Charles Leclerc will start the Spanish Grand Prix from the pitlane as Ferrari is making significant changes to his Formula 1 car following problems in qualifying.
Leclerc had a nightmare session on Saturday in Spain, getting eliminated in Q1 after lacking confidence and complaining of a strange feeling with the rear of the car.
He was only 19th, 1.1 seconds off the pace, in Q1, and his problems appeared more severe than just being caught out by the dry track being low grip (and even having a damp patch in the final sector) because of rain during and after final practice.
Ferrari was not sure on Saturday evening or even Sunday morning what specifically might have impacted Leclerc because the car was under parc ferme conditions.
With time a factor, it has opted to make major changes that will necessitate a pitlane start. Ferrari is definitely changing the gearbox, which senior engineer Jock Clear said meant an all-new back end of the car.
“Qualifying on the back row has given us the unfortunate opportunity to look at a lot of things considering he was really uncomfortable with the car straightaway in qualifying, and had no confidence in the car,” said Clear.
“So we’ve taken the opportunity to change the gearbox, that’s effectively all the backend, really just to make sure that there’s nothing on there that is untoward.
“That should give him confidence again, that whatever might have been in there that wasn’t quite sorted is now sorted with a completely new back end.
“And as such, he will have to start from the pitlane but he can do that with some confidence and we can hopefully get him back in the points.”
A pitlane start in such circumstances would only be required with different specification components or by making certain set-up changes in parc ferme conditions.
In this situation it will be the latter, as Ferrari will also be able to amend Leclerc’s set-up to try to assist him in gaining places from the pitlane.
Clear said we “might as well do everything we can do to minimise the cost of qualifying badly and take any advantages we can from yesterday’s upset”.
Ferrari’s changes to Leclerc’s car, which trigger a pitlane start, include a new energy store and control electronics (adds two components to the pool that would have triggered a penalty at another race).
Logan Sargeant is also starting from the pitlane after Williams made set-up and brake cooling changes in parc ferme.