‘I was at 110% from start to finish’ – Leclerc hails ‘perfect race’ as he beats Perez to P2 in the championship
Charles Leclerc expressed satisfaction over how he and Ferrari executed their Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after beating Red Bull rival Sergio Perez to second place and, as a result, P2 in the drivers’ standings.
Leclerc and Perez entered the season finale level on points and it was the latter who held the upper-hand in the early stages of Sunday evening’s encounter – sitting between race-leading team mate Max Verstappen and Leclerc’s Ferrari.
However, while Verstappen and Leclerc committed to one-stop strategies as the race developed, Perez opted for two, meaning the Mexican had to fight his way back through the field – and he finished just over a second short of Leclerc at the chequered flag.
Reflecting on claiming P2 in the Grand Prix and the championship after a flat-out race to keep Perez behind him, Leclerc said: “I was [at] 110% from the first lap to the last lap. Honestly, we had the perfect race for us, there was not much more [we could do] today.
“I knew that the only possibility for us to beat Checo was with a different strategy and playing with tyre management, which we did really well today, and we managed to make the one stop work, so [I’m] really happy.”
Leclerc and Ferrari started the season as title contenders with victories in two of the first three races, sandwiching a second-place finish, but their challenge unravelled thereafter through a series of team and driver mistakes, and a dose of misfortune.
Turning his attention to 2023, Leclerc added: “I really hope next year we can do a step forward in order to fight for the championship. But, considering where we were last year, it’s a really big step forward.
“I think we improved towards the end of the season in terms of strategy. We still need to work in terms of race pace because come Sunday, we seem to struggle a bit more, but we will push during the winter break in order to catch them a little bit.”
Leclerc ended the season three points to the good over Perez.