IMAGE: Charles Leclerc finished second with fastest lap to Red Bull’s world champion Max Verstappen in Jeddah last year, with Spanish team mate Carlos Sainz third at a track that could favour Ferrari’s straight-line speed. Photograph: Loren Elliott/Reuters
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc is set for a 10-place grid penalty in Saudi Arabia this weekend for exceeding his allocation of power unit control electronics, team boss Fred Vasseur said on Wednesday.
The Monegasque retired from the season-opening race in Bahrain on March 5 with a loss of power, a failure blamed on the control electronics that had already been replaced on the Sunday morning.
Drivers are allowed two control units to last the entire season.
“Unfortunately, it was two times the control electronics box and it’s something that we never experienced in the past,” Vasseur told reporters ahead of Sunday’s second race of the season.
“I hope that now we have it under control. We have a deep analysis on this. Unfortunately, we’ll have to take the penalty in Jeddah because we only have a pool of two control electronics for the season.”
Leclerc finished second with fastest lap to Red Bull’s world champion Max Verstappen in Jeddah last year, with Spanish team mate Carlos Sainz third at a track that could favour Ferrari’s straight-line speed.
Verstappen won the season-opener in Bahrain in a Red Bull one-two with Mexican Sergio Perez and they are favourites to win again on Sunday.
Engine reliability was a problem for overall runners-up Ferrari last year, as well as strategic errors and driver mistakes.
Vasseur has taken over from departed principal Mattia Binotto with the Italian team already on the back foot as they chase a first title since 2009.
The Frenchman confirmed also that senior engineer and aerodynamics expert David Sanchez had left the team after a decade at Maranello, but played down reports of more high profile departures.
“We are a solid group and we are building up a team for the future also, and the link is good. So no, I don’t think that key people will leave the team,” he said.
Austria to stay on Formula One calendar until 2027
Austria will continue to host Formula One until 2027 after signing a four-year contract extension, both sides said on Wednesday.
The Austrian Grand Prix returned to Formula One in 2014 and the last race of the current agreement was set to be held on July 2.
“The Austrian Grand Prix brings together the perfect mix of a challenging track, high-speed racing, and a beautiful venue for our fans, so I am delighted that we will be coming back to the Red Bull Ring until at least 2027 under this new agreement,” Formula One President and CEO Stefano Domenicali said.
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