Why Leclerc called off Verstappen fight after just one lap

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Charles Leclerc has explained his decision to not attack Max Verstappen after the first lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

On the opening lap at Yas Marina, Leclerc looked up the inside of Turn 1 before making a move on the brakes into Turn 6 at the end of the main straight.

Verstappen just about held onto the lead, and did so again as the Ferrari driver looked for the lead into the Turn 9 180 degree loop.

After holding position, the Red Bull’s superior race pace shone through with Verstappen easing away to a record-extending 19th win of the season as Leclerc took second, despite his late attempts to engineer Ferrari into second in the Constructors’ by letting Sergio Perez past and trying to back up George Russell.

Reflecting afterwards, the Monegasque pointed to concerns around high tyre degradation, and wanting to keep the fight for second alive, as factors in his decision to call the fight off for the lead.

Leclerc settled for second

“[The first lap battle with Verstappen] was nice,” Leclerc told media including RacingNews365.

“On the other hand, obviously I had, in my mind, the Constructors’ Championship, so I couldn’t take too many risks.

“But I saw an opportunity, I saw that Max was looking in the mirrors where I was expecting him to look in the mirror, so I made him think that I was going to the right, then I went to the left and then I tried also in Turn 9.

“I knew that it was important for me to take care of those tyres, and even in the first lap, everything is so sensitive here that even if you push too much in the first lap then this can have a huge consequence on the rest of your run.

“So, at one point I just decided to settle for the second place.

“Anyway if we will have got that first place, I don’t think we’ll have kept that for long.

“Max was stronger as expected but we had quite good tyre management. We were expected to struggle mostly with overheating.

“That is normally one of our weaknesses, but we did quite a good job on that.”

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