Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 15 December 2019

Ferrari pair accused of 'driving like kids' after Brazil shunt

Leclerc and Vettel take each other out as Verstappen claims victory and Hamilton penalised

Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari loses his tyre during the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix after his collision with teammate Charles Leclerc. EPA
Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari loses his tyre during the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix after his collision with teammate Charles Leclerc. EPA

Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc were accused of behaving like kids after they took each other out of the Brazilian Grand Prix.

In the last race before the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix climax to the season, the drivers were given free reign to compete but ended up in a calamitous collision that ended their participation.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen passed Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes twice to take a brilliant victory in a gripping event. Then, Hamilton collided with Red Bull's Alexander Albon, and Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly held off the Mercedes for second place on the line. Hamilton was subsequently penalised five seconds and relegated to seventh place.

But it was the collision between the Ferrari pair, one a young charger and the other a four times world champion, who have been battling for supremacy this season, that provided a major talking point at Interlagos.

Damon Hill, the 1996 world champion, said he would give both a talking to if he were running the team.

Hill said: "I think you have to sit them both down and say, 'Listen guys, you can't just behave like kids with the team like this. You have a responsibility, both of you, to the team'."

Ferrari reminded Vettel and Leclerc of their responsibilities after the incident. Team principal Mattia Binotto said he was disappointed. "I feel sorry for the team, I think the drivers need to feel sorry for the team," he said.

With second place in the constructors' championship secure, Ferrari had told their drivers they were free to fight for their own positions, but with some stipulations.

"Free to fight, but they know that silly mistakes are something we should avoid for the team itself," said Binotto. "At the end I think both of them got a small percentage of responsibility," said the boss, who felt a podium had been missed.

"They know that silly mistakes are still silly mistakes. What happened today is a shame for the team."

Leclerc, on fresher tyres, passed Vettel for fourth place towards the end of the race but the German came back at him on the outside.

What looked like a light contact ended with both cars suffering race-ending damage, Leclerc's front right suspension breaking while Vettel suffered a rear puncture. Both retired with the safety car then deployed.

Leclerc, 22, said he had spoken to Binotto immediately after the race but not to Vettel. "I'm pretty sure we are mature enough to put that behind us," he added. "At the end we both of us feel extremely sorry for the team."

Brazil marked Verstappen’s third win this season, and moved him up to third in the driver’s championship, 11 points ahead of Leclerc with only the Abu Dhabi GP on December 1 to go.

In a race watched by more than 70,000 fans, Hamilton and Albon had fought for second place with only two laps to go, and Hamilton’s punishment gave McLaren’s Carlos Sainz third place. Sainz had started from 20th on the grid and, like Gasly, it was his first F1 podium.

Hamilton said Verstappen was “just quicker than us on the straights” and “there was nothing more we could do.” He was overtaken twice by slick Verstappen moves in the little time he spent ahead - after a pit stop and after a safety car.

“Lewis was very quick so I had to keep pushing ... we had two good moves with him, and from there onward I could control the race," Verstappen said. “It is always good to race against the world champion.”

Hamilton quickly apologized to Albon for their collision. “I totally accept the blame,” said the British driver. “In hindsight I could have waited.” The 23-year-old Albon finished 14th.

Sainz, whose previous best finish was fourth place, was not totally sure how to celebrate his unexpected podium. “A bit weird not being there after the race, but still extremely happy. Today's race was just unbelievable. The one-stop strategy was difficult but paid off,” the Spaniard said on Twitter.

Gasly will also remember this day for a long time. Sportingly, he even celebrated with some of his former Red Bull engineers and mechanics.

“It is the best day of my life,” Gasly said. “It was quite an intense finish, but quite incredible too. You get used to the podiums in the lower series. My last was at F2 in 2016. My first podium in F1 is just insane.”

Hamilton had already secured the season title in the previous race in the United States. His Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, who did not finish the race, had also secured the runner-up spot.

Updated: November 18, 2019 10:26 AM

SHARE

SHARE