Charles Leclerc celebrated his runners-up position in the Formula 1 championship on Sunday after finishing ahead of Sergio Perez.
The Ferrari driver needed to outscore Perez in Abu Dhabi after the pair went into the final race of the season level on points.
The contest kicked off one of the biggest controversies of the season last weekend when Perez’s team-mate Max Verstappen refused to give up a position to the Mexican at Sao Paulo, and in the campaign finale it was the Monegasque who emerged triumphant.
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Speaking to Sky Sports in the aftermath of his second-place finish at the Yas Marina circuit and the drivers’ championship, Leclerc said that the race had gone well for him.
“It did, I was 110% from the first to the last lap,” he began. “We had the perfect race for us. I knew the only possibility to beat Checo [Perez] was a different strategy and we did that with the one-stop.”
While second place marks a huge step up for Ferrari after Leclerc took seventh last year, and the Italian team have struggled in recent years to match previous highs, Leclerc is already looking forward to next season as he aims to go one better, and win the championship itself.
Ferrari looked like surprise contenders for the Formula 1 championship in the early races as Leclerc started brightly, taking advantage of Red Bull reliability problems and design flaws with Mercedes opening up the standings. However Red Bull improved quickly and Mercedes ultimately started to rediscover their race pace, and faults with Ferrari’s own vehicles undermined Leclerc’s attempts to lead the campaign.
The disappointment has led to speculation that Ferrari team principal Matteo Binotto may be replaced in the close season as the teams go away to refine their cars ahead of the 2023 campaign, but Leclerc was focused on being constructive.
Speaking in front of the crowd at the end of the race, he said: “I really hope next year we can do a step forward to fight for the championship. Considering last year it's a really big step forward.
“We still need to work on race pace but we will push forward in [the off season].”
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