season. Leclerc is seen as the future of the team having been extended to 2025.
This weekend the Italian team had hoped to analyse the car upgrades it fast-tracked for introduction this weekend, having originally planned to run them at next weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
More to follow…