Monegasque Charles Leclerc will leave with ten penalty places at the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday, Ferrari having decided on Friday to change an element of its single-seater beyond the quota authorized per season. And the penalty could still increase.
He’s already on top. Leader of the Formula 1 world championship, Max Verstappen took control of the weekend on Friday after the first two free practice sessions of the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, where Charles Leclerc will be penalized ten places on Sunday. The defending champion is the favorite for this 9th round of the season. In front of the already full stands of the Gilles-Villeneuve circuit, the Dutchman from Red Bull was the fastest. His closest rival, Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), is certainly hot on his heels at 81/1000th, but the Monegasque will not start in the lead, whatever happens: he will be penalized ten places on the grid, the fault of a change of engine part beyond the authorized quota.
Designated the main (and only?) opponent of Verstappen in the title race, Leclerc has not won since April 10 in Australia and is now third in the general classification, 34 points behind Verstappen and 13 behind the Mexican Sergio Pérez, the second Red Bull driver. Leclerc may have chained the last four pole positions, none of these performances has converted into victory, the fault of two engine failures (retirements in Spain and Azerbaijan) and a bad strategy (4th in Monaco). As a result of this big slump, the power unit deemed “irreparable” by the Scuderia has undergone significant changes.
The sanction could still increase for Leclerc
Too much: the engine control electronics, changed a third time already since the start of the season, against two parts authorized for the whole year, puts Ferrari in violation. Admittedly, Sunday Mass has not yet been said. Everything is going very fast in F1, but Verstappen sees his favorite status further reinforced by this new prancing horse setback. On Saturday, along the 4.361 km of the circuit traced on Île Notre-Dame, bordered by the Saint-Laurent, he will aim for his 2nd pole of the year, when Leclerc will want to limit damage (qualifying at 10 p.m. after free practice 3 to 19h).
For Leclerc, the penalty could increase further if the turbo of his car is changed in turn – and it will be sooner or later. If not in Montreal, it will be for one of the next races, causing a new penalty. The other Ferrari of Carlos Sainz took the third fastest time, ahead of the surprising veterans Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) and Fernando Alonso (Alpine). For Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) on the other hand, the setbacks continue with a 13th place only during the second session. The Briton complained of an “undriveable” car as his team tried a new solution on their floor.
At a press conference on Friday, the drivers reconsidered the FIA’s decision to take measures to reduce “porpoising”, an aerodynamic phenomenon which causes significant vibrations in single-seaters on the straights. The FIA is counting in particular on increased inspections of the floors and pontoons, a limitation of the “vertical oscillations” of the chassis and a technical meeting with the teams, all “in the interest of the safety of the drivers”. Hamilton, with severe back pain, had the greatest difficulty getting out of his Mercedes last Sunday in Baku. “Regarding the micro-concussions, I’ve certainly had a lot more headaches in the last few months” than in previous years, he explained on Friday. “I feel like I’m a little smaller this week,” he quipped.
“The records (from his back) are definitely not in the best shape right now. Not the best for longevity.” Finally, horse chestnut from the Canadian GP, a marmot crossed the track. Lucky, the animal narrowly avoided Sainz’s Ferrari to return to a more peaceful place.