Leclerc hit with Saudi Arabian grid penalty

Charles Leclerc will take a grid penalty for the race in Saudi Arabia

Charles Leclerc will take a grid penalty for the race in Saudi Arabia

Charles Leclerc will take a 10-place grid penalty for this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Leclerc’s SF-23 is to be fitted with a third control electronics unit for the race at the Jeddah Street Circuit.

Ferrari initially replaced the energy store and control electronics unit on Leclerc’s power unit ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

Leclerc then retired during the race with a PU problem, necessitating the need for a third control electronics system for the race by the Red Sea. Only two of this component are permitted during a campaign.

“On Sunday, we had two different issues,” said Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur, speaking in a media call.

“The first was on Sunday morning when we did the fire up, and the second was in the race. Unfortunately, it was two times the control unit, the ECU. It’s something we never experienced in the past.

“I hope it’s now under control but we have (to conduct) a deep analysis on this.

“Unfortunately, we’ll have to take the penalty in Jeddah because we have only a pool of two control units for the season.”

Leclerc “fully motivated”

Taking such a penalty so early in the season will naturally have a knock-on effect throughout the campaign. Further replacements of the ECU will result in a five-place grid drops.

Last season, Ferrari suffered with the reliability of its PU, prompting Vasseur to implement a thorough investigation behind the issues after taking up his new role in early January.

Leclerc’s retirement with a PU problem whilst running in third has only compounded the immediate need to get on top of any and all problems to prevent another hoped-for title challenge from fading before it has even started.

Despite the potential damage to morale for both the team and Leclerc, Vasseur said: “Charles was with us after the tyre-test day on Tuesday, (and he) was at the factory on Wednesday morning.

“We had a speech with the employees where we were all together on stage. It’s obvious Charles is motivated. He’s fully pushing the team the team, trying to get the best out of everyone.

“Of course, 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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