Charles Leclerc and George Russell engaged in a hilarious bit of banter over the Mercedes Safety Car in the aftermath of the Australian Grand Prix.
The Safety Car was deployed twice during Sunday’s race as a result of crashes for Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and then Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, with Bernd Maylander continuing his impressive 22-year career as driver of the Mercedes and Aston Martin caution vehicles.
However, he was put under some pressure by Max Verstappen, who described the Aston Martin car used in Melbourne as a “Turtle,” apt due to its green livery, while Haas’ Mick Schumacher had a close call with AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda on the home straight.
It was perhaps indicative of the fact that the drivers were struggling to run at a satisfactory pace under the Safety Car.
Leclerc, however, recognised after the race that Maylander was pushing as hard as he could to maintain an adequate speed given the disparity between a road car and a Formula 1 car, and the German appreciated this.
“Of course it’s nice that Charles saw that I was absolutely at the limit. That’s all I could do,” he said.
As for Schumacher’s near-miss with Tsunoda, the stewards suggested that a discussion is needed as to etiquette under the Safety Car as the drivers weave and brake in an attempt to maintain temperatures.
“The stewards find no driver guilty of breaching the regulation, however it is clear the speed and braking capabilities of F1 cars, especially while trying to maintain required temperatures in tyres and brakes, are in tension with the 10-car-length separation behind the Safety Car traditionally specified in the regulations,” they said.
“This needs to be a point of emphasis in future driver briefings, to ensure the drivers collectively agree on how best to address this challenge before an unfortunate incident occurs.”
The 23-year-old had also narrowly missed Sainz’s car as he slid across the track following his spin on lap three, so suffice to say he had a busy Sunday afternoon.
“Right from the beginning with Carlos [Sainz] coming around and cutting back across the track, I think we got missed by a few metres there, and obviously Yuki under the Safety Car coming quite close together,” he said.
Leclerc would go on to win the race as Russell ended third, with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez sandwiched between them.
The Briton suggested that the Mercedes is significantly quicker than the Aston Martin, prompting an amusing dig from his fellow 24-year-old, given the pace advantage Ferrari have over the Silver Arrows at present.
“The Mercedes Safety Car is five seconds faster than the Aston Martin Safety Car,” Russell said in the press conference after the race.
“Let’s put a Ferrari Safety Car, then it will be five seconds faster than a Mercedes,” was Leclerc’s savage reply.
Leclerc leads Russell by 34 points in the Drivers’ Standings after three rounds of the 2022 championship.