Ferrari came up three points short in its attempt to snatch the runner-up spot in the F1 championship from Mercedes, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying with Charles Leclerc taking matters into his own hands in the closing stages of the race.
At that point, Leclerc was running second behind race leader Max Verstappen and ahead of Sergio Perez and Mercedes’ George Russell.
However, the Red Bull driver had been handed a 5-second time penalty for a clash with McLaren’s Lando Norris. He therefore needed to finish five seconds clear of Russell for Mercedes to be deprived of third in the race and for Ferrari to subsequently beat its rival in the Constructors’ standings.
Leclerc’s ploy called for him to give Perez a slipstream on the final lap of the race and let the Mexican through and pull clear of Russell, with the ultimate goal of seeing his penalty drop him back behind Leclerc but remain ahead of Russell in the final classification.
Unfortunateley, Russell remained close enough for him to remain inside Perez’s five-second penalty window. While Leclerc inherited P2, the red Bull driver was demoted to fourth, with Russell claiming third and thus safeguarding Mercedes’ second place in the championship.
"It was all in the last few minutes because Checo had a five-second penalty," Leclerc explained.
"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' [championship]. That's all that mattered to me in this end of season, and we didn't achieve that.”
It was another dominate performance from Verstappen at the head of the field. Yet Leclerc had provided in the opening laps a glimmer of hope that he would be able to race the 2023 world champion.
The Ferrari briefly gained the upper hand at Turn 6 and again on the back straight, but each time Verstappen was able to fight back and fend off his rival.
"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," he said as he recounted his start.
"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."
Russell rejoiced as he finished third, and commended Leclerc for keeping things clean in his efforts to help Perez.
"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 added.
"[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."