Vasseur promises full investigation


Ferrari team boss, Frederic Vasseur has promised a full investigation into the electrics-related issue that caused Charles Leclerc to retire from the season opener.

It was at this very venue twelve months ago that the Italian team pulled off a shock 1-2. Unfortunately as the season progressed they were in danger of losing the runner-up spot to an ever improving Mercedes, one of the key issues being reliability.

Over the winter team boss Mattia Binotto was dropped and replaced by Frederic Vasseur, who, though discounting a major management reshuffle, insisted that the team would learn from its lessons.

Having qualified third, Charles Leclerc seemed destined for the final podium position when his car ground to a halt, with an electrics-related engine issue. While this was bad enough in itself, ahead of the race the team had changed the energy store on the youngster's car, consequently the subsequent retirement suggests that the team's reliability woes haven't gone away.

"We don't know yet what's happened exactly," admitted Vasseur at race end. "There's been an issue this morning, we changed the parts, we don't know where it's coming from and we'll have the investigation soon. But it's too early stage for me to give a better answer.

"We never expected to have something like this because it's the first time that we had it," he added. "We didn't face the same issue at all during the six or seven thousand kilometres that we did with the engines last week. And we never had the same issue on the dyno throughout the winter.

"But again, we need to do a full investigation before to be able to give you a proper answer."

"I cannot say it feels good," admitted Leclerc following his retirement. "Obviously there was quite a lot of work on that," he added, referring to reliability, "but we need to keep working as it's the first race and first reliability problem, so not good."

Despite Leclerc's issue, Carlos Sainz was able to bring the second SF-23 home, albeit in fourth, almost 40 seconds behind the winner.

"Overall, I would say that the picture is not the one expected before the race," said Vasseur. "If I want to summarise the situation I would say that from the qualifying pace we are there, we are matching Red Bull, at least in Bahrain, and it was a positive point.

"But now we have to be realistic," he continued. "If we want to improve, we need to have a clear picture of the situation and the reliability is not at the level that we need. If we want to win races, we need to have a clean sheet on the weekend and not small details here and there."

On Saturday, Leclerc had opted to miss the final run in Q3, thus saving a fresh set of softs for the race. For the second stint, like most, the Ferraris switched to the hards, while the Bulls - no pun intended - stuck with the softs.

"On degradation, I think Charles would have been able to finish P3," said the Frenchman. "The degradation is probably at the level of the Mercedes and not far away of matching with Alonso but not at the level of Red Bull. They were able to do the second stint with soft when we had to put the hard to go to the end. It means that the pace difference at this stage came also from the tyre choice. We were not able to do soft-soft-hard.

"Now that we have a better picture of the situation and we know exactly what we need we have to clearly make a step forward."

"Red Bull seems to have found something really big during the race pace," said Leclerc, "in terms of qualifying 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 a lap off the pace which is huge, so we need to work on that and the reliability."

Asked about the lack of race pace, he admitted: "We are just not quick enough.

"It's impossible to look at the positives on a day like this when you don't end the race. The choice was good in qualifying, the start was good, but the performance was not there and in terms of reliability when we have a problem in the first race."

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Published: 06/03/2023
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