Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2023

Future penalties likely for Leclerc as he believes old parts are “not re-useable”

2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Charles Leclerc believes the two control electronic units he lost at the Bahrain Grand Prix cannot be repaired, meaning his grid penalty this weekend is unlikely to be the last of the year.

The Ferrari driver retired from the season-opening race in Bahrain due to a failure in his power unit. The team had swapped the control electronics and energy store on his car prior to the race.

As Leclerc will take a third set of control electronics in the second round this weekend, exceeding the maximum of two per season, he faces an automatic 10-place grid drop. He believes the previous sets cannot be repaired and reused, meaning any further examples he requires later in the 23-race season will incur additional penalties.

“We had two control unit problems in Bahrain, which means that we need to take a penalty,” he told Sky. “We understand these problems but as a result I obviously need to take a penalty because I don’t think they are reusable. We don’t have the confirmation yet, but I don’t think so.”

Leclerc would have to go the entire season without requiring a fresh set of control electronics to avoid a further penalty. Last year 12 of the 20 drivers exceeded their allocations of two sets of control electronics units.

However Leclerc said he is not worried about a possible recurrence of the Bahrain failure this weekend. “The team has told me that they understood the issue,” he said.

Ferrari lagged well off the pace of Red Bull in Bahrain. Leclerc is hopeful his car will be more competitive this weekend in Jeddah, where tyre degradation is lower and there are few slow corners.

“I think it might fit our car a little bit better on paper,” he said. “But we never know because Red Bull also have a very flexible car and they can change the car quite a lot from Bahrain to here and be extremely competitive here too.

“Our weakness in Bahrain was clearly the race pace in general and the tyre degradation. On that we’ve been working a lot and I’m sure that it will be a step forward compared to Bahrain, and it’s also not as big of a problem [here] as Bahrain in terms of tyre degradation. So that should help us help us.

“On the other hand, I’ve got a 10 grid places penalty, so it will be a bit more difficult for me. But I’ll do absolutely everything to have a good start and hopefully come back at the front as quickly as possible.”

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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...

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15 comments on “Future penalties likely for Leclerc as he believes old parts are “not re-useable””

  1. Can’t they strategically take the penalty for a new one when they inevitably get one for taking excess engines?

    1. Jimmy Cliff
      17th March 2023, 6:46

      Well he needs a new electronic control unit now else he can’t race this weekend.
      The ECU doesn’t seem much like a development part so maybe best if Ferrari also take a 4th, 5th, 6th and maybe 7th unit so that Leclerc is stocked in spares for rest of the season.

    2. Yeah, they probably will have to do that @f1genova. But it still is a penalty. And if you want to win the championship, well …

      1. Let’s be realistic, there won’t be a championship this year, ferrari’s highlight this year will be winning a race if there’s an opportunity.

      2. And for that having a lot of spares helps.

  2. However Leclerc said he is not worried about a possible recurrence of the Bahrain failure this weekend. “The team has told me that they understood the issue,” he said.

    Uh-oh. In typical engineering-speak, “we understand the issue” is usually the explicit first part of a two-part sentence, with the second part being an implicit “but we haven’t been able to fix it yet”.

  3. What an unfortunate situation if even the first CE copy is unreusable rather than only the second, i.e., the one used in the race.

  4. This begs the question of what teams are allowed to do re repairing something. Are there regulations stating what is allowed as a repair? For example, can things like bearings in a turbo be replaced without penalty, can electronic components in the control unit be replaced and if so how does the FIA judge this?

    1. @stever I was going to ask this question. What makes a component non-repairable? I think the answer is probably very long and complicated, and each component comes with it’s own complications. But if the CE’s problems are with ‘wiring’, can Haas or Alfa or Sainz change their wirings without being punished? Because they know there is a flaw?

    2. I don’t recall exactly what the rules are (they most likely differ, depending on the component), but it is certainly defined (with some things there are seals on parts, if you have to break them, you cannot re use that part, some might need the FIA to be present while you work on them etc.) @bernasaurus, @stever

  5. Good. Finally they admit they aren’t there where they should be. It’s good to cut the wings as early as possible not to get hopes up again.

  6. They should say way before the next season starts that they have failed. Then we don’t get the hopes up and are surprised when they actually finish the race.

    1. We still have the AM hype train. At least for two more days..

      1. Odds makers in Vegas have Stroll winning the race and lapping the field up to fifth place.

  7. Fine, make parts restrictions but perhaps they should be taking into account the places lost when a car retires: 10 on top of 19.

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