By Philip Duncan, PA F1 Correspondent
Charles Leclerc’s torrid start to the new season was dealt a further blow on Wednesday when it was confirmed he will serve a grid penalty at this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
Leclerc retired from the season-opening race in Bahrain while running in third place after his Ferrari engine expired in the latter stages.
And his Ferrari team has revealed prior to Sunday’s round in Jeddah that they will have to fit a new electronics control unit – the Monegasque’s third already this season – resulting in a 10-place grid drop.
Leclerc could also incur further grid penalties if more replacement engine parts are required.
“On Sunday in Bahrain, we had two different issues,” said Frederic Vasseur, the Ferrari team principal.
“The first one was on the Sunday morning, when we did the fire up, and the second one was in the race. Unfortunately, it was two times the control unit, the ECU.
“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.
We have a lot of work to do. Not the first race we wanted to have, struggling with the pace in the race and unfortunately not finishing the race because of a reliability problem.
Two weeks to push flat out and react starting from Jeddah! pic.twitter.com/qKMYvJqB7M
— Charles Leclerc (@Charles_Leclerc) March 5, 2023
“Unfortunately, we’ll have to take the penalty in Jeddah, because we have only a pool of two control units for the season.”
Leclerc’s championship challenge last year faded away through a litany of mechanical and strategic mistakes. He finished the season 146 points behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
His retirement at the opener in Bahrain already leaves him 25 points adrift of Verstappen, who romped to an ominous victory.