Leclerc’s exit caps Ferrari’s dreadful day in Baku

Jon Wilde
Charles Leclerc's engine fails. Baku June 2022.

Charles Leclerc's engine fails during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Baku June 2022.

Ferrari’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix turned from bad to absolutely dreadful as Charles Leclerc joined his team-mate Carlos Sainz in retirement.

Sainz was the first driver to exit in Baku as he headed down an escape road on lap nine while running fourth, quickly announcing over the team radio that “something failed” and he was unable to rejoin the track.

Subsequently diagnosed as a hydraulic problem, the Spaniard was joined on the sidelines 11 laps later as Leclerc’s power unit was billowing smoke along the straight and he coasted into the pits.

“Problem, problem, engine” were the Monegasque’s initial words as his World Championship hopes suffered another devastating blow.

Leclerc had started from pole position for the fourth consecutive race but he has not won any of them, and this was his second retirement in the last three grands prix having retired from the lead in Barcelona.

Passed for the lead by Sergio Perez heading into the opening corner of the Baku Street Circuit, Leclerc made a pit stop under the Virtual Safety Car deployed for Sainz’s exit and was running third behind Red Bull duo Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez when forced out of the race.

The early World Championship pace-setter, Leclerc faced the prospect of falling 35 points behind title-holder Verstappen if the Dutchman went on to win and also set the fastest lap.

It was also looking like worst-case-scenario for Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship, potentially dropping 80 points behind Red Bull.

“It hurts. I don’t really find the right words to describe [it], obviously it’s very disappointing,” said Leclerc when back in the paddock.

“We need to look into it to not happen again. We’ve been fast and we didn’t have particularly big problems in the first part of the season.

“Now we have a bit more compared to the beginning of the season but we didn’t change massive things. If anything, we made things better.

“It’s difficult to understand for now but we will have to analyse obviously. I don’t have the full picture of what happened today.

“Just personally, again it hurts. I really don’t know for now. I have no news. Obviously there’s still the disappointment.

“I came from the car straight to here and didn’t speak to anyone from the team, so I don’t know what’s going on.”