Ferrari chief orders ‘full investigation’ into Charles Leclerc’s retirement at Bahrain grand prix

Charles Leclerc was forced out of the season opener at the Sakhir Circuit (Getty Images)

Charles Leclerc was forced out of the season opener at the Sakhir Circuit (Getty Images)

Frederic Vasseur, the Ferrari F1 team’s new team principal, has said a “full investigation” is needed to determine what caused Charles Leclerc’s retirement at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Monegasque driver was forced out of the season opening race at Sakhir circuit in a disappointing start to the 2023 season for the Italian team.

After running third, Leclerc suffered an engine problem after 39 laps, an early blow to his hopes of a serious title challenge.

Vasseur, who replaced Mattia Binotto at the helm of Ferrari during the off-season, has now admitted the matter came as a surprise.

The former Alfa Romeo chief clarified that it is not a problem with the team’s engine, but said it was “a pity” that Leclerc’s season started in such a way.

“We never expected to have something like this because it’s the first time we’ve had it,” Vasseur told the Formula 1 website after the race in Bahrain. “We didn’t have the same problem at all during the six or seven thousand kilometers we covered with the bike last week, with the three teams [Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Haas]and… with the test bench.

“We need to do a full investigation before we can give you an answer [on what caused the retirement].

“We had a problem with the engine and we need to investigate what exactly happened. It’s not the engine itself, it’s an accessory. I would say it’s a shame, but it’s the real picture of the situation… it is what it is.”

While Carlos Sainz was able to finish fourth, the weekend in Bahrain dented Ferrari’s optimism that they could match Red Bull.

The Italian team was the main challenger to the winners of the 2022 Constructors’ Championship last season, but still finished well behind Christian Horner’s team.

Max Verstappen’s bid for a third consecutive world title got off to a perfect start, with Vasseur insisting that “massive improvements” are needed if his new team is to compete well for either championship.

The Ferrari team boss explained: “Carlos [Sainz] drove a solid race, ran at a consistent pace and gave it his all to finish fourth. We have a lot to improve on tire management and obviously we need to make sure we don’t have reliability issues like the one that hit us today.

“On [one-lap pace] we were able to match Red Bull, but that wasn’t the case in a long stint… Charles probably could have been P3, but… we weren’t able to finish the race.

“The impression is also that we have to make enormous improvements in the field of reliability. We have to look at today’s race as the real picture; to start from there, to improve and change the situation.”

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