After a year full of strategic blunders, Ferrari ended the season by actually getting their strategy spot on, something which might have come as a shock to fans of the Scuderia.
At the start of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Ferrari appeared to be well off the pace; however, from qualifying onwards the Maranello-based side looked surprisingly strong.
Whilst they couldn’t quite match Red Bull in qualifying, the Italians did manage to lock-out the second row of the grid.
After an early race battle with Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc settled into the finale in third place, where he set his sights on catching Sergio Pérez.
Leclerc’s pace was seemingly a shock to the Austrians, who fell right into the Maranello-based side’s trap.
The 24-year-old was told to “box, opposite Perez,” to make a second stop, which resulted in Checo being called into the pits late.
Leclerc ended up not even pitting for a second time, as the one-stop strategy ended up being the preferred option amongst many, including, Max Verstappen who won the race.
Pérez ended the race 1.3 seconds behind Leclerc, sealing the Monegasque driver second in the Drivers’ Championship.
With Mercedes having suffered a woeful season finale, it also meant Ferrari safely claimed second in the Constructors’ Championship as well, much to the team’s delight.
Under pressure Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto praised his side’s strategy after the race and labelled the “dummy call” as “fantastic”.
“We were flexible with both drivers because we knew it would have been somewhere in between the one or the two [stop strategy],” Binotto told the media after the season finale.
“Charles had a bit more margin on the cars behind and could save more of the tyres which gave him the benefit to go for the one-stop.
“It was great to see the team being flexible in choosing one driver [to go on the one-stop] and the second [on a two] to optimise the race results.
“The dummy call on the Red Bull was fantastic. Certainly we did a proper job, and overall, we made it right so I’m happy for the team.
“When Ferrari has been making mistakes, there is always a lot of criticism, but I know that these guys can do very well.”
Leclerc has been the usual victim this season of Ferrari’s incompetence in regard to their strategies, so was understandably delighted that something went right for a change.
The Ferrari star hailed his team for “perfectly” catching out Red Bull, despite the Italians having had less pace than the dominant side.
“I don’t think we have the pace of the Red Bulls still, and our goal from the beginning was to try and push Checo do something different, which we did perfectly,” said the Monegasque.
“And again, with a great tyre management, we made the one-stop work, which eventually got us the second place.”