Charles Leclerc has explained the tactics that saw him relinquish second position on the road to Sergio Perez during the closing stages of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
With team-mate Carlos Sainz running out of the points, Ferrari needed Perez to demote Russell from the podium places to outscore Mercedes in the Constructors’ standings.
Despite overtaking Russell, Perez was carrying a five-second time penalty from an earlier clash with Lando Norris, resulting in Leclerc opting to let the Mexican through.
However, Perez was unable to draw five seconds clear of Russell, dropping him to fourth at the end and ensuring Mercedes beat Ferrari to second place by only three points.
Expanding on his decision to surrender a position to the Red Bull driver, Leclerc said: “It was all in the last few minutes because Checo had a five-second penalty.
“We had to help him in a way for him to finish in front of George with the five seconds. I tried to give him the DRS and a slipstream, but that unfortunately wasn’t enough.
“It is just a shame that we finished third in the Constructors’. That’s all that mattered to me in this end of season, and we didn’t achieve that.”
Starting second, Leclerc initially got away better than Verstappen and angled for a move up the inside of the polesitter into the first turn on the opening lap of the race.
However, the Dutchman rebuffered the Ferrari racer’s attempt at both Turn 1 and 6, with Leclerc admitting that he didn’t want to lose time battling the eventual race winner.
“I obviously wanted to try and get that first place, but we also know that in the race, we lacked some pace compared to them,” the Monegasque conceded.
“So, even if I would have passed Max there, I probably would have got overtaken again three or four laps [later].
“And at 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.”
Leclerc elected to avoid repeating Hamilton’s 2016 defence against Nico Rosberg by delaying Russell’s progress in the tight final sector – a move the Briton appreciated.
“It was tight with Checo at the end, I thought Charles was going to back me up but respect to him for keeping it clean,” Russell commented.
“[Second] means a huge amount. There are so many people back at a factory, Brackley, Brixworth who have worked so hard to achieve this.
“It’s been a really challenging season. I’ve let the side down a couple of times this year, so pleased to bring it across the line today.”