Charles Leclerc can’t catch a break thanks to Ferrari’s ongoing incompetence in Formula 1. The Italian squad confirmed it had to replace the energy store and control electronics on Charles Leclerc’s power unit ahead of this weekend’s Saudi Arabian F1 Grand Prix. This automatically triggers a 10-place grid penalty, meaning the highest Leclerc can start on Sunday is 11th place.
Per the FIA regulations, each car is allowed two “control electronics components” per season, and this marks Leclerc’s third component in just two races. However, it can only go from bad to worse for the Monegasque, because there is a potential for additional penalties should Ferrari replace more parts as it looks to resolve its engine woes.
“On Sunday, we had two different issues,” Ferrari Team Principal Fred Vasseur told the media on Wednesday. “The first one was on the Sunday morning, when we did the fire up, and the second one was in the race. Unfortunately, it was two times the control unit, the ECU.”
“It’s something that we never experienced in the past. I hope now it’s under control, but we have a deep analysis of this. Unfortunately, we’ll have to take the penalty in Jeddah, because we have only a pool of two control units for the season,” he added.
Using Vasseur’s own words, it is unfortunate. Leclerc was all but guaranteed a podium position at the season-opening race in Bahrain when his car unexpectedly came to a halt. What could’ve been a minor points deficit to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen is now a 25-point gap. Not exactly how the championship hopeful wanted to start the season.
Leclerc is now going to start halfway down the field at Jeddah and must avoid getting tangled up with others as he fights his way to the front. It’s safe to assume that by the time he gets there—if he gets there—it’ll be too late to fight for the first or second spot. Third might be as high as he can climb, though it’ll be interesting to see how the Red Bulls perform and if Aston Martin is still a podium contender.
“He’s full push with the team, trying to get the best for everyone,” Vasseur added. “The penalty is not good news, but it’s not the end of the season. Let’s see what happens in Jeddah, and what could be the outcome, even with the penalty, but don’t imagine for half a second he could be demotivated.
“He’s fully convinced, he’s working with us, pushing the team, pushing everybody in a positive way. And nothing else.”
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