Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff praised Charles Leclerc after Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as the Monegasque kept the fight for second in the Constructors’ Championship clean.
The battle for P2 between Mercedes and Ferrari was the main spectacle in the season finale, as just four points separated the two teams ahead of the event at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Both teams had to rely on just one driver, as Lewis Hamilton qualified 11th whilst Carlos Sainz started 16th.
As for Leclerc and Russell, they started second and fourth.
Leclerc and Russell jostled for position during the race, once they’d settled into second and third.
With Hamilton having progressed into ninth, Mercedes were doing just enough to beat Ferrari to P2.
This was something Leclerc was very aware of, as he constantly asked the Maranello-based outfit for updates during the race.
In the closing laps, Sergio Perez became Ferrari’s lifeline, as the Red Bull driver got ahead of Russell.
Leclerc opted to let Perez overtake him as well to give the Mexican driver clean air, as Checo had a five-second time penalty for colliding with Lando Norris.
Ferrari’s only hope was for Russell to slip beyond five seconds behind Perez, something which, unfortunately, didn’t happen.
Perez was demoted to fourth behind Leclerc and Russell after the race, as both drivers remained within five seconds of him.
Wolff was quick to praise Leclerc for not using dirty tactics, as the 26-year-old could’ve very easily slowed Russell down enough in the final sector to drop him five seconds behind Perez.
Leclerc not doing this showed Wolff the type of person he is, something he was pleased to see.
“Perez, for quite some time, wasn’t really on the radar,” Wolff told reporters, as per The Mirror.
“We knew that they probably couldn’t hang out the one-stop when he was ahead and then kick him out 10 or 11 seconds behind us.
“At that moment, we only concentrated on ourselves. We said, ‘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.
“We knew that we had to be within five seconds of Perez but Leclerc was so far ahead that we didn’t think he could manage these gaps in order to maybe keep us behind.
“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.”