Verstappen and Leclerc were forced to start from the back of the grid after taking fresh power units for this weekend.
As Leclerc battled with former teammate Sebastian Vettel, Verstappen got a run on the Ferrari driver out of Turn 5.
With Leclerc unaware Verstappen was attempting an overtake, he nearly squeezed him into the wall on the approach to Turn 6, forcing the Red Bull driver to back out.
Reflecting on the incident, Verstappen said: “Yeah, Charles was fighting Seb in front and they were basically side-by-side from Turn 2 to Turn 7. I was still a bit behind but then of course because they were fighting.
“I had a good run out of [Turn] Five and Charles went for the move but went a bit deep, so then, of course, Seb overtook him again, but then I think he didn’t realise I was that close, and he just threw the car to the right and I had to avoid him and he almost took my front wing off. At the end of the day, it all worked out but it was quite a few hectic corners, to also see them battling.”
Before his timely switch to the intermediates, Verstappen was on course to finish seventh having spent most of the second phase of the race stuck in a DRS train.
A more competitive midfield and tyre wear being worse than predicted were the reasons why Verstappen felt he couldn’t make as much progress as he’d have liked before the wet weather.
“It definitely felt very good crossing the line, you know, we all know how hard it is to pass and especially with the midfield being so competitive this year, it is really hard to get by and also that was shown again today,” Verstappen added. I of course got by quite a few but then, yeah, at one point you just get stuck. Today also was very hard on the tyres.
“I think they were just graining and opening up very quickly, so then you just lose a lot of grip and it makes you stuck even more and you just can’t really attack anymore. We just stayed calm, stayed focused, just tried to follow them and basically yeah, when the rain came, I think at the end of the day we made the right call and the right lap to box – because the lap before probably if we would have boxed, I would have destroyed the Inters in that one or two laps because of it still being a bit too dry for two-thirds of the track.
“So yeah, to basically go from seventh to second for us was, of course, today an amazing result.”
After Lewis Hamilton’s 100th grand prix victory, Verstappen trails him by just two points in the drivers’ championship.