Leclerc admits 'first race, first reliability problem, not good'

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Charles Leclerc cast a despondent figure following his shock retirement from Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix due to an abrupt engine issue.

From the outset, Leclerc had been unable to challenge the imperial Red Bull duo of race winner Max Verstappen and runner-up Sergio Perez, but the Ferrari charger was comfortably holding his own for a spot on the podium until his engine suddenly shut down on lap 39 of 57.

The power unit failure was an astonishing development for Ferrari who worked tirelessly over the winter to improve the reliability of its unit – a weak point last season.

Multiple reports since the start of the year had highlighted the Scuderia's productive efforts, but pre-race, Ferrari's decision to replace the energy store and control electronics on Leclerc's engine were perhaps a sign of things to come in the race.


"I cannot say it feels good," admitted a despondent Leclerc. "Obviously there was quite a lot of work on that. We need to keep working because first race and first reliability problem, not good."

Leclerc said that there had been absolutely no warning of an impending issue.

"The power just went off, it’s too bad because we were there," he added. Our race was good until that moment. We couldn’t do more than P3 though because Red Bull is really strong."

Indeed, adding to Ferrari's engine concerns, the race pace of its SF-23 was no match for the bulls' blistering fast RB19, which also offered its drivers lower tyre degradation compared to its rivals.

"Red Bull seems to have found something really big during the race pace.

"In terms of quali pace they are actually pretty similar to us so at least we managed to extract the lap time yesterday, but then we come to the race and we are a second every lap off the pace, which is huge.

"So we really need to work on that plus the reliability."

After pre-season testing, Leclerc had warned that Ferrari was behind Red Bull on race pace. But the magnitude of the gap was perhaps more than expected.

"After the test I think we were hoping that we were wrong in predicting things but we were right." he said. "We are very far from them in race pace and that was unfortunately expected."

Leclerc felt confident that without his engine issue, he would have been able to secure third against Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso who overhauled Carlos Sainz in the latter part of the race and claimed the final spot on the podium

"I think today third place was possible, we had a big enough margin with the guys behind and were managing well in that last stint," he said.

"They were also starting a bit further back so I don’t know. Bahrain is also a very specific track so I hope that the picture can change a little bit for the next race but we cannot rely on that as we need to work and find something."

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