Charles Leclerc has brushed off any suggestion he crashed deliberately at the end of qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix.
Leclerc’s collision with the wall prematurely ended the session Saturday when he had set the quickest time. It gave Ferrari its first pole position since Leclerc’s at the 2019 Mexican Grand Prix.
Leclerc, who grew up in Monte Carlo, made a mistake on the exit of the Swimming Pool chicane, leading to a crash into the wall. Max Verstappen was also on a timed lap he felt would have been good enough for pole, but red flags meant he had to abort the lap.
Leclerc and Ferrari now face an agonising wait to see if any damage sustained to the car will result in a grid penalty.
On the topic of his crash, he said: “Surely if I was doing it on purpose I would make sure to hit the wall a bit less hard.
“That wasn’t on purpose, obviously. I was pushing the limit. For now I’m just worried about the rear of the car. Hope it is OK. It doesn’t look OK, but let’s wait and see.”
Verstappen was quick to point out that Leclerc’s mistake occurred at a part of the circuit where he himself has crashed twice in the past.
When asked if there should be a rule to punish someone crashing when on pole, Verstappen said: “Well, I think there’s a difference when a guy makes a mistake and hits the wall or does it intentionally.
“I think if Charles would have just parked with a broken front wing, it’s a different story. But, of course, he just clipped the wall initially and then ended up where I’ve ended up twice!
“So it’s just unfortunate. Of course, I’m disappointed not to have a shot at pole, but that’s life. Sometimes we can’t do it and it’s fine.
“I don’t think his lap should be deleted in the future if they want to make a rule change. I don’t think that would be fair, because we’re all trying so hard and it’s not so easy around here, especially on the limit.
“It’s easy to make a mistake.”
The crash will leave Leclerc’s pole position in doubt for the next few hours. If it has damaged his gearbox, it would require a change, which comes with a five-place grid penalty.
Leclerc said that doubt means he cannot think about starting his home race from the front of the grid just yet.
“I have mixed feelings because with the crash I don’t know where I’m starting tomorrow yet; depends on the damage on the car.
“I hope the car is not damaged enough that we won’t be starting from the back.
“If it is not the case, I’m incredibly happy with what happened before the crash. It wasn’t a great lap, the last one, and I tried to do more in the last sector, but there was too much to recover and I did too much, touched the wall in the inside and went straight to the wall.
“It was very difficult for me to manage the whole session. I was very emotional after Q2, obviously, because I’ve seen that there was actually an opportunity to do pole here, calmed myself down, did a great lap Q3 run one, then what happened, happened.”