Charles Leclerc will have to lose ten places on the starting grid in Jeddah on Sunday for the Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia, second round in the Formula 1 world championship. The 25-year-old Monegask receives that grid penalty because an engine part of his Ferrari had to be replaced. This also happened before the start of the first Grand Prix in Bahrain, where Leclerc had to retire at a time when he was fighting for a podium place behind the two Red Bulls.
Ferrari already had to install a third ECU (Electronic Control Unit) in Leclerc’s car, while only two can be used without penalty over an entire season. He risks having to take even more grid penalties later in the season.
“We had two problems in Bahrain, one before and one during the race, unfortunately both with the ECU,” said team principal Fred Vasseur. “We never had that problem in the past, I hope it’s solved now, but we’re going to analyze it even more deeply.”
In the championship, Leclerc is already 25 points behind the Dutchman Max Verstappen. “But he will certainly remain motivated,” Vasseur assures. “Why wouldn’t he? Only one of 23 races has been run. This penalty is not good news, but it does not mean the end of the season. Let us first see what is happening in Jeddah. Even with the grid penalty I see us performing well there.”
On the fast street circuit in Jeddah, with many long straight lines, the Ferrari’s SF-23 should in principle have the advantage.