Christian Horner says Charles Leclerc made the right call allowing Sergio Perez to pass him in Abu Dhabi, but he only did “half the job” as he didn’t back up George Russell.
Heading into the final laps of the 2023 championship, Leclerc was running second at the Yas Marina circuit ahead of Perez and Russell.
But with Perez facing a five-second penalty for colliding with Lando Norris, if they ended as they were, Russell would be third and Mercedes would pip Ferrari to second in the championship.
‘The problem is they only did half the job’
Additional reporting by Thomas Maher
As such the Monégasque driver made the call to gift second place on the track to Perez in the hope that he could scamper five seconds or more into the distance ahead of Russell.
“If there’s less than five seconds I’ll give him the slipstream and I’ll let him pass for the final sector,” he said over the radio.
Leclerc deliberately slowed and Perez shot through up into second. It was thought that Leclerc would then try back up Russell by slowing him, but he opted not to.
Horner says that was why Ferrari didn’t beat Mercedes to second place.
“Well, it was a logical thing to do from Ferrari’s position,” he told the media including PlanetF1.com. “The problem is they only did half the job.
“They let Checo through and I think Checo demonstrated in that section of the circuit, you can hold up quite a bit of time there.
“So I think Charles needed to hold off George a little more to get that extra second.
“But it just means we’ve got a different neighbour next year.”
Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur agrees that Leclerc could’ve been more aggressive in his tactics.
“Charles could have been a bit more aggressive and to try to slow down Russell,” he told Sky F1.
“But on the other end, I think for the team, it’s also important to finish on the positive tone. Charles P2 in the race and to finish like this, I think it’s a first good step for next year.”
Giving his side of the story, Leclerc says he realised a few laps before the pass that if Perez overtook Russell, handing P2 to the Red Bull driver was going to be his best chance at securing second place in the standings.
“Quite a few laps before; as soon as I was aware about the five seconds penalty, basically,” he said.
“Then I was asking constantly the gap between George and Checo. Then they told me that Checo had passed George, so I knew Checo was behind me and his best chance was obviously to get the DRS from me and try and pull away as much as possible from George.
“So I knew that there was quite a bit of discussion between my engineer and myself and I let him know as well that this was my plan but it didn’t work out.”
But with Perez only three and a half seconds up on Russell, the Mercedes driver took third place in the race and Mercedes beat Ferrari by three points in the championship.