Leclerc hails 'perfect' Abu Dhabi Grand Prix showing after holding off Perez for second

Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

Charles Leclerc lauded the "perfect race" at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after holding off Sergio Perez to secure second in Formula One's drivers' championship.

Red Bull star Max Verstappen was a distant memory for the rest of the grid on Sunday, easing to a third-straight Abu Dhabi win and 15th victory of 2022 after already securing the world title.

Team-mate Perez did not have as much reason to celebrate, though, after being unable to overtake Leclerc, who finished three points ahead of the Mexican in the drivers' standings.

Ferrari opted to go with a one-stop pit strategy with Leclerc at the Yas Marina Circuit and the Monegasque driver hailed a faultless performance in the final event of the season.

He told Sky Sports: "I was 110 per cent from the first lap to the last. We had the perfect race.

"I knew the only way for us to beat Checo [Perez] was with a different strategy and playing with time management, which we did really well. We made the one-stop work so I am really happy."

Leclerc's performance was enough to secure Ferrari second in the constructors' championship, again behind Red Bull, as the Italian team finished 39 points ahead of third-placed Mercedes.

The 25-year-old hopes his team can correct their mistakes and strategy decisions from 2022 to compete for the title after making progress this campaign.

"I really hope next year we can make a step forward and fight for the championship but considering where we were, it is a step forward," Leclerc added.

"We still need to work on race pace as we tend to struggle on Sunday but we will push during the winter break."

Perez may be left to rue Verstappen's refusal to allow his Red Bull team-mate to overtake in Sao Paolo last weekend, seemingly handing the advantage to Leclerc in the drivers' championship.

The Mexican refused to dwell on the negatives after the race in Abu Dhabi, though, instead pinpointing the positives as Red Bull look to improve on an incredible season next year.

"It is how it is. Sometimes everything can be really close. At the end of the day, I've got to be happy," Perez said.

"I gave it all, as a team we gave it all through the season, and I'm sure we will come back stronger next year.

"We had great moments, great battling. I think I struggled a bit this year in terms of managing the tyres in the race, that can be something that we will improve for next year, and generally just be a bit stronger."