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Russell excited for Mercedes vs Ferrari showdown in Abu Dhabi as Leclerc predicts ‘tight’ battle over P2

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While the constructors’ championship was secured by Red Bull a handful of races ago, the fight for the runner-up spot has rumbled on to this weekend’s season finale in Abu Dhabi, with little to separate Mercedes and Ferrari.

Indeed, following an action-packed weekend at the all-new Las Vegas Strip Circuit, the Scuderia edged closer to the Silver Arrows – spearheaded by their P2 finish between the Red Bulls – and now sit just four points behind their rivals.

LIVE COVERAGE: Follow all the build-up ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend

As the paddock reassembled at the Yas Marina Circuit, both sides had their say on the situation, with Mercedes driver George Russell expressing his eagerness to get going and Leclerc describing how Ferrari are “super-motivated” to secure the position.

“We’re excited for the challenge ahead,” began Russell. “It’s going to be a close fight with Ferrari, they’re obviously coming off the back of a strong race, but definitely I’d prefer to be in the position we are than in their shoes.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 18: George Russell of Great Britain and Mercedes and Charles Leclerc

There is little to separate Mercedes and Ferrari ahead of the Abu Dhabi season finale

“I think we just need to go out there, focus on ourselves, try and be as fast as possible, and if we do so, we’ll finish ahead.”

Asked if he thinks Mercedes will be faster than Ferrari this weekend, he added: “They were definitely pretty competitive here last year, but we’ve been surprised a lot this season in which teams are fast at which races and vice versa.

READ MORE: ‘Story of my season’ – Russell ‘lost for words’ after missing out on Las Vegas podium but shoulders blame for Verstappen collision

“We’re going in with an open mind. In qualifying I think they will have slightly the upper hand, as they’ve tended to do so this season, but come Sunday I think it will be a different story and we’ll have a good race.”

Leclerc, meanwhile, is hoping Ferrari can continue the positive trend they have experienced across recent flyaway races, after finishing on the podium in Mexico and Vegas and running at the front in Brazil until race-day technical issues.

Race Highlights: 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix

“It’s going to be tight,” he said of the scrap. “We have good momentum coming to this race as the last few races have been positive for us.

“However, Mercedes is historically pretty good here in Abu Dhabi, so we’ll have to put everything together in order to fight them and beat them in the constructors’ championship, but this is clearly the target.”

PALMER: How Leclerc pulled off his brilliant last-lap lunge on Perez for P2 in Las Vegas

Underlining the mood in the Ferrari camp, he added: “Everybody is super-motivated to beat Mercedes. Momentum is good, but the big work remains to be done on track and we’ll make sure that we do everything perfect this weekend.”

While Mercedes and Ferrari are squabbling over second place, another close fight sees McLaren head into the weekend just 11 points clear of Aston Martin as the two teams bid to land a top-four finish in the standings.

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