Charles Leclerc was happy to have finally pushed Red Bull into a mistake as he ended the 2022 season with second place in Abu Dhabi.
The result means he finishes the campaign in P2 in the Drivers’ standings which at one point in the campaign looked like the bare minimum he should aim for.
But with Ferrari’s struggles he slipped behind Sergio Perez, eventually needing a final race result to finish ahead of him by a narrow margin of three points.
While he did not win the race, Leclerc could have hardly enjoyed a better day as for once, Ferrari got their strategy while Red Bull did not.
Following behind Perez, Leclerc was informed to do whatever the Mexican did not in terms of pit stops so when Perez dived in for a second stop, Leclerc’s job was clear.
It proved to be the right call, Perez running out of laps as he attempted to close the gap, and Leclerc said Ferrari had executed the race to perfection.
Leclerc also acknowledged the speculation pre-race that team boss Mattia Binotto was to be replaced by Alfa Romeo principal Frederic Vasseur.
“Honestly, it was a great race,” he told Sky Sports F1. “We executed it to perfection, which was what we were focusing on in the last few races.
“We know the rumours going around coming into the weekend. The pressure of keeping the second position in the Drivers and Constructors’ Championship and we managed to perform at our best in a situation like this, which makes me very proud of the team.
“I don’t think that in pure pace, we were stronger than Red Bull. I think Red Bull was still stronger than we were today. But we pushed them into doing mistakes and pushing them into two stops and eventually it paid off. So we’re very happy.”
Despite the positive end to the season, when Leclerc looks back at 2022 there will be a sense of what could have been after he emerged as the early favourite for the title following his two wins in the opening three races.
Leclerc said he wanted the team to focus on finding the “next step” so that they can challenge Red Bull in 2023.
“It has been a very difficult season for the whole team,” the 25-year-old said. “We’ve started extremely well then we’ve had loads of problems with the reliability, strategy, tyre management obviously later on in the season.
“That was not easy to manage knowing that the potential was in the car to do very well and so to finish on a high point is good.
“Now we need to focus in finding a next step for the race pace because Red Bull seems to find something that we don’t have for now. But it’s encouraging to see such a good performance in terms of execution of the races.”