Toto Wolff commended Charles Leclerc for displaying commendable sportsmanship during his late-race battle with George Russell. Despite finishing second, Leclerc’s strategic moves were not enough to overtake his Mercedes rival, securing a vital result for the Silver Arrows in the constructors’ championship.
“At the end, he could have pulled the handbrake on in the last sector, and he didn’t. I think that shows the character of a driver,” remarked Wolff, acknowledging Leclerc’s calculated approach in the tense moments of the race.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix carried significant weight in the constructors’ championship, with only four points separating Mercedes and Ferrari at the race’s commencement. With Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz out of contention for major points, the responsibility fell on Russell to ensure that Leclerc didn’t surpass him by more than one position.
Russell skillfully clung to the Ferrari’s gearbox, thwarting Leclerc’s attempts to secure a higher position. Wolff revealed the team’s strategy: “Let’s extract the quickest race for George, bearing in mind you need to manage the surfaces. If not, you’re falling off a cliff.”
One last desperate move by Leclerc involved using Sergio Perez, attempting to slow Russell down and capitalize on Perez’s five-second time penalty. Wolff acknowledged the strategic gamble, stating, “His clever thinking did not pay off, but, out of other options, it was worth a try.”
Ferrari team boss Frederic Vasseur addressed the notion that Leclerc was “too fair” in his racing approach. Vasseur dismissed the idea, stating, “I’m not a big fan of this, and we did our best in a fair way when we let Perez go to give him the DRS to help as much as possible.”