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Vasseur Confirms Grid Penalty for Leclerc after Bahrain Component Woes

Charles Leclerc will take a ten-place grid penalty this weekend in Saudi Arabia after Scuderia Ferrari Team Principal Frédéric Vasseur confirmed a change to a third control electronics, one above the number allowed across a full FIA Formula 1 World Championship season.

Ferrari were forced to change the component before the start of the Bahrain Grand Prix only for Leclerc to suffer a mechanical failure whilst running third, and despite it only being the second round of the season, the Monegasque driver will take a grid drop penalty for Sunday’s race at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

Speaking ahead of the Saudi Arabian weekend, Vasseur, the recently appointed Team Principal at the Maranello-based squad, says Ferrari have an understanding after Bahrain of their strengths and weaknesses, and they know they will need to be stronger on Sundays if they are to contend with Oracle Red Bull Racing for race victories in 2023.

However, he is not expecting the same kind of dominance from their rivals on what is a much different track to the Bahrain International Circuit from two weeks ago, and he hopes that Leclerc and team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr. can take the fight to Red Bull in Jeddah.

“We came away from the Grand Prix in Bahrain with a first picture of the strengths and weaknesses of our car and useful pointers for making progress,” said Vasseur.  “Comparing the SF-23’s qualifying and race performance, there’s still some room to improve our Sunday performance.

“We are working well as a team to extract the maximum from our package both in terms of drivability and reliability. We found the cause of the issue that stopped Charles in Sakhir and will use the third CU on his car, which means that we will take a grid penalty.

“The Saudi Arabian track is very different to Bahrain in terms of layout and track surface, and top speed is particularly important. I’m confident that we can have a better weekend here”.

“The title won’t be won or lost in Bahrain” – Matteo Togninalli

Matteo Togninalli, the Head of Track Engineering, says that despite the poor showing in Bahrain, the championship cannot be won or lost at the first event, and Ferrari will be doing everything they can to fight back against Red Bull.

Leclerc was on course for a podium before his retirement, whilst Sainz ended fourth, although the Spaniard was almost fifty seconds back on race winner Max Verstappen.

However, Togninalli believes Ferrari have a good car with the potential to fight at the front, and it will be a case of fine-tuning the SF23 to bring them into contention.

“Testing was good and the three days showed that the car is matching our expectations and now we need to continue fine-tuning in order to get the most out of it,” said Togninalli.  

“One thing is clear: this will be the Championship with the most races ever, so no matter what the result, the title won’t be won or lost in Bahrain”.

Carlos Sainz Jr. scored Ferrari’s only points in Bahrain with a fourth place finish – Credit: Scuderia Ferrari Press Office


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