Leclerc was skittled out in ‘nice bowling game’

Date published: August 1 2021 - Jon Wilde

Lando Norris. McLaren, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, after 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix melee

Charles Leclerc described the melee at the first corner of the Hungarian Grand Prix as “a nice bowling game” – but it left him understandably furious.

Valtteri Bottas was the instigator of the mayhem on a greasy Hungaroring dampened by a rain shower when he ran into the back of Lando Norris, ending their races and that of Sergio Perez who also got caught up in the chaos.

In trying to avoid that incident, Lance Stroll dived to the inside but got on the grass, lost control of his Aston Martin and ran into Leclerc’s Ferrari, putting a total of five cars out of the race on lap one.

Leclerc said he had been minding his own business, knowing conditions were difficult, when his chances of a strong result in the last race before the summer break were ended through no fault of his own.

“It was a nice bowling game,” the visibly angry Monegasque driver told Sky Italia. “On such a Sunday before the holidays it’s sh*t, I don’t know how it is possible.

“Honestly he [Stroll] was five, six, positions behind. I tried to be as cautious as possible for that first lap as I knew it was an opportunity for us this weekend. And here we are, after one corner back in the pits. It’s life, it’s a shame.

“I don’t want to judge too quick but obviously it looked like a big mistake from me because I couldn’t even see Lance in my mirrors, but it’s like this.”

Show your support for Charles Leclerc with his official merchandise collection on the Formula 1 store

Stroll received a five-place grid penalty for the next race, the Belgian Grand Prix, for causing the collision, the same punishment as Bottas.

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto, meanwhile, added: “For me, that is a manoeuvre that for a professional racing driver doesn’t make sense – period.”

Whereas Leclerc had a race to forget, his team-mate Carlos Sainz was among the beneficiaries of the early carnage after a crash in qualifying the previous day, improving 11 places on his grid slot to finish an excellent fourth which could eventually become P3 if Sebastian Vettel’s disqualification is upheld following an official appeal from Aston Martin.

The Spaniard ran third behind shock winner Esteban Ocon and Vettel for much of the way but was ultimately denied a podium finish at the time by a fast-charging Lewis Hamilton.

“I thought it was on the cards,” said Sainz. “I tried my best but had to fuel-save a lot in the last 10 laps.

“Still some frustrations because I think this weekend is a clear example that we are still not putting a weekend together because of my crash yesterday, but overall the pace in the car is great.”