Hulkenberg punished for provoking five-car Belgian GP crash

Nico Hulkenberg was on Sunday given a 10-place grid penalty for next weekend's Italian Grand Prix for an incident on the opening lap of the Belgian Grand Prix that sent Fernando Alonso's McLaren sailing over Charles Leclerc's car.

Hulkenberg missed his braking point and rammed the Spaniard, whose airborne car skimmed the halo-fitted cockpit of Leclerc's Sauber.

Leclerc said the tyre-smudged head-protection device had saved him from serious injury.

"The halo probably helped today - it is very unfortunate because the potential for this race was big and it was a shame to finish like that.

"Our pace was strong. I don't know if it was caused by a problem for him (Hulkenberg) or a mistake, but, for sure, it was too much."

Hulkenberg admitted his error, braking too late, had caused the crash.

"There was no problem," he said. "It was just a mistake. I am forever finding out how sensitive these cars are.

"I locked up the front wheels and then slid into Fernando. It was a misjudgement on my behalf and I was too slow on the brakes and then I hit him."

The accident created a multiple collision that also involved Daniel Ricciardo's Red Bull and Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari.

All five drivers were forced to retire from the race that was won by Sebastien Vettel.

In their report, the race stewards said: "The driver of car 27 stated that he completely misjudged the situation and freely admitted it was his mistake."

Alonso said the accident reminded him of a similarly spectacular crash in 2012 that resulted in a race ban for Romain Grosjean.

"Yet again a very big-time missed braking point - the last time Romain had a race ban," said Alonso. "This time we'll see.

"It's hard to understand how you can miss a braking point by that much. You arrive at a speed where it is impossible to negotiate the corner.

"The positive side is that we all three are OK, including Charles. I flew over his car and the halo was a very good thing to have today.

"I think for him it helped, looking at the replay. I was definitely happier that I had the halo - we don't need to prove that it's a good thing."

The stewards also put three penalty points on Hulkenberg's race licence.

The statement added: "It should be noted that since 2014 the FIA has introduced the penalty points system, which takes into account previous offences by a driver and can lead to a race suspension if 12 points are accumulated within a 12-month period. This system was not in force when an incident not dissimilar to this, occurred in 2012."