Was Leclerc DNF first ‘chink in Ferrari’s armour’?

Jon Wilde
Charles Leclerc walks out of the Ferrari garage after retiring from the Spanish GP. Barcelona May 2022.

David Coulthard thinks the first chinks in the armour of Ferrari’s reliability may have been seen at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Everything had looked to be going Charles Leclerc’s way until he was forced to retire with a power-unit failure while holding a healthy lead approaching the halfway mark of the race.

And that was not the only problem that struck a Ferrari-powered car because the only other driver who failed to make it to the chequered flag was Zhou Guanyu in the Alfa Romeo, very quickly after Leclerc’s exit.

This was Leclerc’s first DNF of the season and it cost both he and the team their respective leads in the World Championship as Max Verstappen and Red Bull took over at the top of the Drivers’ and Constructors’ thanks to a 1-2 finish for their team, Sergio Perez the runner-up.

Previously, Ferrari’s only two retirements this term had been for Carlos Sainz, who ended up beached in the gravel at both Melbourne and Imola as a result of racing incidents.

It had been Red Bull encountering gremlins in Bahrain and Australia, but now the boot is on the other foot – and according to Coulthard, that could be ominous for the Italian giants.

“I think what will define this World Championship, not just about pure pace and the development rate, is reliability,” the Scot told Channel 4.

“Red Bull had issues with DRS [in Barcelona], Ferrari have shown they have had some issue with the powertrain – not only on the Ferrari but also on the Alfa Romeo of Zhou.

“So is that the first chinks in the armour? Mercedes were getting their drivers to back off at the end as well, hot conditions here, but there will be many other hot races.”

Sainz could have compensated for Leclerc’s retirement by even winning his home grand prix had he not paid for an untimely spin early in the race that dropped him down the order.

The Spaniard recovered to finish fourth, but it was the latest in a series of mistakes this year that have left Sainz in the shadow of his team-mate with an F1-75 car that evidently suits Leclerc’s driving style better.

 

“It may be that this regulation of car for Carlos is opening the gap to Charles a little bit,” added Coulthard.

“It does feel like he’s number one minus [at Ferrari] – I don’t want to say he’s the number two driver but when a Ferrari goes top, more often than not it’s Charles.”

 

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