Kimi Raikkonen admits he could have given Max Verstappen more space to avoid Suzuka clash

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SUZUKA, Japan -- Kimi Raikkonen admits he probably could have avoided contact with Max Verstappen on the opening lap of the Japanese Grand Prix if he had have left the Dutchman a little more room.

Verstappen locked his brakes and ran deep at the final chicane, taking an off-track excursion that saw him tour the grass before re-joining and barreling into the side of Raikkonen. The stewards deemed Verstappen to be at fault for the incident and slapped him with a five-second time penalty, one which the Red Bull driver did not agree with.

Speaking after the race, Raikkonen said that looking back in hindsight, he could have handled the situation differently. He also stressed that Verstappen wasn't looking to make contact with him.

"In an ideal world I could have left a bit more [space]," said Raikkonen. "I tried to go outside and leave him as much room as possible. I know that sometime when you come back over the kerbs it's impossible to turn the car after you bounce over it and I don't know if that was the case.

"I don't think he purposely tried to hit anybody. If we both would be on the circuit next to each other he wouldn't squeeze me because we all know what would happen."

From that point, Raikkonen ran a relatively lonely race to finish P5, one place ahead of teammate Sebastian Vettel who endured a horror weekend, a theme that has been a regular occurrence since the midpoint of the year.

With Lewis Hamilton claiming victory and Valtteri Bottas finishing second, Mercedes extended its constructors' championship lead to a season-high 78 points and Raikkonen says it was a weekend to forget for the Scuderia.

"It was a difficult weekend overall, we need to go through things," he said. "We got things improved during the weekend, it was getting better and better but if you look purely at the result it was far from what we wanted.

"But that's how it goes sometimes. We need to tidy up those things and hopefully have a cleaner weekend next time around."