Charles Leclerc reveals worrying Ferrari pace deficit after DNF heartbreak

Jamie Woodhouse
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, head in hands. Bahrain, March 2023.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, looks upset with head in hands. Bahrain, March 2023.

New season, but fresh troubles for Ferrari as Charles Leclerc was forced to retire from a podium position at the Bahrain GP.

Ferrari and Leclerc had made a tactical call in qualifying to snub a final attempt at pole position, to instead save an extra set of soft tyres for the race.

Leclerc then started P3 and was running there comfortably come Lap 41 of the race, that was until the Ferrari SF-23 decided that it had had enough.

Through Turn 12 Leclerc would suffer a sudden loss of power, and having trundled through Turn 13 was forced to park the poorly SF-23 at the side of the track down the back straight.

The issue appeared to be electronic related and came at a time when Leclerc was running P3 in the race, behind Red Bull’s runaway winner Max Verstappen and Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez.

Interestingly, Ferrari had changed the Energy Store on Leclerc’s SF-23 ahead of the race, with the team later confirming that it was a power unit problem which had spelt the end for Leclerc’s race.

The incident was covered under a Virtual Safety Car, which did Leclerc’s team-mate Carlos Sainz no favours as he was later left powerless to defend the final podium spot from Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, who got the Silverstone squad’s season off to a mighty start.

Leclerc, speaking to media in Bahrain after his DNF, confirmed that he had “zero” warning of the impending failure, with the SF-23 shutting down “completely”.

“I couldn’t do anything after that,” he added.

“We need to keep working because obviously first race and first reliability problems, so not good.” recommends

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While Leclerc looked to be heading rather comfortably to a P3 finish, he stressed that he could not be feeling too comfortable when he was “a second off the pace” of Red Bull, and so now feels that Ferrari has a lot of work ahead.

Asked if he was feeling confident out on track in that Ferrari before the retirement, Leclerc replied: “I mean, as confident as I can be being a second off the pace, which is not really confident to be honest.

“Red Bull seems to have found something really big during the race pace. In terms of qualy 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.

“Bahrain is also a very specific track, so I hope that the picture can change a little bit from the next race, but we cannot rely on that, we need to work and find something.

“So, we really need to work into that, plus the reliability.”

Asked by if the original Energy Store is still in his pool, Leclerc replied: “I don’t know anything for now to be honest. I just got out the car and I came here so yeah, I don’t know anything.”

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher