‘If there’s an opportunity, I’ll go for it’ – Leclerc eyeing early pass on P2 rival Perez in Abu Dhabi finale
Charles Leclerc feels he has a strong chance of overhauling Sergio Perez during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and, in the process, securing the runner-up spot in the 2022 drivers’ standings.
Leclerc and Perez head into the Yas Marina finale tied on 290 points and will line up next to each other on the grid for Sunday evening’s race – the Red Bull driver starting second and the Ferrari man third.
And although he admitted missing out on the front row was “a bit disappointing”, Leclerc was confident over his prospects in the race as he looks to prevent Red Bull securing a one-two championship finish.
“I’m happy with the lap, I don’t think there was much more in it. I didn’t have anybody in front [for a tow], which maybe cost me a bit in Q3. But to be honest, it was my choice, because I just wanted a clean out-lap,” said Leclerc.
“But it’s like this. P3 is a really good position to start in tomorrow and hopefully we’ll have a chance to pass Checo [Perez] very early on.”
Asked about his car’s pace on higher fuel, after tricky long runs on Friday, Leclerc added: “I think we did a step forward [in final practice] this morning. But we didn’t have any reference this morning, so we don’t know how much better it is compared to Friday. I’m not sure, let’s see.
“I’m confident we did a step forward. How much? We’ll have to wait and see. It’s going to be a very close battle with Checo I’m sure, and if there’s an opportunity, I’ll go for it.”
As for Leclerc’s team mate, Carlos Sainz – who missed FP1 to give 2021 F2 runner-up Robert Shwartzman a run in his car – the Spaniard had to settle for fourth position after a difficult end to qualifying.
“It didn’t quite come together after a very strong Q1, Q2 and Q3, really. I was feeling really at home, but unfortunately [before] the last attempt I had a very slow out-lap behind the Alpine and the McLaren that were having slower out-laps than us – I couldn’t quite get everything up to temperature,” Sainz commented.
“I still managed a couple of clean laps, I just couldn’t extract the last couple of tenths of performance that the car had today. I’m happy with the feeling in the car and we are in a good position for tomorrow.”
Ferrari head into the season finale with a 19-point advantage over Mercedes in the race for P2 in the constructors’ standings, and Sainz is determined to see that the Italian team get over the line.
“I think the Red Bulls are very difficult to beat this weekend. They have two or three-tenths in quali and normally this gap extends in the race, so I would expect them during the race to have even more margin,” he said.
“But the fight is with Merc, the fight is to try and defend that P2 in the championship. I think it’s going to be tough, I think in the race they are going to be quicker than us, but we are going to try everything we can to keep them behind, to beat them. I think we are in a good position to do so.”