Ferrari team boss Frederic Vasseur admitted it was Charles Leclerc who came up with the idea of letting Sergio Perez through and backing up George Russell in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Ferrari had a four-point gap to Mercedes in the 2023 Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship as they fought for second place.
But towards the end of the race, Russell was threatening Ferrari’s cause, and while Perez beating the Mercedes driver would’ve helped, he had a five-second time penalty to serve following contact with Lando Norris.
The Mexican’s penalty would put him behind Russell, pushing Leclerc to let the former through hoping he would build a five-second gap on Russell, meaning the result would’ve been: Leclerc in second and Perez in third and ahead of Russell.
However, as brilliant as it may have been, the plan didn’t work, partly because it was executed too late into the race, and also because Leclerc did not back Russell too much as to not lose a position to the Mercedes.
Vasseur was asked by Sky Sports F1 about the source of the idea, and while it should’ve been coming from the Ferrari pit wall, the Frenchman said: “It was a Charles [who had the idea].
“We could have been a bit more aggressive to try and slow down Russell but, on the other hand, I think for the team it’s also important to finish on a positive tone.
“To put Charles P2 in the race and to finish like this I think is a first good step for next year. It was a good choice,” Vasseur maintained.
In the other Ferrari, Carlos Sainz failed to score points having started from 16th following a bad qualifying, and Vasseur said: “Carlos had some issues with the pace.
“We had to put hard-hard [tyres on] and the only way for us was to have a red flag or a Safety Car at least to score some flags. It’s a shame for this part of the garage,” he added.
Second place in the Constructors’ wasn’t lost on Sunday in Abu Dhabi
Later in Ferrari‘s post race press release, Vasseur reflected on the race in Abu Dhabi and Ferrari’s season as a whole.
He began: “We are happy to have finished a far from easy season with a solid performance from Charles. Unfortunately, Carlos’ weekend took a turn for the worse starting from Friday and it’s a shame he was unable to bring home the three points but it’s not today that we lost second place in the Constructors’.
“Clearly, as Ferrari, we’re never that interested in finishing second, but it would still have been a reward for everyone who worked hard at the track and those who always gave it everything they had back in Maranello ever since the SF-23 first rolled out onto the Fiorano track.
“But the whole group can be pleased with how it reacted and fought back in the second part of the season. After the summer break that followed the Dutch Grand Prix, we made constant progress, to the point that we are the only team apart from Red Bull to have won a race,” he pointed out.
“Charles ended the season with a string of strong performances and Carlos also had some very positive races including that Singapore win of course.
“The curtain comes down on Tuesday after the test and we are already looking ahead to the next one. We are determined to continue with the progress we have demonstrated over the past ten races,” Vasseur concluded.