Leclerc “extremely happy” with P2 in F1 Abu Dhabi GP as they ended the season on a “positive slope”

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As the final chapter of the 2023 Formula 1 season unfolded at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc’s excellent performance emerged as a standout moment in the race.

Charles Leclerc

Photo Credit: Scuderia Ferrari

Starting from second position, Leclerc mounted a serious challenge to the reigning World Champion, Max Verstappen.

He almost managed to overtake Verstappen at turns 1, 6 and 9 on the opening lap.

However, as the race progressed, Leclerc had to adjust his focus. His attention shifted to defending his position against Mercedes’ George Russell, with the goal of securing valuable points in the ongoing battle for the second position in the Constructors’ Championship.

Despite Leclerc’s valiant efforts, this mission remained unaccomplished. In a bold and strategic move towards the end of the race, he allowed Checo Perez to pass.

Perez, carrying a 5-second penalty, aimed to extend his gap. Leclerc hoped to help him finish ahead of the Brit. Unfortunately, this tactical masterclass did not yield the desired outcome, as Perez couldn’t extend his lead enough to push Russell off the podium.

Leclerc’s reflections on the season that highlighted the positive trajectory that Ferrari and he had experienced in the latter part of the year.

“Extremely happy about our end of the season because we were on a positive slope, we kept improving; since the upgrade in Japan, I feel much more at ease. In the first part of the season, I wasn‘t at ease with the car, and I didn‘t like the behaviour.”

Explaining his late-race assistance to Perez, Leclerc elaborated that it wasn’t planned with the team before the Grand Prix: “It was all in the last few minutes because Checo had a five-second penalty.

“We had to help him in a way for him to finish in front of George with the five seconds. I tried to give him the DRS and a slipstream, but that unfortunately wasn’t enough.

“It is just a shame that we finished third in the constructors’ [championship]. That’s all that mattered to me in this end of season, and we didn’t achieve that.”

In contemplating a potential pass on Verstappen on the opening lap, Leclerc remarked: “So, even if I would have passed Max there, I probably would have got overtaken again three or four laps [later].

“And at the end, my only target was to beat the Mercedes, so I didn’t want to lose too much tyre juice and also time with Max. But yeah, it was fun.”

Leclerc’s 2nd place allowed him to jump Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz in the Drivers’ Championship, placing P5 overall. He only lost out to Fernando Alonso on countback.