Haas’ Romain Grosjean has apologised for colliding with Sauber’s Charles Leclerc on the opening lap of Formula 1 US Grand Prix.
Grosjean lost a place to Renault’s Carlos Sainz and Leclerc halfway in the opening lap of the US GP when he made contact with Leclerc while battling with him for track position behind Racing Point Force India’s Esteban Ocon.
The Haas driver had to brake hard in the Turn 12 while driving in the dirty air of Ocon to avoid his fellow countryman as his front right then hit the rear left of Leclerc sending the Monegasque into a spin on the run-off area.
Grosjean pitted to retire while Leclerc continued on after a front wing change but he eventually retired as well on Lap 31. The stewards though deemed Grosjean responsible and handed him with a three-place grid drop for this weekend’s Mexico GP.
Importantly, the Frenchman had one point on his superlicense which takes his tally to 10 – only two shy from getting a race ban. One point from his license will be cleared on October 29 which is a day after the Mexico GP.
This means Grosjean will have to drive very cautiously in Mexico otherwise any penalty could mean a race ban for Brazilian GP. For his hit with Leclerc, the Frenchman apologised to the Monegasque straightaway.
“We were having a fight with Esteban and Charles in the back straight and I backed off early of the fight because I didn’t want to take much risk because I found myself in the dirty air in Turn 12 and couldn’t stop the car,” said Grosjean.
“I tried to avoid the contact as much as I could, Charles was trying to get a good exit and I hit him. I feel sorry for him. It is very-very frustrating for the team at our home grand prix which I thought we could have done well, so not a great afternoon.”
Leclerc understood that the hit from Grosjean wasn’t done on purpose. “I am pretty sure it wasn’t deliberate from Romain, I’ll speak with him,” he said. “We all try to be as aggressive as possible [on Lap 1] to gain places [and mistakes happen sometimes which is fine].”
The retirement of Grosjean ended up being a costly one for Haas as Kevin Magnussen’s disqualification meant the American outfit couldn’t score any points in their home event as Renault extended its lead to 106 points from Haas’ 84 in the fight for fourth.