Charles Leclerc's championship hopes are about to take another big blow

Charles Leclerc's championship hopes are about to take another big blow
Charles Leclerc chats with team principal Mattia Binotto.Clive Mason/Getty Images
  • Charles Leclerc has lost his championship lead because of mechanical problems and poor strategy.
  • While some of it can be chalked up to bad luck, Ferrari's challenge is about to get even tougher.

Charles Leclerc's lousy luck got worse at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku, and his path ahead is only going to be more challenging from here.

Leclerc's power unit literally went up in smoke — his second engine failure in three races — causing him to retire on the 20th lap of the race and lose more ground to Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez in the standings. Because of the latest mechanical problem, Ferrari is running out of allowed replacement parts, and Leclerc will soon have to take grid penalties and start races further back in the field.

F1 engines (i.e., power units) are made up of six different components, and according to FIA regulations, there is a limit to the number of times each of those can be changed. One is the turbocharger, and a driver is only allowed to change it twice. If forced to change it a third time, there is a 10-place grid penalty and any subsequent changes are a 5-spot penalty.

Leclerc lost one power unit in Barcelona, forcing him to return to an earlier power unit for the next race in Monaco. That unit eventually failed in Azerbaijan. As a result, Leclerc will need a new power unit for this week's Canadian Grand Prix.

But complicating matters is that Leclerc has already used his allotment of three turbochargers. He will be forced to take one of the turbochargers from the failed power units in Spain or Baku and attach it to the new power unit.


After the race in Azerbaijan, F1's Sam Collins explained the consequences for Leclerc if they can't salvage an old turbocharger.

"If they can't manage to do that, that is a guaranteed 10-place grid penalty for Charles Leclerc," Collins said. "[If] he takes a whole new power unit, then he will have to start from the pit lane."

Other drivers have similar issues, but Leclerc's will be most costly

This problem is not unique to Ferrari and Leclerc. Collins noted that all drivers would likely take grid penalties this year as they burned through parts in the first eight rounds of the 22-race season. Alpine's Fernando Alonso has already taken a grid penalty this season. However, with Leclerc's problems coming so early, he is more likely to face multiple penalties.

"Every single driver on the grid, I think, is going to take at least one grid-drop penalty this season," Collins said. "Some drivers, like Charles Leclerc, may end up taking multiple grid penalties."

Charles Leclerc's championship hopes are about to take another big blow
Max Verstappen's life could get easier for a while thanks to Ferrari's engine troubles.ANP via Getty Images

This point was echoed by Red Bull's driver program boss Helmut Marko who thinks the penalties will be devastating to Leclerc.


"Leclerc will now tap into a third engine and will have to change engines at least once or twice after that, with grid penalties being insurmountable [during those races]," Marko told ServusTV, via Plant F1.

Nearly two-thirds of the season is still left, and if Leclerc is forced to take a grid penalty in Montreal, his task of catching Verstappen will become even more daunting.