Damage à trois! French drivers blame each other for first-lap crash

Damage à trois! French drivers blame each other for first-lap crash

Le Castellet (France) (AFP) – Three French drivers started Sunday’s revived French Grand Prix full of dreams — but they soon turned to nightmares as they accused each other for a bizarre self-inflicted first lap crash.

Pierre Gasly of Toro Rosso blamed compatriot Esteban Ocon of Force India for their collision. 

Ocon disagreed and, instead, blamed Romain Grosjean of Haas.

The first two were forced to retire by the incident at Turn Three of the opening lap, but Grosjean –- the instigator of the carnage, according to the race stewards –- escaped lightly and went on to finish the race.

Alas, for him, he came home 11th and extended his unwanted record as the only driver in the paddock not to have scored a point in 2018. 

He was also given a five seconds penalty for his first lap misdemeanor.

Worse still, perhaps, for all of them, Monegasque Charles Leclerc took a point again for the unfancied Sauber team by finishing 10th.

Ocon declared himself to be “very disappointed” by it all.

“I was alongside Romain for half of the straight and already I was on the edge of the track, one wheel outside the white line,” he explained. “He had nobody on his side on the right and, suddenly, he turned into me.

“It was a massive hit, which launched me on the kerb and damaged by side. I kept going, but then, in Turn Three, Pierre finished the job.

“And it has been so long for me that I have wanted to race here. To finish, after three corners, it’s just silly.”

Gasly said Ocon was the culprit. 

“I was behind Esteban and I saw he had damage on the car.

“Then in Turn Three, I went on the inside and I thought he had seen me and would leave me space, but he just took the corner like there was nobody there — it was impossible to avoid the contact.

“I’m sure he didn’t do it on purpose, but it’s a very difficult moment now. To have a collision between two French drivers at the comeback of the French GP…”

The stewards launched an investigation, which was resolved during the race.

Grosjean was blamed and handed a five seconds penalty.

“For what?” he said. “It’s a joke.”

For the French fans, there was something to cheer -– the two Renault cars, driven by a Spaniard and a German, finished in the points.