‘Very difficult day’ for problem-hit Leclerc at Monza

Charles Leclerc battled his way through Friday’s qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix and salvaged an eighth place start for tomorrow’s sprint race at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza.

His campaign was compromised by what was reported afterwards as an engine braking issue on the Ferrari power unit. “Today for me was a very difficult day,” Leclerc acknowledged.

“We had an issue throughout the sessions with the electronic management of the engine braking,” he explained. “The situation was especially tricky in Q1, but for Q3 it had slightly improved and it should be fine for tomorrow.

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“I won’t go into details, but something on the power unit that was happening. I don’t really know what was it, but it was very difficult to drive.

“We are looking into it for tomorrow, and hopefully fixing it because otherwise it could be very difficult to do the race like this.”

Ferrari racing director Laurent Mekies confirmed that there had been “a problem with the electronic management of the engine braking on Charles’s car right from his very first run in Q1.

“We tried to find the cause and gradually the situation improved, but Charles definitely didn’t have an easy time of managing the afternoon.

“Having said that, this result – with both drivers on the fourth row of the grid for the sprint qualifying tomorrow afternoon – is in line with what we expected going into this weekend.”

“All things considered, eighth is a good result,” Leclerc agreed. “We will try to gain some positions in sprint qualifying to secure a good starting position for Sunday’s race.”

A year ago Ferrari suffered humiliation when it failed to get either car into the final round of qualifying at its home race so securing eighth for Leclerc and seventh for his team mate Carlos Sainz is a major step forward for the team.

“It’s good progress compared to last year,” Sainz acknowledged. “You need to remember last year, one car was out in Q1, the other one was in P13.

“In a matter of a year we’ve progressed at this sort of track,” he continued. “We know it doesn’t suit the characteristics of the car, but we still want more and we will keep working for it.

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“Unfortunately from the beginning of Q1 we saw that we were a bit too far away from the top five,” he said. “Unfortunately in a track like this where we want to do so well in front of the tifosi, we were going to struggle to be in the top five.

“But I think today we extracted the maximum out of the car,” he insisted. “Q1 was quite tricky because of traffic and unfortunately we quickly understood we were a bit too far away from the top five.

“Despite that, we kept improving throughout the session and managed to put together a good lap in the end for P7. Overall it was a solid session.

“It’s a decent starting position for tomorrow, and we will fight to gain positions in the sprint quali and on Sunday.”

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