Red Bull's Verstappen unhappy as first-lap crash ruins his race in Japan

Max Verstappen clashes with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in Japan
Max Verstappen clashes with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in Japan

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen branded rival Charles Leclerc as 'irresponsible' after their first-lap crash at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday.

Ferrari's Leclerc was dealt a double time penalty following the coming together with Verstappen, who had to retire after 14 laps following the damage inflicted on his Red Bull.

Leclerc attempted to continue with a broken front wing, which shattered and struck Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes on approach to the notorious high-speed 130R corner.

The force of the impact wiped out Hamilton's wing mirror. Ferrari were hit with a £22,000 fine for allowing Leclerc to continue.

The Monegasque received a five-second penalty, and two points on his licence for the accident with Verstappen, and a further 10 seconds for racing on with a damaged car.

After taking on repairs, he crossed the line in sixth, but was demoted to seventh following the post-race investigation.

In a statement, Formula One's governing body, the FIA, said: "By not bringing Leclerc into the pits at the end of lap one when there was damage clearly visible, and then by telling the driver to remain out for an additional lap, the team created an unsafe condition which only narrowly avoided being a major incident."

Verstappen had enjoyed a strong start to Sunday's race, and, having started from fifth, was challenging for second, when Leclerc wiped him out.

The stewards initially decided to take no action against the Ferrari driver before changing their minds.

"I like hard racing but this wasn't hard racing, just irresponsible driving," said Verstappen, speaking before Leclerc's punishment.

"The weird thing is that initially they didn't investigate it. What more does he have to do to get a penalty?

"He 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."

There was better news for Verstappen's team-mate Alexander Albon, who scored the best result of his young F1 career with a battling drive to fourth place, behind winner Valtteri Bottas, runner-up Sebastian Vettel and third-placed Lewis Hamilton.

The fourth place secured in Japan is Albon's best F1 result to date, with his previous best being fifth which he achieved in Belgium and Russia.