Verstappen slams stewards and 'irresponsible' Leclerc

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Leclerc collides with Verstappen at first corner (1:19)

Charles Leclerc ended Max Verstappen's Japanese Grand Prix at the first corner. (1:19)

Max Verstappen gave a damning verdict of the Japanese Grand Prix stewards after his retirement -- "I really don't understand what's going on today with the rules.".

Verstappen was knocked out of contention for a strong result on the exit of Turn 1, when Charles Leclerc drifted into his car. That pitched Verstappen into a spin and left him with car damage which ultimately led to his retirement mid-way through the race.

The incident was not initially investigated, which prompted a censored radio message from Verstappen, before the stewards decided to look into it after the race. After the race, Leclerc was handed a five-second penalty for the incident. That and another penalty of 10 seconds for Ferrari's refusal to pit him when he had a damaged car, relegated him from sixth to seventh.

Leclerc blamed a lack of downforce from running too close behind teammate Sebastian Vettel.

"I understeered being behind Seb and Lewis and then we touched," he said. "I don't know what happened and I haven't seen the full situation from the outside and this I need to look at. But from the car it was just a tricky situation."

Verstappen said that was not a valid excuse for what happened and said Leclerc should be penalised.

"I felt like I was in third and then suddenly at Turn 2 Charles just drove into the side of my car," Verstappen said after his DNF. "From my side I don't think I could have done anything different there.

"We all know that you lose downforce behind other cars, so that is not an excuse and I think he is experienced enough to know that. The weird thing for me is that initially they don't even investigate it, and my whole car is destroyed. There are just holes in the side of the car. Then they started to investigate it but now it's after the race. I mean, what more should he do to get a penalty?

"I like hard racing but I don't think this was hard racing, this was just irresponsible driving into Turn 2. They had a bad start so for sure he was just trying to recover places but there's only as much as you can do and it's still a very long race. It's a shame that it happened."

Leclerc wasn't the only driver to avoid an in-race penalty, with Sebastian Vettel escaping punishment for moving his car before the lights went out at the start. Verstappen said that just added to his confusion.

"Just watching the footage back from Seb's start, he moves and then he stops, the rules say you cannot move, and that's fine because he didn't gain an advantage they said. So, I really don't understand what's going on today with the rules."

On Vettel's penalty, the official verdict read: "The Stewards reviewed video evidence and the jump-start report based on the information from the FIA approved and supplied transponder fitted to each car.

"Whilst the video shows some movement that movement was within the acceptable tolerance of the F1 jump start system which formerly defines a jump start per Article 36.13(a) of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations."