Bottas suffered a damaged front right endplate after Leclerc’s Ferrari clipped him as the Monegasque went past on the run up to Turn 4.
The Mercedes driver kept going for a few laps but he was forced to pit at the end of lap 5 for a new front wing, which dropped him to the rear of the field.
“I was on the outside of [Max] Verstappen, so I tried to brake late, tried to go for the outside,” said the Finn, who would recover to finish eighth.
“He braked late as well, so I had a bit of a lock-up, so that caused a bit of a flat spot, so going into Turn 2 I had some understeer because of that.
“But it was all OK. LeWIS [Hamilton] was also on the outside, but there was still room for two of us, maybe left a bit too much because he could carry good speed into Turn 3.
“We were side-by-side, for sure he didn’t leave any room for me, so that compromised my exit out of Turn 3, I had to lift. Then on the way to Turn 4 Charles came on the right hand side and suddenly swept across, and took my front wing.
“So that was it really, it compromised the race, and losing big chunks of time in the beginning, then stopped early, going through traffic all through the race, that was really the story.”
Bottas admitted that initially he thought he might have been at fault, but he changed his mind upon reviewing replays after the race.
“At the time when it happened I thought I was just focussed on something else, and maybe didn’t see him, but it happened pretty quick. But then when I saw the onboard, and when I saw Vettel’s onboard, it was clear that I was just going straight ahead, he was on the right, and he would have been anyways ahead of me before Turn 4 going straight.
“But then suddenly he swept across and for me it was too late to react. I love hard racing, that’s for sure, but that was completely unnecessary, and for sure compromised my race. He was lucky enough not to get a puncture. That’s not how it should be.”
Leclerc, who would end up taking fourth place in the event, insisted that he wasn’t really aware of the contact.
“I don’t really know to be honest,” said the Monegasque driver. “I felt a small touch but I don’t really know what happened. I have no idea, I haven’t seen it.”