Canadian Grand Prix: Charles Leclerc hit with a penalty on the grid after an engine component change
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc suffered the latest in a series of blows to his title hopes with a grid penalty for excessive engine use.
Ferrari installed a third electronic control unit at the Canadian Grand Prix, triggering an automatic 10-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.
Teams may only use two electronic units per driver per season.
Leclerc suffered an 80-point swing in favor of title rival Max Verstappen after a series of recent problems.
And he is now likely to lose further ground to the Red Bull driver in Montreal.
Leclerc led Verstappen by 46 points after two wins and a second place in the first three races, two of which the Dutchman retired.
But Leclerc has suffered two engine failures in the last three races, both times while in the lead.
He also lost victory at the Monaco Grand Prix after a strategic error by Ferrari sent him from the lead to fourth, while a spin-off in the final stages of the Monaco Grand Prix Emilia-Romagna turned a third-place finish into sixth.
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As a result, he starts the Canadian Grand Prix 34 points behind Verstappen, who finished practice on Friday fastest after an impressive day in the Red Bull.
The world champion was 0.081 seconds ahead of the man who until not so long ago seemed to be his title rival.
Carlos Sainz was third fastest in the second Ferrari, 0.225 seconds off the pace.
And Sebastian Vettel was a surprise fourth for Aston Martin, in team owner Lawrence Stroll’s home run ahead of Fernando Alonso’s Alpine.
Mercedes ‘a disaster’, says Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton described the Mercedes as “the worst I’ve ever felt here” after another difficult day for the world champions.
The seven-time champion has won the Canadian Grand Prix seven times but finished the day 13th, with team-mate George Russell seventh as Mercedes continued to experiment with set-up ideas and developments in a bid to improve their car recalcitrant.
Hamilton said: “[It was] pretty much like every Friday for us, trying a lot of different things, experimental ground on my side, which didn’t work.
“In general, nothing we do on this car seems to work. We try different setups. George and I went with very different setups to see if one way worked and the other didn’t.
“For me it was a disaster. It’s like the car is getting worse, it’s getting more and more miserable the more we do it. It’s the car of the year and we just have to endure it and work hard to build a better car for next year.
“Pressure on the sidewalk and the thing flies, it’s so steep and here you have to be able to use the sidewalks, it’s very, very tricky. It’s not the Montreal I know and have known throughout my career.
“It’s just a monumental fight all the time to keep him off the wall. When he bounces – when the car leaves the ground – a lot, and when he lands he hangs on, he goes in a lot of different directions.
“And so you’re just trying to catch a car that’s jumping, jumping, grabbing, jumping, grabbing. It’s tough. It just keeps you on your toes, there were some big hits today but we’re going to lift the car and it doesn’t make a difference.
“We tried lots of things. These don’t work, so we have to try something else. We’re a long way off but that’s normal from this car.”
Russell, meanwhile, said he was wary of Vettel’s qualifying pace in the Aston Martin and Alpine’s Alonso.
“We’re quite off pace compared to the two leading teams,” Russell said, “but there are also a few guys – Fernando and Sebastian – who look really strong too, so we have some work to do.
“We just have to make sure we qualify before midfield.