Charles Leclerc says he feared losing his podium position to Valtteri Bottas amid a “strange race” for Ferrari at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Leclerc jumped Max Verstappen at the start but made an early stop for fresh tyres in the hope that it would force Ferrari’s rivals into a response.
But leader Lewis Hamilton stayed out, as did Verstappen, while Leclerc was unable to set sufficiently fast enough times to place either under pressure.
Verstappen overhauled Leclerc and Ferrari opted to bring in the Monegasque youngster for a second time, leaving him susceptible to Bottas, who ran a Medium/Hard approach from the back of the grid.
Bottas came across the line just a second down on Leclerc at the conclusion of the 55-lap encounter.
“Valtteri was very quick towards the end of the race, so yeah, I was pretty worried at one point when he started to catch and I was starting to struggle a little bit,” said Leclerc.
“But then, in the last four or five laps, I think he came back a little bit slower: I think he slowed down too, so then I was a bit more hopeful and then I had some traffic, so it was very close towards the end.
“It was a bit of a strange race because in the first stint I was very hopeful, I was behind Lewis. OK, we weren’t as quick as Lewis but I still thought the pace was there.
“We tried to pit pretty early to try to force them to stop early but yeah, then basically I understood I would see Lewis at the end of the race because we were just not quick enough and we never put a challenge to them in front.”
Leclerc believes Ferrari’s display at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix epitomised much of its season.
“We weren’t quick enough,” he accepted.
“But overall, I think during the season it’s been more or less the same picture when qualifying, we manage more or less to be there but then in the race, we seem to struggle.
“So we need to work on that for 2020.”