Charles Leclerc was unable to provide any further update on the engine problem that cost him a podium at the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix, as his season started in the worst possible way.
Ferrari had opted to prioritise the race after Leclerc felt he could’ve got pole in Bahrain and he looked on track for a comfortable podium, but his power unit conked out on lap 39 to ruin the day.
It’s a worrying sign for Ferrari fans after their 2022 season was derailed by reliability problems and the team had said they’d got on top of the issues over the winter.
“I don’t know anything for now, to be honest,” Leclerc told the press when asked about the state of his engine. “I just got out the car and I came here. So yeah, I don’t know anything.
“I cannot say it feels good. I mean, obviously, there was quite a lot of work on that. But we need to keep working because obviously first race and first reliability problems, so yeah, not good.”
Leclerc added he had no warning of the power unit problem before it struck on the final straight of the Bahrain International Circuit, and said there was nothing he could’ve done to fix the problem before his car rolled to a stop.
It also remains to be seen whether the power unit is completely written off or an be put back into the engine pool for later races, if it’s the former then it’ll cost Leclerc grid penalties later in the season.
Leclerc was running in the net podium positions for the whole race before his DNF, and was asked whether he was confident in his Ferrrari.
“I mean, as confident as I can be being a second off the pace, which is not really confident to be honest” Leclerc answered. “Red Bull seems to have found something really big for their race pace.
“In terms of quality pace, they are actually pretty similar to us, or at least we managed to extract the lap time yesterday.
“But then we come to the race, and we are a second every lap off the pace, which is huge. So we really need to work into that plus the reliability.”
Ferrari behind Red Bull, Aston Martin and Mercedes
Ferrari entered the weekend widely expected to bring a performance boost after they didn’t trouble the top of the timesheets in pre-season testing or even free practice for the Bahrain GP.
Things all seemed to be going well for Ferrari in qualifying – despite Leclerc sustaining damage on his first flying lap – as they topped the first two sessions before being pushed to third and fourth in Q3.
In the race, Leclerc seemed assured of a podium finish until the incident, but after he retired Carlos Sainz was passed by the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso so had to settle for fourth.
That means Ferrari start the season fourth in the constructors championship behind Red Bull, Aston Martin and Mercedes who all scored double top-seven finishes.
“They seem to be quick,” Leclerc said on Aston Martin. “I think third place was possible today, I had a bit of margin with the guys behind, I was managing on that last stint but they were starting also a bit further back.
“So I don’t know, Bahrain is also a very specific track so I hope that the picture can change a little bit from next race but we cannot rely on that, we need to work and find something.”