Charles Leclerc’s disastrous start to the new season took a further hit after learning on Wednesday that he will serve a grid penalty at this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
Leclerc’s 2023 season has already gotten off to a rough start with the Monegasque receiving a 10-place grid penalty for this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. This after just one race has been completed.
In the morning of the race at the Bahrain International Circuit, a second set of control electronics were installed for Leclerc after Ferrari discovered a problem with the first set, which ended up ruining his Bahrain Grand Prix. Leclerc finished third in the season-opening race in Bahrain when he retired after his Ferrari engine failed late in the race.
Ferrari has disclosed that they will have to install a new electronics control unit before Sunday’s race in Jeddah. This will be the third such unit the Monegasque will need to install this season, exceeding the season limit of two changes and it will result in a 10-place grid penalty.
Ferrari claims to have never encountered the control electronics problem, and the team believes it has finally identified the root cause of the issue.
“On Sunday in Bahrain, we had two different issues,” said Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur. “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 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.”
It is extremely concerning that Ferrari are already receiving grid penalties, especially in light of the fact that the Italian team reportedly solved their power unit issues from the previous season over the winter break.
The Italian power unit was thought to be strong going into 2023, but it’s now unclear if it is actually weaker than it was in 2022.
“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,” Ferrari’s head of power unit Enrico Gualtieri 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.”
Leclerc’s championship challenge from the previous year slipped away due to a long list of tactical and driving errors. He finished the season 146 points behind Max Verstappen of Red Bull.
Verstappen, who cruised to an unsettling victory in Bahrain, is now 25 points ahead of him thanks to his retirement at the opening race.