In Depth

F1: Leclerc engine reliability was ‘unacceptable’ says Ferrari boss Binotto

Ferrari remain positive despite ‘world champion in waiting’ Leclerc missing out on Bahrain GP win

Charles Leclerc and Ferrari will take away the positives from the Bahrain Grand Prix despite the young driver missing out on his first victory in Formula 1.

The 21-year-old proved why Ferrari recruited him by qualifying on pole position and then leading much of Sunday’s race at the Bahrain International Circuit.

But his SF90 had engine power issues ten laps from the end. This meant Leclerc had to settle for a third-place finish behind Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

Speaking after the race Leclerc said: “It’s part of motorsport, we know that. Sometimes it’s not your day to win. The team is disappointed and I am disappointed but there are a lot of positives to take home from this weekend.

“They gave me an amazing car and that is very much to their credit. The car was very easy to drive and was very good.

“These things happen in motorsport: we took the best out of it anyway. It’s my first podium even if I’m not enjoying it as much as I wanted. It’s life, it happens, we’ll come back stronger.”

‘Unacceptable from us’

While Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto agreed that there were positives to take away from Bahrain the Italian outfit will launch an investigation into why the power failed on Leclerc’s car.

Binotto said: “It was a shame for Charles. He was in the lead for much of the race and showed that he was particularly comfortable here in Bahrain, also setting the race fastest lap. He deserved to win and it was only the reliability problem, which we must now investigate, which prevented him from doing so.” 

Describing the power failure as “unacceptable from us”, Binotto said it showed how important it was to get every detail right in order to win.

“We head home with many positives on which to build for the rest of the season, such as our performance level and the way the team reacted,” he said. “Clearly there are still various things that we have to learn and we will continue to work on them.”

World champion in waiting

Bahrain GP race winner Hamilton consoled Leclerc after the youngster missed out on his win on Sunday. Reigning world champion Hamilton admitted Mercedes were lucky to take advantage and secure a one-two.

The British driver said: “I had to go and see Charles because he did such a great job. I’m sure it was a devastating result for him because he’d done the job to win. We were lucky. This guy has a lot of race wins coming in the future.”

It wasn’t just rivals who sang the praises of the young Monegasque driver. The Guardian’s Giles Richards said Leclerc was a “world champion in waiting” while The Times’s Rebecca Clancy said he should “take a lot of confidence from this race”.

Richards wrote: “Lewis Hamilton may have won the race for Mercedes but it was Leclerc who captivated in this fascinating drama. Only 21 years old, with a first win in his grasp, he was denied at the last.

“The Monegasque’s composure and skill on track and his extraordinary maturity in dealing with this harshest of slings and arrows confirmed this young man is a world champion in waiting.”

Vettel has homework to do

Leclerc’s Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel also came away from Bahrain with a feeling of “what if?”.

German driver Vettel lost control of his car and the spin saw him miss out on second place and end up finishing fifth.

Vettel said: “Plenty of homework on my side after this weekend. Not having the feel for the car, so we need to have a good look.

“Not the race we wanted. We started first and second and we didn’t finish there. A disappointing evening. I had a good start but already halfway through the first lap I realised that the car was extremely difficult to drive.

“While battling with Lewis I made a mistake at turn four, which is one of the trickiest corners on the track. I suddenly lost the car and I spun. In doing so, I damaged the tyres so much that I had quite a lot of vibrations, which eventually led to the failure of the front wing.

“It was Charles’s race, he got very unlucky. I am sorry for him and for the team.”

Binotto added: “With regards to Sebastian, these things can happen in racing when you are on the limit.”

2019 standings

Mercedes driver Bottas leads the F1 2019 drivers’ championship on 44 points after two races, one ahead of Hamilton.

Red Bull’s Verstappen is third in the standings on 27 points while Ferrari duo Leclerc and Vettel have 26 and 22 points respectively.

In the F1 2019 constructors’ championship Mercedes lead the way with 87 points. They are 39 points ahead of second-placed Ferrari who are on 48. Red Bull are third with 31 points.

When is the next F1 GP?

The third race of the 2019 F1 season will be the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday 14 April at the Shanghai International Circuit. China marks a huge milestone for Formula 1 as it will be the sport’s 1,000th world championship race.

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