Leclerc joked with Ferrari pits about last lap F1 engine problem

Bahrain Grand Prix winner Charles Leclerc played a last-lap joke on his Ferrari Formula 1 engineers that he had been hit by an unexpected engine problem.

Leclerc joked with Ferrari pits about last lap F1 engine problem

The Monegasque driver drove impeccably at F1’s season opener as his Ferrari team exploited the strong performance of its new F1-75.

Having taken pole position at Sakhir and led from the start, Leclerc held off a mid-race attack from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to slowly start to edge clear at the front.

PLUS: The unseen Verstappen problem that ensured Leclerc's win

He then made the perfect restart from a late safety car period, triggered by Pierre Gasly’s fiery exit, to again build up a small margin.

When his Dutch rival was hit by a fuel pump failure a few laps later and forced to retire in the pits, Leclerc’s run for victory was all but guaranteed as he was left well clear of his team-mate Carlos Sainz.

However, approaching Turn 13 on the final lap, and with memories of his own late retirement in 2019 still etched in his team's head, Leclerc gave a cheeky radio message to his team.

“I did a bit of a joke on the radio on the last lap, saying that there was something strange with the engine,” smiled Leclerc after the race.

“It gave a heart attack to some of the engineers I'm sure, but everything was fine. So yeah, very happy that this time we brought it home.”

The radio message played out as the world’s attention was focused on Red Bull’s late drama, as Sergio Perez followed his team-mate in to retirement on the final lap.

Charles Leclerc celebrates victory with his Ferrari team

Charles Leclerc celebrates victory with his Ferrari team

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

The conversation went:

Leclerc: "Something strange with the engine!" [Approaching Turn 13 when he says it]

Engineer: "Copy! (Audibly laughing)"

Leclerc: "I'm joking!"

Engineer: "(Still laughing) Understood! We have double yellow on the main straight, Perez has stopped at Turn 1."

Back in 2019, Leclerc had appeared to be on course for victory and was cruising in the lead when, ten laps from home, he suddenly lost engine performance.

With a cylinder having cut out, Leclerc’s pace dropped dramatically and he was caught by the pursuing Mercedes cars of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. He eventually came home in third.

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