Charles Leclerc’s difficult start to the 2023 F1 campaign has continued on Wednesday with it confirmed that he will be handed a grid penalty for this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
The Ferrari driver enjoyed a top start to the 2022 season last year with two wins from the opening three races but reliability issues reared their head over the ensuing months and eventually he found himself well behind Max Verstappen in the title race.
This year, then, the hope is obviously that Ferrari will be able to take the fight to Red Bull for the duration of the entire campaign but, already, Leclerc has had familiar issues with him forced to retire from the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Indeed, this came after news had already broken that the Energy Store and Control Electronics had needing changing before the lights went out at the first race of the season.
Teams are only permitted to use two of the latter component throughout the season without a penalty and so having to change one before the first race of the campaign always increased the likelihood Leclerc might face a grid sanction in the future.
So that is set to prove this weekend, then, with Ferrari opting to use a third for the second round in Saudi Arabia, meaning he’ll have at least a 10-place grid drop for Sunday’s race, with the chance of him having further penalties due to the part also now increased at future races.
Speaking on Wednesday, Ferrari team boss Frederic Vasseur had this to say on the matter:
“On Sunday, we had two different issues.
“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.”
A far from ideal start for Leclerc and Ferrari but there remains hope that the Prancing Horse will be strong around the street circuit in Jeddah this weekend, and that should help the Monegasque with the recovery drive now awaiting him this Sunday.
All he can do is qualify as high up as possible, take the penalty, and then battle back into the points come the chequered flag.