Charles Leclerc was subjected to boos by Sergio Perez’s disgruntled fans following his first-corner collision with the home favourite in Mexico.
Perez’s afternoon in front of his partisan supporters at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez was over after 14 seconds when he drove into Leclerc at the opening bend.
Perez was forced to retire with damage sustained in the accident, as Max Verstappen claimed his 16th win – a new record for a driver in a single season – with Lewis Hamilton second and Leclerc third.
But as Leclerc was interviewed by Jenson Button in the Foro Sol stadium – which holds 30,000 people – in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s 71-lap race, the Ferrari driver was targeted by the locals.
"I really didn't do it on purpose and I had nowhere to go" 😩
Charles Leclerc reflects on his day in Mexico City and explains his lap 1 contact with Sergio Perez 👇 pic.twitter.com/WQ3u8TCeQy
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) October 29, 2023
“A lot of booing,” said Leclerc as he addressed the angry crowd. “Guys I had nowhere to go. I was a bit in between the Red Bulls and unfortunately I touched Sergio.
“It’s life. I damaged my car and unfortunately it ended the race of Sergio. Of course, I’m disappointed to end the race of Sergio like that but I really didn’t do it on purpose and I had nowhere to go.”
A record crowd of more than 400,000 spectators passed through the gates this weekend – with 130,000 here on race day – hoping to see Perez triumph or at least finish on the podium.
However, the 33-year-old, who hasn’t won a race since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on April 30 and now faces further questions over his future at Red Bull, stood by his banzai move.
The records keep tumbling for @Max33Verstappen
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 29, 2023
“To be honest, I feel I would have let the fans down more if I didn’t go for it,” said Perez.
“I saw the gap, I went for it. I decided to take a risk, I knew it was going to be very risky, and I ended up paying the price.
“I’ve had some really sad moments in my career, but this is up there, and as a race, the saddest one, because of the end result.
“But at the end of the day, this is just racing. I go home very sad, but I also go very proud of my team and of myself. We gave it our all. I knew that today a podium was not enough for me. I really wanted to go further.”