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Leclerc explains unusual decision to let Perez by late on at the Abu Dhabi GP

Coming into the final race of 2023, Mercedes and Ferrari were separated by just four points in the battle for P2 in the Constructors’ Championship

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Charles Leclerc has explained his quite bizarre race tactic to let Sergio Perez go ahead of him in the late stages of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. 

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
Leclerc claimed P2 at the season finale in Abu Dhabi. Credit: Mark Thompson via Getty Images

After claiming a podium finish at the Las Vegas Grand Prix, Leclerc came into the season finale with the hopes of securing Ferrari second place in the team’s standings.

The Monegasque driver would put himself on the front row for the race after qualifying in P2 and more importantly ahead of both Mercedes’ drivers.

As we entered into the later stages of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Leclerc continued to maintain the position he started the race in. However, behind him, Perez had been handed a five second time penalty for causing a collision with Lando Norris.

The penalty meant that George Russell, who occupied P4 at the time, would move ahead of Checo at the end of the Grand Prix if he finished within five seconds of him. This would ultimately allow Mercedes to take P2 in the Constructors’ Championship.

Leclerc would then go for something very audacious as he slowed down and allowed Perez to overtake him on the penultimate lap of the race. The Ferrari driver created more space for the quicker Red Bull car so that Perez could finish five seconds or more ahead of Russell.

However, this unusual race tactic was not enough as Leclerc and Russell would both finish on the podium as Perez dropped down to fourth. This meant that Mercedes finished just three points ahead of Ferrari in the standings to take P2 in the Constructors’.

An uphill task for Ferrari

After the race, in which Max Verstappen claimed his 19th victory of the season, Leclerc explained to the media including RacingNews365 about the thinking behind this surprising tactic as he thanked everyone at Ferrari for their hard work in 2023.

“It was only in the last few minutes because Checo had a five-second time penalty.”

“So we had to help him in a way for him to finish in front of George by five seconds. I tried to give him the DRS and the slipstream. But that unfortunately wasn’t enough.”

“On one hand, I’m really happy because at a weekend like this, honestly, there wasn’t one thing we could have done better as a team. I think it was definitely not a given that we were in the second-fastest car this weekend.”

“But we did an incredible job doing everything right, strategy, qualifying. It’s just a shame that we finished third in the Constructors’, that’s all that matters to me at the end of the season and we didn’t achieve that.”

“I would like to thank the team for doing such incredible work and for working so incredibly hard since the first race.”

“We knew that it was going to be an uphill season because we lacked performance compared to where we wanted. But the team has done an incredible job pushing until the last race.”

Feature Image Credit: (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

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