Formula 1 Racing

Leclerc set for Saudi Arabian GP grid penalty after Bahrain F1 engine trouble

Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari, on the grid

On race morning of the season opening Bahrain Grand Prix earlier this month, Ferrari detected an anomaly in Leclerc’s power unit control electronics and decided to replace it with a new set.

But on the lap 40 of the Sakhir race, Leclerc pulled over with a loss of power and it soon emerged that the control electronics were again to blame for Ferrari’s first DNF of 2023.

After analysis in Maranello team principal Fred Vasseur confirmed on Wednesday that the unit, of which only two examples can be used per year, will again need to be replaced.

Leclerc is therefore set to take his first 10-place grid penalty in Jeddah, the first power unit related punishment of the season.

“There were two issues, one on the Sunday morning when we did the fire-up and one in the race,” Vasseur explained.

“Unfortunately, it was two times the control electronics box and it’s something that we never experienced in the past.

“I hope that now we have it under control. We have a deep analysis on this. But unfortunately, we will have to take the penalty in Jeddah because we only have a pool of two control electronics for the season.”

Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari, on the grid

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Ferrari’s engine reliability proved an Achilles heel throughout the 2022 season, with Leclerc retiring from the lead in both the Azerbaijan and Spanish Grand Prix as his title challenge started falling apart.

It also led to the Maranello team turning down its 2022 engine as a precaution, but after working on its issues over the winter, rival teams believe Ferrari has turned up with the most powerful engine in Bahrain.

The control electronics issue is not said to be related to any problems the team encountered last year.

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Before the start of the season Ferrari’s head of power unit Enrico Gualtieri said the team worked hard on addressing its reliability issues, which unlike performance work is permitted by the engine regulations.

“We worked on all areas trying to understand the root causes of the problems we encountered on track and used all our available tools to try and solve them,” he said in a team video.

“We’ve had some positive feedback on the test bench on some of the changes we’ve introduced. But as usual, the track will tell us if we’ve done a good job.”

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