Race Weekend Central

Ferrari Struck By Reliability Issues Once Again

Ferrari’s day atop the Austrian Grand Prix podium was nearly swept out from under them after a series of reliability issues arose during the race’s final quarter.

Most spectacularly, Carlos Sainz’s bid to take second place behind Charles Leclerc was undone on lap 57, when his engine violently expired.

Sainz was running firmly in the slipstream of Max Verstappen, looking to pass the Dutchman for second place at any moment when disaster struck. Throughout the day Ferrari displayed a clear advantage in race pace over the Red Bull squad, who saw Sergio Perez pick up terminal damage after a lap 1 collision with George Russell.

Sainz’s engine violently expired on the downhill run to turn 4, sending the Spaniard straight on to the escape road as flames and debris began to fly from underneath the Ferrari’s engine cover.

“No, no! No!” Sainz exclaimed repeatedly over the radio as he attempted to slow down the stricken Ferrari.

Sainz brought the car to a stop near the peak of turn 4’s uphill escape road as the engine came to an even brighter blaze, with wind blowing the flames toward the safety cell, inches from Sainz’s right side.

Working to escape to safety, Sainz’s exit from the car was made more cumbersome than usual as the car began to roll back downhill, flames still spewing from the rear end. Sainz signaled frantically for marshals to get to the car quickly, though by the time they were able to stabilize the car the driver was out of the cockpit and safely behind the barriers.

Once the virtual safety car triggered by Sainz’s expiration was lifted, his teammate Leclerc continued on in the lead, nearly four seconds ahead of Verstappen. Leclerc initially reported his throttle abnormally responding to input on lap 57.

Ferrari quickly informed Leclerc that their telemetry showed no clear problems with the car at that time. Nonetheless, Leclerc continued to report strange feedback from the car’s power input.

Ferrari later diagnosed the issue as the throttle sporadically getting stuck and advised Leclerc to lift off earlier on corner entry, allowing the engine to rev down under less stress.

With only four laps to go, the Monegasque driver reported that he was also having trouble with the gearbox, particularly in the heavy braking zone leading up to turn 3.

“The downshifts are … refused,” Leclerc told his team on lap 69.

All the while, second-place runner Verstappen cut nearly two seconds out of Leclerc’s lead.

“The end was incredibly difficult,” Leclerc told David Coulthard in parc ferme. “I had this problem with the throttle – it would get stuck at 20, 30 percent throttle at low speeds.”

Nevertheless, Leclerc held on for his first win since the Australian Grand Prix, and Ferrari’s first set of back-to-back wins this year after Sainz’s victory last time out in Great Britain.

Next up on the F1 calendar is the French Grand Prix (July 24) at the Circuit Paul Ricard.

About the author

Alex joined Frontstretch in March of 2021 and currently serves as the IndyCar editor, as well as contributing to Formula 1 coverage.

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