Charles Leclerc makes surprise admission ahead of huge Abu Dhabi showdown

Oliver Harden
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari

Charles Leclerc waves to fans at Ferrari's end-of-season photo call in Abu Dhabi.

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc has admitted finishing fourth in the F1 2023 Drivers’ standings would mean “absolutely nothing” to him ahead of a four-way Abu Dhabi Grand Prix showdown.

Leclerc is one of four drivers in contention to finish fourth at the season finale, with the Monegasque 12 points away from Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso, who are currently level on 200 points apiece. McLaren driver Lando Norris currently sits sixth, one place ahead of Leclerc and just five points behind Sainz and Alonso.

Ferrari’s final position in the Constructors’ standings remains unresolved too, with the team four points behind rivals Mercedes entering the Abu Dhabi GP weekend.

Charles Leclerc unmoved by fourth place prospects

Leclerc is keen for Ferrari – the only team other than Red Bull to win a race in 2023 – to beat Mercedes to second, claiming he could not care less about where he finishes in the Drivers’ Championship unless he is in a position to take the title.

Asked by Formula 1 what the 2023 standings mean to him, he said: “The fourth place in the drivers’? Absolutely nothing. The second place in the Constructors’, though, is nice.

“Honestly, I would really like the team to be second at the end of this weekend. We’ve had a tough season and everybody deserves it. They’ve worked like crazy in order to bring the upgrades earlier and it will be deserved to be in second at the end of the year, so we’ll do absolutely everything for that.

“In the drivers’, honestly I don’t have too much hope of finishing fourth. If this happens, then good. If not, I don’t really mind. I just want to win that Championship as soon as possible.”

Ferrari have famously never won a race in Abu Dhabi, which arrived on the F1 calendar in 2009, but Leclerc is cautiously optimistic after setting the pace in Friday’s second practice session.

He explained: “I only did one lap on the medium and straightaway a lap on the soft and it was feeling pretty good. It’s a good sign when it starts like this, so hope we can have a great weekend from now on.

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“But it’s true that also Mercedes looked very strong. I don’t know what happened exactly in FP2, they looked a little less strong compared to FP1, so we’ve still got a lot of work to do because we will be fighting with them this weekend.

“I will wait before saying that it’s a strong circuit for us. We still have to prove it tomorrow in qualifying. Tyre management will be the biggest thing this weekend and we know that we have to be prepared for that on Sunday, so we’ll do our best.

“It’s going to be a tricky weekend. I think we are going to go into the race with as much information as we do on sprint weekends where we have very little info, so it’s going to be very interesting. We’ll try to maximise the little information we have and normally it’s one of our strong points, so I hope we can take advantage of that and beat Mercedes.

“We are trying to focus on ourselves, try to do the best job possible with tyre management. I think it’s going to be the biggest thing this weekend, so we’ll focus on ourselves and try to work on that.”

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