Charles Leclerc backs Ferrari over engine change, 10-place penalty

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc

Charles Leclerc says taking the hit of a 10-place grid penalty is worth the trade-off of receiving a fresh power unit for the final two events in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

Leclerc’s SF90 suffered an oil leak during the opening stages of third practice in Austin, and he was forced to revert to an older-specification engine for the rest of the weekend.

The engine was assessed at Ferrari’s Maranello base but the damage proved too extensive and Leclerc will take a fresh specification for the Brazilian Grand Prix.

It means Leclerc will drop 10 places on the grid from wherever he qualifies on Saturday.

“Obviously this weekend won’t be easy with the 10-place grid penalty but I believe it was the best opportunity for us for the rest of the championship,” he said.

“I will try to limit the damage as much as possible this weekend and try to do the best result possible.

“Then I’m pretty sure we will see the advantage of changing the engine in Abu Dhabi.”

Leclerc also confirmed that “the engine is exactly the same one as the one we’ve had issues with in Austin, so [there’s] nothing new on that,” amid suggestions that Ferrari was poised to run an early specification of its 2020 power unit.

“The phone call I had was basically that we are putting in the same engine spec as the one we’ve lost in Austin. I don’t think there was any discussion for this possibility.”

The penalty means Leclerc will start from 11th on the grid at best – barring sanctions for rivals – on Sunday, as he chases securing third in the standings.

“Overall I think it [the fresh engine] will be a plus,” he said.

“Whether it’s in qualifying or the race I think it will be pretty similar and there will be an advantage overall. I think there’s more to gain by changing the engine.

“With the older one we’ve seen also in Austin there was probably a little bit of it inside the result and I hope this will help us get more points.”