In a thrilling climax to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Max Verstappen clinched victory after an electrifying start from pole position, marking a triumphant end to his exceptional year with 19 wins across 22 races. However, it was Charles Leclerc’s masterful performance that captivated many racing enthusiasts amidst the high-speed drama.
Leclerc’s race began with a poised attempt to challenge Verstappen into Turn 1, exhibiting a momentary glimpse of overtaking brilliance. Yet, Verstappen’s defensive maneuver kept him at bay, setting the stage for an intense battle between the Ferrari and Red Bull throughout the race.
Maintaining close proximity, Leclerc repeatedly pressed Verstappen’s lead, showcasing an exhilarating duel between the two juggernauts. Verstappen, with a slender lead, faced relentless pressure from Leclerc’s pursuit.
The Dutchman’s calculated pit stop strategy shifted Leclerc into the race lead … but only briefly and ultimately Verstappen in the superior Red Bull car would pull away.
Leclerc Tried to Outwit Mercedes
Leclerc strategically positioned himself in second place ahead of his rivals, George Russell and Lando Norris, setting the stage for a thrilling closing segment.
With strategic radio exchanges between Ferrari and Leclerc, a tactical plan unfolded aiming to outwit Mercedes in the constructors’ standings. Leclerc, in a selfless display of team spirit, relinquished his position to Red Bull’s Perez, endeavouring to create a crucial gap between the Red Bull and Russell’s Mercedes.
However, despite Leclerc’s efforts to orchestrate a strategic triumph for Ferrari, the race circumstances didn’t fully align with the desired outcome. While Perez due to being later penalized, lost second place in the race to Leclerc, Russell kept close enough to secure Mercedes’ second place in the constructors’ standings.
Russell, in fact, was less than four seconds adrift of Perez when he took the chequered flag and so he only scored three points fewer than Leclerc,
It was a brave and unselfish race by Leclerc. It could have been possible for him to force his way through in the first lap, but, as he would later indicate, Max Verstappen (Red Bull) was not his opponent. He aimed to defeat Mercedes – everything depended on him – and he nearly achieved it through this acrobatic scenario in the final nine laps. An effort not entirely futile: he ended up second place on the podium and gains two positions in the World Championship (5th) and narrowly ends up as the top Ferrari driver.
What is Next
As the dust settles on the 2023 season, teams and drivers will now retreat into the winter hiatus, gearing up for the upcoming 2024 campaign that commences with the Bahrain Grand Prix from February 29 to March 2. The spectacle witnessed in Abu Dhabi only adds to the anticipation and excitement building for the next chapter in Formula 1 racing.