Charles Leclerc takes positives from Bahrain Grand Prix heartbreak
Charles Leclerc focused on the positives on Monday after his heartbreaking bid for a maiden F1 win was foiled by engine problems in Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
The 21-year-old Monegasque, who emerged as the sport’s rising star as the youngest pole-sitter in Ferrari’s history, had victory in his sights with 10 laps remaining when he suffered a power loss that saw him drop to third as Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas finished first and second.
His misfortune was caused by a single cylinder failure, Ferrari said, quashing suggestions of a problem with the turbo-charger.
“To be honest, how I felt in the car, I thought that everything would blow up a few laps later,” said Leclerc. “But, that was not the case and we still finished third.
“From the whole weekend, there are a lot of positives to take. After Australia, we were quite far off. Now, I think we have found some pace.
“We came here with a good car, which was very positive for the team and shows they have done an amazing job. To lose the lead this way is always a shame and a disappointment.”
He said it was not the cruellest setback of his racing career.
“No, it was not that extreme,” he explained. “Formula Two, in Monaco, in 2017, was probably the worst me and the worst I’ve ever had.”
In that race, he dominated the contest on home soil in front of his family and friends before safety car confusion and a suspension breakage conspired to wreck his hopes.
“This is not so bad. It’s still a podium and it’s my first in F1 so I want to enjoy it. It was not the weekend we wanted, but we should be happy with third despite the problems.”
Ferrari team chief Mattia Binotto said: “The engine will go back to Maranello for careful checks because when something like this happens you need to take your time.
“But the engine was running at the end of the race so it is still able to run. We will use it certainly in China when we have an entire Friday to assess its behaviour, functionality and performance.”
‘Beautiful, bright future’ for Leclerc
He said it was a single component failure.
“We are disappointed, but we are positive,” he added. “We know it’s a long season and though there are positives from the weekend, we know that doesn’t mean it will be sufficient for the rest of the season.”
Ferrari’s power and pace in a straight line lifted them clear of their rivals.
Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff described it as “unbelievable” and explained: “We expected them to be strong in Melbourne, after what we’d seen in terms of pace in testing.
“So Melbourne was more a surprise than Bahrain. Bahrain was very strong - the straight-line performance unbelievable.
“I think, on the straights, there was a five-tenths (advantage) in qualifying. That is difficult to compete against. It’s sheer power. If they can maintain it in Shanghai, they are the clear favourites.”
And, on Leclerc, the Mercedes man was equally impressed.
“He’s got a beautiful, bright future ahead of him so this will only make him stronger. He is very impressive. Many other drivers would have reacted in a more controversial way, but he has a good character and he is humble. He is, also, very fast.”