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Ferrari Follies: Charles Leclerc Slapped With Major Grid Penalty for Saudi Grand Prix

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
For Scuderia Ferrari, when it rains, it pours. Let’s explain precisely what caused this major Leclerc penalty on the grid for the 2023 Saudi GP.

The start to Charles Leclerc‘s 2023 Formula 1 world championship season has gone from bad to worse.

Way worse.

The superstar Ferrari driver will have to take a starting grid penalty of at least 10 spots for March 19’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah following a power failure in the 2023 season’s opening race in Bahrain earlier this month that caused him to retire despite running in third place at the time. Here’s why:

  • Ferrari replaced the energy store and control electronics on Leclerc’s engine prior to the Bahrain race, but teams are only permitted by F1 rules to use two control electronics components per season.
  • Following the electrical failure during that race, the driver will already be on a third replacement component this season, resulting in the Leclerc penalty.

The Monégasque wheelman will be potentially subject to even further penalties throughout the season if more electrical parts need replacing at Jeddah.

“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,” Fred Vasseur, Scuderia Ferrari’s first-year team principal, told media members on Wednesday. “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.”

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In a word, the Leclerc penalty confirms a disastrous start to Vasseur’s tenure in charge of the iconic Prancing Horse. The 54-year-old Frenchman replaced previous principal Mattia Binotto, who brought Ferrari back to prominence in F1 since he took the reigns in 2019 only to see a series of strategic errors derail a real chance at championship contention in 2022.

Vasseur maintained that Leclerc would be running at full power despite the issues, and that the racer is still motivated to have a strong finish at Jeddah.

“He’s full push with the team, trying to get the best for everyone,” he said of the driver. “The penalty is not good news, but it’s not the end of the season. Let’s see what happens in Jeddah, and what could be the outcome, even with the penalty, but don’t imagine for half a second he could be demotivated.”

Already 25 points behind chief rival and two-time defending world champion Max Verstappen of Red Bull, Leclerc’s gap will seemingly grow even larger thanks to Sunday’s grid penalty — and if electrical issues persist this season for Ferrari, it could mark the end of the Italian giant’s resurgence and further shift the F1 power dynamic away from the 16-time Constructor’s Championship winners as unlikely rivals like Aston Martin spread their wings.

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About The Author
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung is a Senior Staff Writer at Boardroom. He has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with past work appearing in Forbes, MLB.com, Awful Announcing, and The Sporting News. He graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011, and his Twitter and Spotify addictions are well under control. Just ask him.