Leclerc set to start Belgian GP from back of grid after engine change
Leclerc currently sits 80 points behind Red Bull rival Max Verstappen at the top of the drivers’ championship, but will need to fight his way back up the order after Ferrari’s decision to fit a new power unit.
Ferrari opted for Spa due to the overtaking opportunities afforded by the high-speed layout in Belgium, giving Leclerc a better chance to battle his way through the field compared to a more technical track such as Zandvoort.
The move will also allow Leclerc to drive with the upgraded hybrid system on his Ferrari power unit, which will debut this weekend. He will also use a new gearbox at Spa.
The changes to the power unit are set to be confirmed by the FIA over the race weekend, and will mark Leclerc’s second back-of-grid start of the season after he also took a raft of fresh power unit elements for the Canadian Grand Prix back in June.
Leclerc’s Ferrari teammate, Carlos Sainz, will not take a new power unit at Spa thanks to his fresher engine, leaving the team’s hopes of success in Belgium largely hinging on the Spaniard.
Leclerc has already suffered engine reliability issues this season that forced him to retire while leading in both Spain and Azerbaijan, causing him to lose ground on Verstappen in the title race.
But Leclerc may not be alone in taking a grid penalty for Spa, with Verstappen saying on Thursday that Spa that “everyone still needs to take penalties as well”, which would make it hard to become relaxed about his title chances.
Leclerc admitted on Thursday that fighting back to beat Verstappen to the championship would be a “very difficult challenge” given the points gap, but that he still believed he was in contention for the championship.