“It was a great racecalmly commented Max Verstappen, upon arrival, into the microphone of the 2009 world champion, Jenson Button. It all came down to tire management and I think we managed them well. I handled the “middle” well, it was necessary to preserve the “hard” from start to finish. It’s great to win here again. This fifteenth win is fantastic. It was very pleasant to work with the whole team to achieve this result. We know it will be difficult to reproduce. We will try to restore the motivation needed to attack 2023″.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Bonus-malus: King Verstappen and his dolphin Leclerc
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Leclerc deceives Pérez
Max Verstappen paced 58 laps, his teammate Sergio Pérez did not. The Mexican started second, aiming to unseat Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) from second place in the world championship. He had never finished runner-up in the world, and no second driver from Milton Keynes has ensured the one-two in the history of the team that landed in Formula 1 in 2005, and it won’t be this time. Because it had a bit of everything against it: too much trust, trafficking and in the end not even the support of its leader!
First of all, Sergio Pérez got a little lost in strategy, due to his line-up, convinced that he once again has the upper hand on the Reds in terms of tire management. Since practice, he had taken his precautions by keeping two “hard” Pirelli sets in his backpack for the race, scheduled for two stops. The ‘softs’ left out of the equation due to degradation at high speed, the plan was simple: start in ‘medium’ and round the next two relays in ‘hard’.
At Ferrari, Charles Leclerc had made the same calculation as his teammate and the Alpine drivers. The surprise was therefore great at Red Bull when Xavier Marcos announced to the Monegasque, on lap 33, that he had to follow the opposite strategy of his rival. Clearly the driver of the F1 75 n°16 managed to make only one stop. Impossible thing for Sergio Pérez, perhaps too sure of himself, and in any case not very attentive.
Costly battles against Vettel and Hamilton
He had already stopped early for his first pit stop (on lap 16, six laps before Leclerc), and his second pit stop on lap 33, which was made mandatory given the state of his tires (“hard” ), hastened his fall. Embarking on a complicated comeback, badly placed in traffic, he certainly lost a lap or two to attack the No. 16 Ferrari.
“It’s like thishe sighed warmly. Sometimes it’s tight. In the end, I have to be happy. We gave everything. I’m sure to come back even stronger next year. I have suffered a bit with these tires this season, a little more difficult to manage them in the race. This is something that needs to be improved next year. It will make us stronger.”
In fact, “Checo” found himself out of time several times in this race, and in the end he paid for it. After his first pit stop, he rejoined behind Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) and it took him a lap to overtake him, then in traffic it wasn’t as easy as he thought. On lap 44, with 14 laps to go, he lost a lot of energy – and two laps – behind Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) for third place.
Advice for Pérez… and Leclerc
“I think Checo pushed a bit too much (in his first stint) and that’s why we called him to the pits earlier than expected”Helmut Marko analyzed on Sky Sports. But, according to Red Bull Racing’s Austrian adviser, it was the battle with the #44 W13 that consumed his last chance. “It was on Hamilton’s overtaking that Pérez lost time. Otherwise it would have been enough”, judged the former Formula 1 driver and winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. And admit to being trapped by the Reds, adding: “We were surprised that Ferrari only stopped once with Leclerc. It was not in our plans.”
And then, the last disappointment for Sergio Pérez, Max Verstappen was of no help to him in this race. And not just reluctantly. Driving up front, the batavian wanted to help his teammate, failing to act concretely on the track. “My tires are good. Tell Checo he can push hard!”, he pitched “Super Max” on the air. Hearing this, Ferrari hastened to relay the message to Charles Leclerc as well, suddenly less concerned about the grip of his “hard”, put on on lap 21.
Verstappen was not ready to keep Leclerc at bay
And then, Max Verstappen exploded from an exit of which he has the secret, proving that the dispute of the São Paulo Grand Prix had not really been resolved. Because he wouldn’t have blocked Charles Leclerc if the latter had followed him and tried to pass him. “It would have been a complicated decision. We don’t want to end up like this… Eventually we can block, but is that right?wondered, in the observations reported by motorsport.com. I don’t think it would have been the best way to close this world championship and thus close the season”.
The double world champion added that he was under the impression that Pérez would catch Leclerc and pass him, but that time wasted between Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) and Alexander Albon (Williams), in a brawl. Obviously not everyone in the Red Bull clan was willing to go all out to help the Mexican. That he also meant what he thought by overflowing his French “teammate”.
Ultimately, this ending still suited Christian Horner. “All credit goes to Charles for his seasonsaid the Red Bull team principal. He rode brilliantly, very cleanly against our two riders.” The Monegasque is in fact vice-world champion with manners, which Sergio Pérez could not have boasted.
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