June 8, 2023

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Leclerc's Canada hopes hit by grid penalty as rival Verstappen shines

Leclerc’s Canada hopes hit by grid penalty as rival Verstappen shines

Charles Leclerc’s hopes of victory at this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix were dented on Friday when it was confirmed he will face a substantial grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Soon after finishing second behind series leader and world champion Max Verstappen of Red Bull in second practice at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Ferrari said they would be fitting new electronic control components to Leclerc’s power unit.

The 24-year-old Monegasque has suffered two engine failures this year and the new parts will mean he exceeds the limit and will face a penalty of at least 10 places.

The team may consider giving him a complete new power unit.

“For now that is not decided, but it’s not the best situation for me,” said Leclerc, who has slipped from leading the title race to third behind Verstappen and Sergio Perez, despite taking four consecutive pole positions.

Verstappen set the pace as he completed a double top in Friday’s practice.

The 24-year-old Dutchman, who will start his 150th Formula One race on Sunday, clocked a best lap time of one minute and 14.127 seconds in the second session to beat Leclerc by 0.081 seconds.

“It’s been a positive day and overall a good start to the weekend,” said Verstappen.

“There are always other things that you can look for to find the perfect balance, but we have a competitive car so that’s good.

“If it rains in qualifying, it’s the same for everyone and we will just deal with it.”

Carlos Sainz was third-quickest in the second Ferrari ahead of resurgent four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Aston Martin and two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Alpine.

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Pierre Gasly improved to take sixth place for AlphaTauri ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell, Lando Norris and his McLaren team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

Esteban Ocon was 10th in the second Alpine ahead of a strangely off-colour Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull, local hope Lance Stroll in the second Aston Martin and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes.

‘Disaster’ for Hamilton

Hamilton appeared to be unhappy with the experimental set-up of his car and complained it was “undriveable” on a weekend when the team’s chief technical officer James Allison was at the track to help Mercedes recover from a disappointing start to the season.

Blighted by performance problems, notably with “porpoising” and bouncing, the team had chosen to try some radical set-up ideas in a bid to solve their problems.

“The car is getting worse the more we do to it,” said Hamilton.

“It’s pretty much like every Friday for us – trying lots of things, including an experimental floor on my side, which didn’t work.

“Nothing we do to this car seems to work. We were going in different ways but nothing works. I’ll wait to see how it was for him (Russell), but for me it was a disaster.

“We keep working on it, but it is what it is and I think this is the car for the year so we just have to tough it out and work hard on building a better car for next year.”