Charles Leclerc, Ferrari and Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Yas Marina, 2023

No point putting up harder fight against Verstappen at start – Leclerc

Formula 1

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Charles Leclerc said there was no point putting up a fight against Max Verstappen at the start of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as he was unlikely to stay ahead of his rival.

The Ferrari driver attacked the pole-winner on the inside at turn one and again at turn six on the first lap of the race. But each time Verstappen held onto his position around the outside.

Afterwards Leclerc admitted he didn’t want to compromise his race pace too much in a first-lap fight with Verstappen. “I obviously wanted to get that first place but we also know that we in the race lack some pace, compared to them, so even if I would have passed Max there I probably would have got overtaken again in three or four laps,” he said.

“At the end my only target was to beat the Mercedes so I didn’t want to lose too much tyre juice and also time with Max. But it was fun.”

Ferrari went into the race fighting to overtake Mercedes for second place in the constructors’ championship. While Leclerc took second, his team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr ended up outside the points, which put Mercedes on course to beat them as the race neared its end.

Leclerc saw an opportunity when Sergio Perez appeared behind him with a five-second time penalty. He let the Red Bull driver past in the hope he would stay close enough to regain second while still allowing Perez to finish ahead of George Russell’s Mercedes.

However Leclerc’s gambit failed, as Russell finished close enough to inherit third from the Red Bull.

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“Checo had five seconds penalty so we had to help him in a way for him to finish in front of George, within five seconds,” Leclerc explained. “So I tried to give him the DRS and a slipstream. But that unfortunately wasn’t enough.”

Leclerc said he was disappointed by the result but doubted he could have done any more over the weekend having started and finished second.

“On one hand I’m really happy because on a weekend like this, honestly, there wasn’t one thing we could have done better as a team. I think it was definitely not a given that we were in the second-fastest car this weekend.

“But we did an incredible job doing everything right: strategy, qualifying. It’s just a shame that we finished third in the constructors. That’s all that mattered to me in this end of season, and we didn’t achieve that.

“But anyway, I would like to thank the team for doing such incredible work and for working so incredibly hard. Since the first race we knew that it was going to be an uphill season because we lacked performance compared to where we wanted. But the team has done an incredible job pushing until the last race.”

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2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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11 comments on “No point putting up harder fight against Verstappen at start – Leclerc”

  1. Well, Sainz fought with everything he had in Monza and it was a delight to watch as a spectator, even if the outcome was predictable. One of the best drives of the season in my view.

    Drivers like Norris and Leclerc are a part of what is wrong with F1 these days. They’re too lazy to even try something different and win some small battles for their own.

    oh, he’s gonna pass you later? Then at least try to make it happen later, not now, then.

    1. Leclerc probably would have done that earlier in the season. Today he was racing for the WCC standings. Fighting with Max would have probably pushed Ferrari into tyre chewing territory.

      1. Today he was racing for the WCC standings.

        The problem with that is finishing 2nd wasn’t good enough for the WCC standings.

        1. Yeah but he did everything right. It’s not his fault that the other side of the garage had a howler from both driver and team.

        2. It depended on Ferrari not messing up Carlos’ strategy, true. But P1 at the end was never on, and Charles couldn’t have known that Carlos was not going to be in a position to help.

    2. As ever it’s never that black and white. Leclerc fought with everything he had just seven days ago as you might recall. And Norris tried everything to get into the lead in Brazil… It does always depend on the circumstances

    3. The problem are dose d4mn Pirellis (not that Pirelli is at fault, they delivered as ordered). You have to nurse them so bad you cannot really race.

      I always said I would prefer no mandatory pitstops, and that at least the hard compound should be able to withstand a full race without serious deg.

    4. oh, he’s gonna pass you later? Then at least try to make it happen later, not now, then.

      Exactly, and who knows how running in 2nd changes the game for Verstappen. It makes his tyre management more tricky, its puts extra temperature on his brakes etc. It’s always better to be P1 than P2 – and then take it from there.

      In these cases, it’s tempting to wonder if Schumacher would have come out of this first lap leading. I’m going to guess yes.

      1. Not if he knew he would lose the lead on lap 5 and then not have the tyres to keep P2. He’d have been savvy enough to plan around the tyre weakness and conserve his tyres for later.

  2. Not a VER fan by any means, but that’s something I have to give him credit for. Years ago, when Red Bull was fighting for P4-P6 during Mercerdes era, VER always put a good fight (specially against Ferrari because Mercedes was way ahead of the pack) even though he knew that would be detrimental to his tyres. Now, nobody gives us that kind of battles.

    1. @naylamp Because everyone (including Max now) knows there’s no point in doing so unless the car advantage is such that it is possible to maintain the position by the end of the race.

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