How Leclerc's victory was short-circuited

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff believes Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc is a future world champion who has the right combination of speed, personality and temperament.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff believes Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc is a future world champion who has the right combination of speed, personality and temperament.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON • An unprecedented short-circuit in an injection system control unit cost Charles Leclerc his first Formula One victory at last weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix.

With a 10-second lead and little more than 10 laps remaining, the stage had been set for the 21-year-old to take the chequered flag in just his second Ferrari outing.

That was until disaster struck with his car losing power, enabling eventual race winner Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas to pass him.

While Leclerc, who had started on pole position for the first time in his career, was able to salvage a podium place, finishing in third after the safety car was deployed for the last three laps, an inquest was launched post-race to determine the turn of events.

On Friday, Ferrari issued a statement to explain the incident.

However, the Scuderia have confirmed that the Monegasque will still use the same power unit at next Sunday's Chinese GP as "this type of problem had never been seen before on the component in question".

Despite snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, Leclerc has been described by rival Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff as "a young champion in the making" after his showing in the opening two races of the year.

Wolff told autosport.com: "We have always expected him to be a threat. He's in a great car, and has the skills and the character to be very successful.

"It's a challenge that we really enjoy, and that I'm sure Valtteri and Lewis will enjoy. We want to fight against the best ones in the best machines.

"He has a good personality, he's a humble young man, and he's very fast. So the combination of the speed, and the personality and being able to temper your emotions in both directions is a great ingredient."

Next weekend will be the 1,000th F1 Grand Prix race and Ferrari will be favourites to win with their power advantage on the long straights at the Shanghai International Circuit.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 07, 2019, with the headline 'How Leclerc's victory was short-circuited'. Print Edition | Subscribe