Charles Leclerc was “too soft” in his lap 1 tussle with Max Verstappen in Abu Dhabi, that’s according to Alpine data engineer Ramon Drost.
Lining up second on the grid behind reigning World Champion Verstappen, Leclerc looked to challenge the Dutchman at Turn 1 and again at Turn 6.
Both times it was Verstappen who came out on top even though at one point the Ferrari driver clearly had his nose ahead.
Charles Leclerc made two mistakes in battle with Max Verstappen
But falling back to second place, Leclerc’s challenge was over by the end of the first lap as Verstappen pulled more than a second clear of him.
The Red Bull driver raced to the victory, his 19th of this season, by 17 seconds ahead of the Monégasque driver.
It meant Leclerc finished the season without a win to his name, his third winless campaign in his five seasons with Ferrari.
Drost, a data engineer for Alpine amongst others, believes the 26-year-old made it too easy for Verstappen at the Yas Marina circuit.
“I actually think Leclerc hit the brakes too early, especially in Turn 1,” Drost told Motorsport.com. “And he made the same kind of mistake later on the track.
“It’s more like ‘just show that you’re there’, because if you don’t do that, Max will go for it. He can hold his own.
“That is of course what you have to show to get the first position there.
“I had the feeling that Leclerc reacted a little too softly there, which caused him to miss the lead.”
Leclerc explains why he didn’t attack too hard
Leclerc explained his actions after the race, saying while he wanted to take the lead off Verstappen that may have actually hurt his Grand Prix when Ferrari were trying to out-score Mercedes in the battle for P2 in the standings.
“I obviously wanted to try and get that first place,” he said.
“But we also know that in the race, we lack some pace compared to them.
“So even if I would have passed Max there, I probably would have gotten overtaken again, three or four laps later.
“And in 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 yeah, it was fun.”
Ferrari fell three points short of the target although Leclerc’s 18 points elevated him to fifth in the Drivers’ standings as he leaped ahead of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz.