Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc will receive a grid penalty at this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
He will have at least a 10-place drop as a result of his retirement from the season-opening race in Bahrain.
Team principal Frederic Vasseur said on Wednesday that Leclerc’s car had two problems with the electronics control unit (ECU) on race day in Bahrain.
As drivers are restricted to two ECUs for a season, Leclerc will be penalised for going over his allocation.
Vasseur said that the ECU had a problem when the car was started on race morning in Bahrain, and that Leclerc, 25, retired with a problem in the replacement part.
“It is something we have never experienced in the past and I hope now it is under control,” Vasseur said.
“But unfortunately we will have to take the penalty in Jeddah because we only have a pool of two ECUs for the season.”
Vasseur said the issue would not restrict the performance of the engine for the remaining races.
Leclerc was running third at the time of his retirement, behind the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
Ferrari will have upgrades for this weekend’s race in Jeddah in the hope of closing the performance gap to Red Bull seen in Bahrain.
This was especially large in the race, when Leclerc was losing an average of about 0.7 seconds a lap to Verstappen in the first stint before the Dutchman backed off having built a substantial lead.
Vasseur said: “I can’t be satisfied with the situation and I want to do a step forward.
“The characteristics of Jeddah are completely different compared to Bahrain and already it will swing a little more to what we have today and we will also bring some updates to Jeddah and I hope we will do a step forward.”
He said that problems finding the right set-up for the car had restricted Ferrari’s pace in Bahrain.
“We had a lot of room for improvement in terms of drivability and the most important is to stay focused on the current situation to try to get the best from what we have today,” Vasseur said.
“We will bring improvements but first we need to get the best of what we have and we still have some room for improvement.
“But keep in mind that Bahrain is not always very representative and we are still at the early stage of the car and we need to have a better understanding of it to try to get the best from the package.”
He added: “Bahrain was not as good as expected, and we have to react.
“Everybody is working at their best to fix the issues. We have to keep the eyes open that we had issues in Bahrain in terms of reliability and we need to fix the issue of drivability.
“I am not negative at all. We had a clear analysis of what we did in Bahrain, we have a long list of what we need to improve and we are on it and I hope in Jeddah already we will be able to (make a step forward).”
Vasseur, who joined Ferrari in January, rejected claims in the Italian media in recent days of disharmony at management level in Ferrari, which were particularly focused on the relationship between himself and chief executive officer Benedetto Vigna.
“With Benedetto, we have a constant collaboration,” Vasseur said. “It is a very good set-up so far. We have always open discussions. He is supportive on every single topic and I can’t complain about this. It is more coming from gossip, but the collaboration with Benedetto is a very positive one.”
Ferrari’s head of vehicle performance David Sanchez has left the company and is believed to be heading to another team, which has not yet been named but is said by media reports to be McLaren.
Vasseur said employees leaving and joining teams was normal in F1 but that he did not expect any other significant changes this year.
Source – BBC Sport
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