Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said he thought Charles Leclerc’s controversial block on Lewis Hamilton en route to winning the Italian Grand Prix was “over the line”, but admitted the stewards would have needed “a police escort” to leave Monza on Sunday if they had penalised the Ferrari driver.
The Mercedes team chief made clear he was unhappy with the officials’ decisions, but accepted them, after Leclerc gave Ferrari a first home victory since 2010.
Defending world champion Hamilton finished third behind Leclerc and teammate Valtteri Bottas after twice taking evasive action to avoid a crash as the young Monegasque blocked him at the second chicane and the Curva Grande.
The stewards took note and issued a black-and-white warning flag to the Ferrari driver, a move that allowed him to run unpenalised to the chequered flag and Italian euphoria.
“They are in such a difficult position, a very difficult one,” said Wolff. “To come up with the right decisions –- they are not always clear-cut -– and right now I have enough of my own problems to solve.
“I don’t want to have (race director) Michael Masi’s problems on top of that. But the racing was very hard, maybe over the line and Lewis was instrumental in not making it into an incident. At the end of the day, what can you do? To give a Ferrari, leading at Monza, a five-second penalty? That’s out of the question because then you’d need a police escort to get out of here!”
Wolff also criticised the way in which more aggressive and dangerous racing had been permitted to creep back into the sport in recent months.
“There are more cars touching, there will be more -– it will be more of a common practice,” he said. “In my opinion, it’s going to go the point where it will end up again in a collision –- and then we have to bail out of it again or crawl back. But this is the modus operandi and until then, we let them race.”
Hamilton was also aggrieved by the manner in which Leclerc defended his lead and said he intended to “have a word with him, in private” to discuss the race and their issues.
Leclerc, who was barged off the track in Austria by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen as they battled for the lead, said: “Since Austria, it’s clear we can go a bit further in the way we defend and overtake. I believe that Austria helped me to change this approach and today it’s also thanks to this that I managed to win. It was obviously very on the limit but I’m happy to race like this.”
Hamilton said: “We’ve just constantly asked for consistency. There was a rule put in place and then it wasn’t abided by today.”
Ferrari ‘need to stay realistic’
Leclerc’s triumph came just seven days after his maiden win in Belgium and he is now 13 points clear of his Ferrari teammate and four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, who finished 13th at Monza.
But Leclerc thinks Ferrari could struggle at the Singapore Grand Prix in two weeks’ time despite their recent upturn in fortunes. “We need to stay realistic,” said the 21-year-old.
“I think we expected that Spa and Monza would be very good races for our car, but we also know that the next few races will be a lot more difficult for our car. So, we need to be realistic and it’s not going to be easy. I think especially Singapore. I think it will be a nice surprise if we are better than we expect, but we expect to struggle there. We’ll see in two weeks.”