If Charles Leclerc is to claim his first victory since the Australian Grand Prix, he will have to fight his way through the field in Montreal, as he was forced to take a 10-place grid penalty after he was announced that he would take new control electronics on his Ferrari F1-75.
Leclerc pulled out of the lead at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix last weekend, the second time in three races that the Ferrari driver had been forced to retire from a race with powertrain issues – having also suffered problems in Barcelona.
Heading into the weekend, Ferrari admitted the power unit used by Leclerc in Baku was ‘irreparable’, and despite speculation it was unclear whether the Monegasque driver would be forced to take a grid penalty . However, after FP2 – where Leclerc finished second to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen – Ferrari announced that they had been forced to take on new control electronics, which Leclerc thought was for the best.
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“Well, obviously I start a bit more at the back,” Leclerc said of the penalty. “But I think it was the best decision to make, so let’s see how it goes. Overtaking was a bit more difficult than I expected today, but yeah, I mean the pace is here, so hopefully we can get back to where we want to be.
Ferrari is looking to close the 80-point gap with Red Bull in the constructors’ championship in Canada. And when asked how close it was between the two rivals, Leclerc said: “It’s pretty close. The race pace we have to work on – I mean it’s a bit hard to get a clear picture because I was on a different compound all the time but overall it didn’t have the look too bad so it’s good.
Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz is also looking to bounce back in Montreal, having also retired early from the race in Baku due to a hydraulic problem. And despite finishing in P2 and P3 in the first and second practice sessions, Sainz believes Ferrari are catching up with Red Bull and Verstappen.
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“Max seems to be very fast this weekend, he was on it from the start, and I think we are playing a bit to catch him, both over one lap and over long distances,” Sainz said. “But I think with the stages we normally do on Saturday and Sunday, we can get on with it.”
Ferrari’s challenge to Verstappen has been made more difficult by Leclerc’s grid penalty which, as it is Leclerc’s first CE infraction of the year, will mean he is down 10 grid places – the F1 fans waiting to see if Ferrari opts for further component changes to the Monaco power unit as the weekend progresses.