Sao Paulo, Nov. 12: Charles Leclerc has taken a grid penalty at the Brazilian Grand Prix, hindering Ferrari's chances of success in the penultimate race of the Formula One season.
Four consecutive Mercedes wins have brought an abrupt end to the Scuderia's mid-year renaissance, with only two events left for the Italian team to finish the campaign on a high.
Their hopes of beating six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who sealed the title last time out in the United States, and the winner of that race, Valtteri Bottas, have already suffered a blow.
Leclerc has taken a new engine after suffering a failure in Austin which not only affected his performance there but also requires a replacement that takes him over the limit. He will therefore be penalised, and initial expectations are for a 10-place penalty.
"Charles will get a new Power Unit, as his was damaged on Saturday in Austin, which meant he had to use a previously used and less powerful version for the rest of the weekend," said team boss Mattia Binotto.
"Fitting a new PU means taking a grid penalty in Sao Paulo, but we should be back to our normal performance level and show some fighting spirit to finish the season on a high note.
"That will be important in order to confirm we are making progress with our car and to take some of that momentum into the winter work."
Binotto wants Brazil to be a "fresh start", but the Leclerc news leaves Sebastian Vettel as the team's chief hope ahead of the German's 100th grand prix for Ferrari.
"Every year, something crazy happens and if it doesn't you can be sure it will the following year," Vettel said of racing in Brazil.
"This is another track that has suited us well in the past and treated us well over the last couple of years.
"We had good pace there and Kimi Raikkonen was on the podium last year, while two years ago we won the race. Overall it's been a good hunting ground for us and hopefully it will be like that again this weekend. In terms of atmosphere, it's very special."
TALK OF THE PADDOCK
The build-up to Sunday's race has included a key development in the driver market, with Alexander Albon signed on to partner Max Verstappen at Red Bull for 2020, meaning Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly remain at Toro Rosso.
Albon has recorded seven consecutive top-six finishes since his promotion and will hope his renewal can spur him on to a first podium finish this weekend at a track where Verstappen finished second to Hamilton in 2018.
For Mercedes, Bottas is looking to win two consecutive F1 races for the first time in his career and will be boosted by the fact his team have taken every pole position at Interlagos in the Hybrid era.
In-form Hamilton has won here for two of the previous three years and will look to extend that run without team boss Toto Wolff, who will be absent from a race for the first time since 2013.
RACEWEEK SCHEDULE (all times local)
Friday FP1 (11:00-12:30) FP2 (15:00-16:30)
Saturday FP3 (12:00-14:00) Qualifying (15:00-16:00)
Sunday Race (14:10-16:10)
If Hamilton wins the next grand prix, this will equal his best year for wins in F1 (11 in 2014 & 2018, currently 10 in 2019).
2018: Lewis Hamilton 2017: Sebastian Vettel 2016: Lewis Hamilton 2015: Nico Rosberg
DRIVER STANDINGS 1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 381 2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 314 (-67) 3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 249 (-132) 4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 235 (-146) 5. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 230 (-151)
CONSTRUCTOR STANDINGS 1. Mercedes 695 2. Ferrari 479 (-216) 3. Red Bull 366 (-329) 4. McLaren 121 (-574) 5. Renault 83 (-612)