Esteban Guerrieri laid the blame for exit in the second FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) race at Suzuka firmly at Mehdi Bennani’s door, after the two made contact on the opening lap and caused Guerrieri to crash into the tyres.
Guerrieri passed Bennani’s Volkswagen on the outside line at Turn 3 on the first lap, giving the Münnich Motorsport driver the inside line for Turn 4.
But Bennani made contact with the Honda, pitching Guerrieri off into the barriers on the exit of the circuit and out of the race.
The Argentine clearly put the blame with the Moroccan racer afterwards.
“The incident is quite clear,” said Guerrieri. “I had a very good run out of Turn 2 and Bennani was battling for position with [Gabriele] Tarquini. He lost that position and got a bad exit out of Turn 2, and I got a good one so go around the outside where there is a kink to the left at Turn 3 and then a proper corner to the right at Turn 4.
“I went around the outside at Turn 3, gaining a position already, and when I am three-quarters of a car [length] ahead, going to turn for Turn 4, apparently he didn’t even see me.
“That’s even more worrying, because we are racing and we have people around. If you cannot see your competitors, then that’s quite something to be worrying about!
“He turned to the right and I was there, so he just hit me on my rear left tyre and he put me straight into the tyre barriers.
“In the end it’s partly my fault not to understand with who I am racing against, and maybe I should not do these kinds of things. This is racing but sometimes you cannot race with some people. I don’t understand his point of view.”
Bennani believes that Guerrieri did not show enough respect through the first few corners, and that he had the right to stay on line in a sequence of corners where he claims there is only one line to take.
“My goal is not to win the race in the first corner,” said Bennani. “When Guerrieri came [to speak after the race] this is one of the first things I said to him, because everybody needs to respect the others.
“We are not driving like crazy to win everything on the first corner, and this is exactly what happened. I kept my line, and in this place you can only go with one car on the line because the outside is dirty and I was taking the line behind Tarquini.
“I was taking my corner and then I heard [the contact]. Afterwards I spoke with the others and asked who came through like this? They told me it was Guerrieri.
“We have to all respect each other in the first two corners after the start because we don’t want to crash and to put the car on the side.
“When something like this happens it’s not nice. I try to do everything to respect everybody at the start.”