Charles Leclerc go through what he tried to do in F1 Abu Dhabi GP as George Russell, Sergio Perez and three team principals add on.
The F1 Abu Dhabi GP wasn’t the most exciting one but it got a bit when deciding second place in the constructors’ championship and fourth in the drivers’ standings. The former got more interest with Ferrari and Mercedes’ involvement in the game.
Leclerc held his ground while Russell was the chasing guy, as their teammates Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz languished behind with the Brit still having some pace. It came down to the last few laps and a penalty for Red Bull’s Perez.
The five second time penalty was crucial after Perez got through Lando Norris to chase Russell and Leclerc. Once he cleared the Mercedes driver, the Monegasque took matter in his hands and tried a tactic to let him through and create a gap.
The idea was to have enough for him to be under the 5s mark but not let Russell be in that which would have tied the two on 406 points after Hamilton was ninth. Ferrari would have won the battle considering they scored one win over the season to Mercedes’ none.
But Leclerc couldn’t get the tactics on spot as he was also worried of Russell passing had he backed too much. The Brit himself was coughing all-through the race and noted that luck helped them a bit, while Perez thought the Monegasque didn’t know the full picture.
On the team side, while Mercedes’ Toto Wolff respected Leclerc for his sportsmanship, Red Bull’s Christian Horner thought the Monegasque could have dropped back which would have helped Perez to be on the podium, as Ferrari’s Frederic Vasseur concurred with his driver.
Battle with Verstappen, maintaining gap to Russell –
Leclerc: “I think Max was saving quite a bit on the medium because there were two or three laps before he pitted where he started to push and then straight away I understood: OK, they’ve got maybe much more margin than what I initially thought. Then on the hard, it was mostly about managing the gap to George behind. I was aware that we couldn’t go and fight with Max, so I didn’t want to take too much out of the tyres in the first few laps to then push. And I was also still thinking about a one stop at that time, so I had to go to the end of the race. Maybe we didn’t optimise that stint because then we went for another stop. So yeah, I think that’s the reason why also the pace didn’t seem to be as good.”
Tactics at the end with Perez –
Leclerc: “Oh, quite a few laps before; as soon as I was aware about the five seconds penalty, basically. Then I was asking constantly the gap between George and Checo. Then they told me that Checo had passed George, so I knew Checo was behind me and his best chance was obviously to get the DRS from me and try and pull away as much as possible from George. So I knew that there was quite a bit of discussion between my engineer and myself and I let him know as well that this was my plan but it didn’t work out.”
Luck with Perez penalty –
Russell: “Yeah, it was a great weekend. And I’m really pleased to finish on this high because it’s been a really challenging season. One, as a team, but on a personal side, just not getting the results that we probably deserve. The pace has been really strong on so many occasions, but just results kept on slipping through our fingers. So, you know, lady luck maybe on our side slightly with Checo’s penalty but I think that more than made up for the other races this year.”
Coughing all-through –
Russell: “Yeah, I’ve been really ill the last two weeks. Firstly, in Vegas with a big fever, I couldn’t sleep and just felt awful. And then I’ve had a horrendous cough that stayed with me all week and in the car. I was coughing every single lap but when you’re strapped into the car, you can’t breathe. You can’t take a deep breath in to get the cough out. So, it was just constantly with me. It was pretty, pretty miserable. So, I was pleased to bring it home when I saw that chequered flag.”
Leclerc didn’t have full picture –
Perez: “I was surprised. I thought Charles was going to fall back behind George in the final sector. I finished 1.1 seconds from George, so he was going to help him back as it was quite easy to do in the final sector. But maybe he didn’t have the full information.”
What Leclerc tried –
Vasseur: “Too fair, I don’t think so. That’s because you could imagine, to block Russell, then you have also to be sure that Perez is in between you and Russell. If you want to block Russell, it’s a matter of hundreds of seconds. I’m not a big fan of this. We did our best in a fair way when we let Perez go, to give him the DRS, to try to help us, but too much would have been too much.”
Respect for Leclerc –
Wolff: “We came to this weekend a little bit on the backfoot when you saw Ferrari’s performances in the last few races, and for whatever reasons, we have this…it’s difficult to put to have the cars in a sweet spot. You’ve seen that with Carlos who was never there this weekend. And the same the same with Lewis. Then you have two guys fighting in the front, and I think George’s drive was impeccable, also in managing the gaps at the end. The fight with Ferrari is a formidable fight between these two great brands, a team that we respect a lot and Charles drove like a real sportsman at the end. Perez for quite some time wasn’t really on the wasn’t really on the radar.
“I mean, we knew that they probably couldn’t hang out the one stop when he was ahead and then he came out 10, 11 seconds behind us. At that moment, we only concentrated on ourselves and 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 believe that he could manage these gaps in order to maybe keep us behind. At the end, he could pulled a hand brake in the last sector and I think it shows the character of a driver.”
Leclerc didn’t do enough –
Horner: “A great shame for Checo, because he should have been on the podium. It was the logical thing to do in Ferrari’s position but they only did half of the job, because they let Checo through but then didn’t – I think, as Checo has demonstrated in that sector of the circuit – you can hold up quite a bit of time there. I think Charles just needed to hold off George a little more to get that extra second. It just measn we’ve got a different neighbour next year.”
Here’s what Charles Leclerc tried to do: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/video.2023-abu-dhabi-grand-prix-leclerc-lets-perez-past-in-bid-to-beat-mercedes-in-the-constructors-battle.1783640282292518084.html
Here’s Sergio Perez and Lando Norris on their tangle
Here’s strategy of Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc fight
Here’s warning to Sergio Perez from FIA
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