Charles Leclerc says he was confident of taking a comfortable victory in the Spanish Grand Prix before a power unit issue forced him into retirement.
The Ferrari driver was nearly 14 seconds clear of George Russell and Max Verstappen after the defending champion had gone off at Turn 4, and had made a much later pit stop than those chasing him so was extending his lead. However, a sudden power loss on the run to Turn 10 ended his race, and cost him his championship lead.
“Everything was going really, really well, so I think it would have been difficult for them to catch back up because there was already quite a bit of a gap and we had very good degradation,” Leclerc said. “On the soft tire we could do quite a few more laps compared to them. So overall I think we had this race under control.”
Leclerc was later seen consoling his mechanics in the garage and says he was realistic that he was always likely to have a reliability issue at some point during the season.
“Overall it’s always a disappointment and obviously once you’re fighting for a championship you know that every point is very valuable. But over the course of a season I think it always more or less happens, which is not an excuse — I’m pretty sure that everyone is already working flat out to understand all of it and fix it as quickly as possible.
“Everyone is as disappointed as me today with what happened and there was just no reason for me to be angry at anybody getting out of the car. I just went to see the mechanics to cheer them up a little bit, because they were pretty down.”
Despite dropping six points behind Verstappen after the defending champion took victory, Leclerc says the only negative was the result given the improvements elsewhere shown by Ferrari.
“I feel better after this weekend than I felt after the last two weekends, mostly because of course there’s this issue that we’ve had on the car and I’m very disappointed but on the other hand I think there’s plenty of positive signs other than that throughout the whole weekend.
“Our qualifying pace, the new package worked as expected — which is not always a given. Everything was working well [with] our race pace. Tire management the last two races we have been struggling quite a bit compared to Red Bull and today it was strong. So in those situations I think it’s good to also look at the positives and there are plenty today.”
Team principal Mattia Binotto says the problem came out of the blue and there had been no warning for the engineers, but that Ferrari will investigate back at its factory on Monday.
“We learned it first from Charles going on the radio and then from the engineers looking at the data, so it was really sudden,” Binotto said. “We don’t yet have an explanation, so the power unit will be back at Maranello — traveling through the night — and we will be disassembling it tomorrow morning.”