It was the perfect end to a mixed season for Charles Leclerc at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as a superb second-place finish sealed the Monegasque driver second in the Drivers’ Championship.
After qualifying third, Leclerc settled into the race at the Yas Marina Circuit excellently, with his mid-race pace having been somewhat of a shock to Oracle Red Bull Racing. Midway through the race and he was beginning to put some pressure on Sergio Pérez, the driver he was battling for the runners-up spot in the championship.
Scuderia Ferrari then remarkably got their strategy correct, after making a dummy call to Leclerc, where they told him to “box opposite Pérez”. This call to Leclerc made Red Bull suddenly pit Checo for a second time, dropping him well behind the Ferrari star.
Leclerc in the end didn’t actually pit again and managed to look after his Hard tyres all the way to the end of the race, where he sealed second place in the race and the championship, after finishing 1.3 seconds ahead of the Mexican driver.
As well as Leclerc claiming second, Ferrari sealed second in the Constructors’ Championship, something that was looking unlikely not too long ago. It’s been an up and down year for Leclerc, who has arguably made too many errors to be a World Champion. However, he’s not entirely to blame after being the victim of several strategic blunders by his side.
Work needs to be done ahead of 2023 to challenge for the “title next year”, something he’s determined to do after being “satisfied with out progress”.
“It was a good race. We executed it perfectly and, as we didn’t have the pure pace to beat our competitors, put pressure on them in the key moments, which paid off.
It was a season full of ups and downs, but considering where we came from, we made a good step and can be satisfied with our progress.
“I want to thank the whole team, both back home at the factory at and at the track, for all their hard work and dedication. P2 in the Constructors’ means a lot and we don’t want to stop here. We have to keep our heads down and push as hard as we can this winter, with the target of winning the title next year.”
“It’ hasn’t been an easy season” – Carlos Sainz Jr.
It was in the end an uneventful race for Carlos Sainz Jr, following on from a dramatic start to the race in Abu Dhabi. The Spaniard was overtaken by Lewis Hamilton at the opening corner of the race but made an audacious dive on the seven-time World Champion at Turn Six.
Hamilton opted to bounce over the sausage kerb and skip Turn Seven, before rejoining the circuit in fourth ahead of the Spanish driver. The Brit was told to give the place back, something he did do before easily getting back past Sainz.
However, Sainz managed to get back ahead of Hamilton and went on to claim a safe fourth-place, after George Russell suffered from a five-second time penalty following an unsafe release.
Sainz hailed the race as “solid” and was ultimately pleased with the “strong performance” at the season finale.
“It was a solid race today. The start wasn’t clean but I managed to pull a nice overtake on the Mercedes at turn 6. Unfortunately, I lost time and tyre life behind Lewis and from then onwards we committed to the two stop strategy.
“Overall, it was a strong performance, with good teamwork to finish P2 with Charles in the drivers’ championship and P2 in the constructors’ championship, which was our target this weekend.”
Sainz ended up finishing the championship in fifth for the second consecutive season, following what was actually quite a challenging campaign. Reflecting upon 2022, Sainz admitted the year hadn’t been “easy”, but was quick to thank “every single member” of the Maranello-based outfit.
“It hasn’t been an easy season, especially the first half, but I’ve managed to recover the pace, and my feeling with the car has been much better in the second half. Even though we’ve only just finished the season, we are fully focused and motivated to push this winter and I am already looking forward to next year.
“Thank you to every single member of the team for your tremendous effort and determination and to every tifosi out there for your incredible support! Bring on 2023! Forza Ferrari!”