Max Verstappen says backing up Charles Leclerc into Sergio Perez wouldn’t have been the right way in F1 Abu Dhabi GP as strategy is discussed.
Red Bull’s Verstappen stormed into the F1 Abu Dhabi GP lead early with teammate Perez behind him and Ferrari’s Leclerc in third. The first stint saw them remain calm and hold position, but the Mexican came in earlier than expected.
Verstappen remained out as did Leclerc until after about 10 laps. This eventually made the difference as the former two always had the idea of one-stop and Perez was on two-stop. It left the Mexican to catch up with the Monegasque which he couldn’t.
There was no safety car to help either and Red Bull seemingly didn’t plan per se for Verstappen to back Leclerc up, which the Dutchman thought anyways wasn’t fair on the Monegasque and or the Mexican to attain a 1-2 finish.
Verstappen: “No, there was not, but also that is quite a tricky call to make. You also don’t want to end up… of course, you can possibly block but is that fair racing? I think not the nicest way going out of the season, like that. And it looked like Checo was catching him enough to try and actually get a move but then he lost quite a bit of time with that bit of a fuss between… was it Pierre and Alex probably? You lost quite a bit of time with that, because I was watching the screen.
“But yeah, unfortunate. I think, like Checo said, that second stint, because the deg was quite high on the Medium, in hindsight, probably, as a team, we could have pushed a bit more on that on that middle stint for Checo, but that’s always easy to say afterwards. At the time, we thought that we had to be a little bit careful on the tyres. Again, we’ve had a lot of great weekends, but even in great weekends, there are always things that you can learn.”
Reflecting back on the loss to Leclerc, Perez reckoned Ferrari did better on Sunday and there was nothing more that the Mexican could have done. He did feel a bit agitated after he was held up by Pierre Gasly when he was fighting Alexander Albon. But strategy wise, it was always the plan for Perez to do a two-stop.
Losing P2 –
Perez: “Well, I think it’s how this sport really works. You know, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Today, I think Ferrari and Charles did a fantastic race. They have great tyre management. And they were stronger than us, especially on that first stint. I died towards the end. And that made it a little bit tricky, our strategy. And it was that second stint, while I was behind Max, Max was on a one-stop, I was on a two-stop, and then I ended-up not being able to, to maximise this stint, and I couldn’t push as much as we should have pushed on that second stint. But at the end of the day, we gave it all. And that’s what really matters.”
Perez: “Yeah, that was always the plan for us. We, we knew we were going on to the two-stop. And by the way, we probably thought after the first stint that the deg was higher than it was really in the end, so we didn’t push as much as we should on the two-stop, especially in the second stint.”
Being held up –
Perez: “Well, I certainly lost a bit, probably a second or so or probably more. It was clearly blue flags, but he was in a fight and it’s pretty hard not to give up the position. I think he was thinking to go for the move but I just end up being there and I thought he left it opens. I went for it and luckily I could brake at the last minute otherwise there would have been contact so I think in normal conditions that will certainly be a penalty for Pierre but it is the last race. I’m just happy to go home, don’t discuss anything and it’s how it goes sometimes. So nothing really more to add.”
There was no option for one-stop with Perez after an early stop he made in the grand prix, that set the tone for the Mexican as per team chief Christian Horner. “Both drivers had good starts and I think Checo took a bit more out of the front right tyre,” he said.
“It just started to open up, now whether that was a slight difference in set-up or different technique, we need to analyse. You could hear him on the radio saying that the front was dead, and we could see that Ferrari were gearing up for an undercut.
“The problem with where Checo was strategically at that point, it would have been a very, very long one-stop. There was like a six or seven lap overlap that Leclerc was then able to take. We were faced with a prospect of either being a dying fly at the end of the stint, or to try and attack.
“We chose to try and attack. I think within another lap, he would have been there. We felt, as I say, rather than die at the end of it and be a sitting duck, we take an attacking strategy. Maybe if he’d have managed to make it past Hamilton [it would have worked], the ifs, buts and maybes, there was a couple of backmarkers that didn’t help. But it was so, so close,” summed up Horner.
For Leclerc, it was the perfect execution that they wanted at the right time. The plan was always for a one-stop and it eventually worked as the grand prix ended at the time when the Monegasque started to struggle as he took second in the championship.
Taking P2 by three points –
Leclerc: “It, it was really, really tricky. Especially at the end of the stint on the Hard, even though we did a really, really good management to be honest. It’s tricky, because when you get to the end of the race, the front-locking started to become a problem, so it was very easy to do a mistake. But at the end, we kept everything under control and managed to keep Checo behind. But I think today was a really, really perfect execution from our side. I don’t think we had the pace of the Red Bulls still, and our goal from the beginning was to try and push Checo do something different, which we did perfectly. And again, with a great tyre management, we made the one-stop work, which eventually got us the second place.”
Leclerc: “The plan was always to do a one-stop. But yeah, we managed to push them into doing two stops.”
Here’s how F1 Abu Dhabi GP panned out