Mercedes F1 Team Principal and CEO Toto Wolff recently praised Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc for his “sportsmanlike behavior” at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Their respective teams headed to the race with only a four-point deficit between them in the Constructors and the venue proved to be the deciding factor of which group will emerge as runner-up in the rankings.
The last moments of the Yas Marina race saw Charles Leclerc allow Red Bull’s Sergio Perez to overtake him, knowing the latter was carrying a five-second penalty and doing so would let him use DRS to gun for the finish with enough time gap between George Russell. This would still make the Monegasque finish second and the Mexican keep third place while driving down their British competitor to fourth.
Toto Wolff believes that the Ferrari driver could have strategically slowed his pace to derail Mercedes F1 from clinching the P2 of the Constructors, but he didn’t. This earned Leclerc the praise of the Mercedes chief for his sportsmanlike conduct.
“I think at the end, it was a great end, fight for P2,” Wolff commented in an interview with F1. “I think George’s driving was exceptional. I also think Charles at the end was sportsmanlike behavior, not trying to slow down [Russell]. Two great teams, two great brands that fought to the end.”
After the smoke cleared, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen dominated his rivals with over a 17-second lead to Leclerc. Meanwhile, Russell was able to gain enough momentum to cap the gap left by the time penalty of Perez, which ultimately led to his podium finish.
With Lewis Hamilton’s ninth place and the misfortune of Carlos Sainz, Mercedes F1 scored enough to bag the P2 in the Constructors by three points narrowly.