Charles Leclerc doesn’t seem to have luck entirely on his side during the 2023 season. The Monegasque dropped out before the start of the São Paolo Grand Prix and loudly wondered why he had so much bad luck this season. Prior to the race in Brazil, the Ferrari driver had several weekends where things did not go smoothly. F1Maximaal lists Leclerc’s unlucky moments.
‘Why am I so fucking unlucky?’ Leclerc wondered out loud on the on-board radio when he was allowed to leave his car on the sidelines before the start of the race at Interlagos. The 26-year-old lost control of the car when a system error appeared to occur. He indicated on the on-board radio that he had lost the hydraulics, so he no longer had power steering and that the engine was stalling. He crashed into the wall and was able to get out immediately. When there was an incident during the opening lap and a red flag, Ferrari had the opportunity to repair Leclerc’s car, but unfortunately that was not to be.
Starting at the beginning: was the DNF in Bahrain a harbinger?
Leclerc’s unfortunate series of events appears to have already begun in Bahrain. The Monegasque retired during the first race of the season. In lap 42 of the race in the desert, the SF-23 had a problem with the control electronics, even though the ERS (Energy Recovery System, ed.) and the ECU (Electronic Control Unit, ed.) had been replaced that morning because a problem was already found then. A thorough investigation by the Maranello team revealed a problem with the wiring, which was exacerbated by the car’s movements and temperature under racing conditions. After the first race of the season, the 26-year-old went to Saudi Arabia empty-handed, even though he won the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2022.
The problems in Bahrain had consequences for the race in Jeddah. Since the ECU had already been replaced during the first race, and this had to be done again for Jeddah, Leclerc quickly reached the limit of two ECUs. The Monegasque therefore received a grid penalty of ten places for the race on Sunday. Because he had driven a good qualifying and took P2, he limited the damage to himself and had to move forward from P12. That is not that easy on a street circuit like Jeddah Corniche Circuit. In any case, Leclerc finished seventh that weekend, but teammate Carlos Sainz was above him and had also taken points from Bahrain.
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The poison cup then seemed to be empty, as Leclerc was able to continue to Australia with a clean slate. The Monegasque qualified seventh there and he was not satisfied with that, Sainz qualified fifth. On Sunday, Leclerc started the Australian Grand Prix in good spirits, but his race lasted only a few meters. The 26-year-old had a good start and was on the outside of the first corner, but got together with Lance Stroll and bounced into the gravel. This immediately neutralized the race. Sainz crossed the line in twelfth after the hectic course of the race, making it a weekend to forget for Ferrari.
Bright spot: Leclerc finished in Monaco for the second time in his F1 career
In Azerbaijan, things went well for Leclerc for a change. The Monegasque took pole position for the race on Sunday, but predicted before the race that he would probably not win, because Red Bull Racing was in a better position. He was right about that, but he did cross the line in third place. After the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Formula 1 traveled to Miami. There, Leclerc crashed hard in Q3, meaning he could not get further than the seventh fastest time. In the race the car and Leclerc were completely out of sync, which is why he remained seventh. Sainz finished fifth
After Miami, F1 traveled to Monaco for Leclerc’s home race. To him it almost seems like the circuit is cursed, something happens almost every year. This year it was not so drastic, but because of Norris being held up in the tunnel he received a grid penalty of three places. He finished sixth, which was the second time in his F1 career that he managed to complete his home race at all. It was also the second time in the season that Leclerc finished higher than Sainz.
Arriving in Spain things went wrong again. The Monegasque had a problem with the car during qualifying and was only able to clock the nineteenth time. Ferrari then turned the car inside out to see what was wrong and decided to replace the rear suspension and gearbox. As a result, Leclerc had to start from the pit lane. On Sunday he crossed the line in eleventh place, without any points, while his teammate again scored points. While he had basically driven a good catch-up race, the result was not as desired.
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Races in which things went well can now be counted on one hand
While Red Bull excels when it comes to changing conditions, Ferrari is less able to adapt quickly. This was evident during qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix. It was wet, it was raining, and therefore the teams had to do their best to give the drivers the best possible track. Leclerc himself suggested switching to slicks, because he thought it was possible, but Ferrari did not comply with his request. In the end he only clocked the eleventh fastest time. Sainz was eighth. On Sunday, Leclerc fought back and managed to finish fourth.
After a number of races in the first half of the season, it seems as if Leclerc is lucky one week and not at all the next. After Canada, he did reasonably well in Austria with P2 in the main race. In Silverstone, however, the Monegasque had problems with the electronics in the second free practice, although fortunately this was quickly resolved. He finished fourth in qualifying, but on Sunday Ferrari missed the mark with its strategy. Leclerc was fourth in the first stint of the British Grand Prix, but Ferrari brought him in early to make an undercut.
When the safety car came on track later in the race, he went back in and got a set of mediums under the car, which were wearing out very quickly. Sainz had a longer first stint and stayed out during the safety car, finishing the race on the hard tire. His teammate let him pass, so Leclerc took a spot at the end of the race. The Monegasque only finished ninth and afterwards was completely dissatisfied with his team’s strategic choices.
Long pit stops, no water, and a DNF
If Leclerc thought his season couldn’t get any worse… Spoiler: it could. In the hot Hungarian Grand Prix he had no water for the entire race, there were problems with the on-board radio, his first pit stop lasted nine seconds and he received a five-second time penalty at his second stop due to speeding in the pit lane. Leclerc still finished seventh. However, the 26-year-old was able to go on holiday with a good feeling, in Belgium he took third place in the race on Sunday.
Things went disastrously again in Zandvoort after the summer break. The mechanics were busy after qualifying because Leclerc crashed hard in turn nine and therefore only had the ninth fastest time for the Dutch Grand Prix. The race on Sunday was chaotic due to the rain that came just after the start. Ferrari was not ready with tires and so that meant another long pit stop for Leclerc. Due to a collision with another driver, Leclerc had suffered damage to his front wing and he came in to pick up a new one, so another long stop.
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He also had damage to the floor. He just drove around for at least forty laps and was unable to really overtake. On lap 43 Ferrari announced that the problems with the car were only increasing and that they asked Leclerc to park the car. Another weekend in which Leclerc was able to go home without any points.
Seeing your teammate win, a disqualification, and a DNS
Things went well for Leclerc in Monza and he took P4 in his team’s home race. Ferrari was then surprisingly competitive in Singapore after Red Bull had a poorer weekend. Sainz took pole position, Leclerc took P3. On Sunday, Sainz led almost the entire race. Leclerc was also able to compete competitively and was on course for the podium. However, Ferrari decided to keep him out during the late Virtual Safety Car, costing him his podium. Leclerc had indicated that he wanted to come in. At the end of the race the Mercedes had a tire advantage and were able to overtake Leclerc. He came fifth.
After Japan and Qatar went relatively smoothly, the race in the United States also went well. Leclerc achieved P3 in the sprint on Saturday and P6 in the race on Sunday, but after the FIA carried out the floor and board wear test, Leclerc was disqualified. The wooden plank under his car was too worn because the ride height was a bit too low. However, Ferrari did not have time to make any adjustments to the car after qualifying on Friday, so they were unable to raise the ride height to prevent it. In Mexico Leclerc seemed to hit back, where he finished third.
The universe seemed to decide that Leclerc had already had enough luck in Japan, Qatar and Mexico, so things had to go wrong again in Brazil. During the formation lap, Leclerc ended up in the wall after losing his hydraulics. Afterwards he finally said it was probably not the hydraulics, but some kind of system error. What ultimately caused the engine to fail was still a mystery to Ferrari. Team boss Frédéric Vasseur hopes that the engine will not need to be replaced, otherwise Leclerc will receive a grid penalty in Las Vegas.
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What does fate have in store for Leclerc for the last two races?
There are only two races left. If the pattern of one week of good luck, the next of bad luck continues, Leclerc could have a bad weekend in Las Vegas, but still end on a positive note in Abu Dhabi. The Monegasque undoubtedly hopes that he will have two good racing weekends in a row and then can take a more relaxed winter holiday. Leclerc is seventh in the championship with 170 points, twenty points behind Sainz. Norris occupies fifth place with 195 points, 25 points more than Leclerc. Alonso is fourth with 198 points, 28 more than Leclerc.
If all the accident had not happened, Leclerc could in principle have finished fourth, because the Ferrari’s pace at the start of the season was good enough to at least score points. McLaren didn’t do so well at the start of 2023, and Aston Martin didn’t later in the season, and Leclerc could have benefited from that had he not had problems himself. Ferrari itself is third in the constructors’ championship, twenty points behind Mercedes. With two races to go, it could be quite exciting to see who will take P2 in the constructors’ championship.