Ferrari’s ‘tricky’ call balancing points with penalties

Date published: September 25 2021 - Michelle Foster

Charles Leclerc Ferrari garage. Italy September 2021

Ferrari racing director Laurent Mekies says the main objective in introducing a new hybrid system in Russia was “above all for next year”.

With Formula 1 agreeing to a freeze on engine development beginning in 2022, this year is the last chance that the sport’s engine manufactures have to upgrade their power units.

Ferrari have taken advantage of that, with the Scuderia bringing a new hybrid system to the Russian Grand Prix.

Charles Leclerc took the new power unit ahead of Friday’s practice.

As it is his fourth PU for this season, the Monégasque driver has an automatic grid penalty and will be starting from the very back of the field.

Set to line up P19, Leclerc faces a tough task working his way into the points, and points are what Ferrari need after losing third place to McLaren in the Constructors’ Championship at the Italian GP.

But taking that hit now is worth it for next season says Mekies.

“First of all it’s fair to say that the main target with this power unit is above all to work for next year,” he said, “so the big push from the company to try to bring this new hybrid system as early as now, is to make sure that we can confirm that all the processes, all the direction of development that we have for next year’s PU is confirmed with the race track feedback.

“It’s one thing to have the simulation, it’s one thing to have the dyno tests, it’s much better if we can have on-track confirmation so that’s why we are doing it.

“A bit early for the feedback, we have only run practice but hopefully it will be a step in the right direction.

“Of course, doing so in that manner means that we will have a sporting penalty to deal with, but again it’s consistent with our focus to next year and to try to give priority to that.”

Kit yourself out in Ferrari colours via the official Formula 1 store

But while Leclerc has the new system in his SF21, his team-mate Carlos Sainz is still on the old power unit.

As for when Ferrari will put him on the new one, Mekies says that has yet to be decided.

“That’s a tricky one because as we said, the difference in performance is never going to be huge because it’s all about adding these small steps,” he said. “But the sporting penalty is significant.

 

“We are also fighting for every single point for the Constructors’ championship so we are trying to evaluate when it is reasonable to do it from performance versus penalty point of view.

“Of course, you should not do it too late because the more you wait, the less you will have benefits from the switch so I think in the next couple of races we will probably make the call.”

Can Ferrari strike back at Sochi in fight for P3?