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Charles Leclerc downplays 'unfounded' Ferrari rumours as Carlos Sainz admits engine concern

Ferrari made a disappointing start to the 2023 season as Charles Leclerc retired from the opening race in Bahrain; Leclerc is serving a grid penalty in Saudi Arabia as a consequence of their reliability issues; watch the Saudi Arabian GP live on Sky Sports F1 this weekend

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Despite receiving a 10-place grid penalty, Charles Leclerc is optimistic that Ferrari will perform better at the upcoming Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Charles Leclerc has quashed suggestions of turbulence behind the scenes at Ferrari as the team battles to keep pace with Red Bull after a torrid start to the new campaign. 

Leclerc enters this weekend's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix facing a 10-place grid penalty in light of the team being required to fit a third control electronics power unit, putting him over the single-season allocation following his retirement in Formula 1's opener in Bahrain.

In addition to Leclerc's engine woes, Ferrari's head of vehicle concept David Sanchez earlier this week announced he is leaving the team, which remains in a state of flux after Fred Vasseur replaced Mattia Binotto as team principal during the winter.

Vasseur insisted on Wednesday that rumours of further significant departures from Ferrari are inaccurate, and Leclerc echoed that sentiment when speaking to the media on Thursday.

"Honestly I obviously saw these rumours and then went to Maranello [after Bahrain] so I was at first I was like 'oh I'm not sure how the team will react to it' but then we've had a meeting with the whole team, with all the Ferrari employees. I was really surprised," he said.

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Ride onboard with Charles Leclerc as his Ferrari lost power during the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix

"Everyone is fully on it and fully positive still, which is great. We all need to push in the same direction as I said this is the most important.

"There have been loads of rumours around the team - which, for once, 90 per cent of them were completely unfounded.

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"I don't know from where it is coming from and to be honest I don't want to even spend any energy on trying to find from where it's coming from. We just need to be on it and focus on ourselves."

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Look back at Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen’s epic battle for the win at the Jeddah Circuit in 2022.

Leclerc insisted that he is not worried about the electronics power unit set to be used in his car this weekend, noting that Ferrari were aware of the reasoning for their issues on opening weekend.

"It's only the first race of the season and we've still got many more races to go. We still need to be fighting like crazy to be back at the top and keep pushing."

Additional pressure has fallen on Ferrari to mount a challenge against Red Bull, with Max Verstappen's dominant one-two victory from team-mate Sergio Perez painting an ominous picture.

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Sky F1's Karun Chandhok takes a look at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit ahead of this weekend's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Despite Leclerc's penalty, Jeddah's thrilling high-speed circuit presents what has been deemed a more favourable opportunity for Ferrari to close the gap. Another commanding Red Bull win, however, and the questions will continue to come.

"When it's Ferrari who doesn't go as well as it should then there's lots of voices and all of these things around the team but we need to be good at spending our energy right inside the team, pushing in the right direction and making a difference and come back stronger," said Leclerc.

"I feel this has been the case in the last few weeks so I'm really looking forward to be being back on track, stop the talk and get back to driving."

Sainz: It is a bad situation

Carlos Sainz faced disappointment of his own in Bahrain as he missed out on third after losing his duel with Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso.

The Spaniard admitted there is natural concern within the team in the wake of their early problems.

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Sky F1's Karun Chandhok is hoping that Mercedes and Ferrari can prevent another season of Red Bull domination.

"A tough weekend for the team but, in general, we got of it the maximum we could have done," he said of Bahrain. "Obviously, Charles' penalty is not ideal but it's still the second race.

"If 2022 told us anything it's not how you start, it's how you finish, so we're going to try to improve the car as much as possible and try and improve from where we started.

"For sure, we are relatively concerned [about reliability] - it's not the way you want to start a season.

"Clearly, we are not happy with that and it is a weakness, it caught us by surprise, we have put things in place to fix it.

"It's a bad situation but we can only look forward. The track is completely different to Bahrain - I have the feeling that we're going to be a bit more competitive."

Sky Sports F1's live Saudi Arabian GP schedule

10.50pm: F2 Practice
1pm: Saudi Arabian GP Practice One (session starts 1.30pm)
2:55pm: F2 Qualifying
4:45pm: Saudi Arabian GP Practice Two (session starts 5pm)
6:15pm: The F1 Show: Saudi Arabia

1.15pm: Saudi Arabian GP Practice Three (session starts 1:30pm)
3:05pm: F2 Sprint Race
4pm: Saudi Arabian GP Qualifying build-up

1:35pm: F2 Feature Race
3.30pm: Grand Prix Sunday Saudi Arabian GP build-up
7pm: Chequered flag: Saudi Arabian GP Reaction

Watch the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix live on Sky Sports F1 this weekend with Sunday's race live at 5pm. Get Sky Sports

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