Ferrari “never expected” engine failure which ended Leclerc’s race – Vasseur

2023 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur says the engine failure which put Charles Leclerc out of the Bahrain Grand Prix was completely unexpected.

The team changed two parts on Leclerc’s car during the build-up to the race – his control electronics and energy store – after inspecting the data from his power unit. But his stoppage two-thirds of the way through the race caught them completely by surprise.

“Honestly we don’t know yet what’s happened exactly,” said Vasseur. “There’s been an issue this morning, we changed the parts, we don’t know where it’s coming from and we’ll have the investigation soon. But it’s too early stage for me to give you a better answer.”

During the winter Ferrari focused on eliminating the reliability problems which undermined their 2022 campaign. There was no prior indication of the fault which brought Leclerc’s race to an end.

“We never expected to have something like this because it’s the first time that we had it,” said Vasseur. “We didn’t face the same issue at all during the six or seven thousand kilometres that we did with the engines last week with the three teams. And we never had the same issue on the dyno throughout the winter.

“But again, we need to do a full investigation before to be able to give you a proper answer.”

The sudden failure of Leclerc’s engine capped a race which was already proving a disappointment for Ferrari. Having shown promising pace in qualifying, Leclerc was unable to mount a serious threat to Max Verstappen’s Red Bull and lost the place he gained from the team’s other car, driven by Sergio Perez.

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“Overall, I would say that the picture is not the one expected before the race,” said Vasseur. “If I want to summarise the situation I would say that from the quali pace we are there, we are matching Red Bull, at least in Bahrain, and it was a positive point.

Race start, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023
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“But now we have to be realistic. If we want to improve, we need to have a clear picture of the situation and the reliability is not at the level that we need. If we want to win races, we need to have a clean sheet on the weekend and not small details here and there.

“[On] degradation, I think Charles would have been able to finish P3. But the degradation is probably at the level of the Mercedes and not far away of matching with Alonso but not at the level [required].”

Red Bull ran a more aggressive strategy than Ferrari, doing two stints on soft tyres and one on the hards, while Ferrari had to use the hards twice.

“They were able to do the second stint with soft when we had to put the hard to go to the end,” said Vasseur. “It means that the pace difference at this stage came also from the tyre choice. We were not able to do soft-soft-hard.”

The team will “do a proper analysis of the situation to know what is going well and what is going wrong and to try to get the best on the issues,” said Vasseur. “But now that we have a better picture of the situation and we know exactly what we need this weekend we have to clearly make a step forward.”

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2023 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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19 comments on “Ferrari “never expected” engine failure which ended Leclerc’s race – Vasseur”

  1. Reliability needs to be good, but even before the eventual DNF, Leclerc couldn’t match the Red Bulls on pure pace, so probably the same story moving on despite track characteristic differences.

    1. Yes, I agree with what vasseur said, that 3rd looked possible, but I think he’d have barely been in front of alonso, which still means being 35+ seconds behind verstappen, not a good look.

  2. Thank god you saved those soft tyres and wasted an opportunity to at least get pole.

    1. I doubt it would have mattered either way. Even if Leclerc would have been able to stay ahead at the start, his pace was not good enough to keep ahead after the pitstops anyway. And off course he would still not have finished.

      To me that was actually a good call, Leclerc would have finished 3rd if the car had not broken down. That tyre helped him at the start, meaning he got a good first stint running in clear air. It was what would have kept him ahead of Alonso towards the end.

    2. Agree. They had no chance against any RBR on pure pace, at least fight for the PP and not give up there too.

    3. And what good would have the pole given them? Other than almost definitely not being able to hang onto the second place for so long?

      1. A pole is a pole, no matter if it doesn’t translate into points.

        1. That is the opposite of how someone trying to win a championship ought to be thinking.

  3. Fred should get busy shopping ’round his second seat to the highest bidder.

    After all, that’s what he’s most familiar with in Formula 1.

    1. Low blow, and bringing nothing to the article.

      1. I’d just like to point out that you’re not contesting the content of my post.

  4. Ferrari is still very much the team Binotto made. It’s going to take many more months to make changes, and to then start seeing the results of those. It’s unfortunate, but Vasseur is probably going to have to go through quite a few more of these post-race talks.

    1. t’s already nigh-and-day on how he speaks, at least.
      Not ‘good enough’ by any stretch of the imagination, and it’s only normal that he will take time to set up ‘his’ team, but attitude is, imho, in the right direction-

  5. I’m not that surprised with Ferraris result. Ferrari peaked at Bahrain in 2022, since then it’s been nothing but poor reliability, mistakes and poor car development. The trend continues in to 2023. I think they’re lucky that Mercedes dropped the ball big time, or they’d be at a comfortable P4 in the WCC this year.

  6. Vasseur is about to learn a harsh lesson about Ferrari and Italians.

    For sure, everyone knows this by now, but Vasseur seems determined to experience it for himself first-hand.

    1. And what would be the lesson about Italians let’s see

  7. Seems the powermode was a tod too high but let we wait untill they hit the classic tracks if the difference is still so high.

  8. It will be a good season as Mercedes will not win the titles. But it will not be a great season as Charles will be hobbled in his attempt to beat Max.

  9. Great strategy… Destroy the engine, justify reliability upgrades (aka performance). Job done.

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