Leclerc to start Spanish GP from pitlane as Ferrari replaces rear end
Charles Leclerc will start Formula 1’s Spanish Grand Prix from the pitlane after Ferrari elected to change the entire rear end of his car following his qualifying woes.
The Monegasque driver endured a difficult Saturday as he struggled with a mysterious problem on his SF-23 that left him getting dumped out in Q1.
Speaking after the session, Leclerc said the issue seemed worse on left-hand corners.
“During the red flag, I was at 70km/h and there was just no warning,” said Leclerc, who ended up qualifying 19th.
“The left-hand corners were really bad with the rear-right, and I thought it was the tyres. So, we went for a new set of tyres. But on the new set, it was exactly the same feeling – right-hand corners were really good, and left-hand corners were completely off.
“We’ll have to check, but I would be very surprised if we don’t find something on the car.”
Parc ferme restrictions on Saturday night meant Ferrari was unable to conduct a deep analysis of Leclerc’s car until this morning.
However, the team has already decided as a precaution to replace the entire rear of Leclerc’s car – which includes suspension and gearbox. It has also replaced the control electronics and energy store of his power unit.
This will enable the team to send the removed parts back to Maranello this week for a deeper analysis of what exactly went wrong.
Ferrari’s driver coach Jock Clear said: “Obviously qualifying on the back row has given us the unfortunate opportunity to look at a lot of things.
“He was really uncomfortable with the car straightaway in qualifying and had no confidence in it. So, we’ve taken the opportunity to change the gearbox, and also all the back end, really just to make sure that there’s nothing on there that is untoward.
“We haven’t had an opportunity to look at it yet, because time doesn’t allow you to do that with the parc ferme as it is.”
Clear said that replacing the rear end should remove any doubts for Leclerc about the handling of the car, and help allow him to attack in the race.
“The thing for him this afternoon is he’ll have a new back end on the car, so that should give him confidence again that whatever might have been in there that wasn’t quite sorted, is now sorted. We can hopefully get him back in the points.”
Beyond the changes to the mechanical aspects at the rear, Ferrari is also evaluating aerodynamic and power unit component replacements to capitalise on the pitlane start.
Clear added: “We’ve taken the opportunity to make some changes because once we’re in the back we might as well do everything we can do to minimize the cost of qualifying badly.”