Leclerc ready to 'take risks' at the start in bid to beat Verstappen
The title may have been won back in Austin, but the battle for P3 in the championship rages on, and heading into the season finale Ferrari's Charles Leclerc - currently 11 points behind rival Max Verstappen - has vowed to take risks to win the position from the Dutchman.
Despite missing out on a final run in Q3, when he was backed up by a slowing pack, Leclerc will start Sunday's race in Abu Dhabi from P3, behind 2019 champion Lewis Hamilton and Verstappen, the winner last time out in Brazil.
Ferrari gave away a lot of time to Mercedes in Abu Dhabi's twisting final sector in qualifying, but Leclerc said he was still targetting victory, with Verstappen in particular firmly in the Monegasque’s crosshairs.
“Yes, definitely," said the Ferrari driver when asked if he can win, "and I will take quite a bit of risk at the start. I need to take some risk; I need to finish in front of Max for the championship, and in the end I will give it all and we will see what happens."
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We’ll analyse it and try to understand for it to not happen again, because it’s a big shame
Everyone but Hamilton was promoted a place by Valtteri Bottas’s grid penalties – which puts Leclerc and his team mate Sebastian Vettel on the second row.
Vettel had been able to get a second flying lap in, crossing the line just ahead of Leclerc, and just before the chequered flag was lowered - so what happened?
“I have no idea [what happened],” said Leclerc, who had initially pointed the finger of blame at his team mate for driving slowly, but who himself had been slowed by those ahead of him in the pack.
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“It’s life: sometimes it happens, I don’t know if the situation was unlucky or if we could’ve done anything better," added Leclerc. "We’ll analyse it and try to understand for it to not happen again, because it’s a big shame.”
For his part, Vettel explained that he was slowed down by Alex Albon, running ahead of him.
“Alex was backing up because he had a McLaren in front of him. I don’t know who was in front of the McLaren or whether the Mclaren could be closer,” he said.
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“It was just a pity because my tyres were very cold to start with and I lost it straight in the first corner, and Charles didn’t even start the lap."
Vettel, a three-time Abu Dhabi GP winner will have his work cut out as the only frontrunner starting on the less-durable soft tyre in Sunday's race, with both Red Bull drivers, both Mercedes drivers and Vettel’s team mate Leclerc all starting on medium tyres.