Carlos Sainz has confirmed Ferrari used team orders to ensure Charles Leclerc finished second in the Drivers' championship in 2022. The Italian marque, who have always maintained equal status for their two drivers, told the Spaniard not to battle his Monegasque teammate.

The team order in question occurred at the season ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Nov. 20. Leclerc arrived at the last race tied on points with Red Bull's Sergio Perez, and had to finish ahead of the Mexican to claim second place behind 2022 champion Max Verstappen.

Ferrari have always maintained equal status between their drivers this season, especially after it became clear that neither of them had a chance to challenge for the title. They even refused Leclerc's request at the penultimate race in Brazil to swap places with Sainz, who was in third place.

However, in Abu Dhabi, the Italian team was focused on delivering second place to Leclerc, and issued the order to Sainz. The two Ferrari cars started on the second row behind the two Red Bull cars, and the Spaniard was asked not to battle his teammate at the start.

"I think we worked as a team," Sainz said, as quoted by the Express. "I had clear instructions before the race to not fight him at the start or around the pit stops. We executed a good weekend in that sense and I am happy for him, honestly, because I really think he deserves that P2."

After a clean getaway at the start, Ferrari executed a near perfect race, and Leclerc showed incredible speed to finish second behind Verstappen on track. The Monegasque driver made a one-stop strategy work, with Perez unable to close him down despite being on fresher tyres owing to his two-stop strategy.

Leclerc went on to claim P2 in the championship, which Sainz feels was well deserved after a strong season. The former McLaren driver, on the other hand, finished fifth in the final Drivers' standings after failing to find the performance levels his teammate did during the course of the campaign.

"I think he deserved to finish second this year. He has been super-strong all year with this generation of cars. He has been driving extremely well and I may have to adapt and change a bit my driving to try and be closer to him," Sainz added.

Top two: Carlos Sainz, left, and Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc congratulate each other after qualifying in Miami Brendan Smialowski/AFP