Ferrari has confirmed it is investigating the cause of Charles Leclerc’s power unit problem which denied him a maiden Formula 1 race win with team boss Mattia Binotto conceding the issue points to a dropped cylinder.

Leclerc had been running comfortably in the lead of the Bahrain Grand Prix when 11 laps from the chequered flag he suffered a heart-breaking drop in power from his engine which saw him lose around five seconds per lap.

While Binotto says a full analysis into the issue will be completed, suspected to be a dropped cylinder caused by “an external component”, he dismissed the initial theory Leclerc’s MGU-H had broken.

“It is an engine problem, we had miscombustion on one cylinder but it is yet to be understood,” Binotto said. “We do not know the source of the problem and the engine will be back in Maranello for careful checks, because when something such happens you need to take your time to do all your checks carefully.

“But the engine was running at the end of the race, so it is still able to run, and we will use it certainly on Friday in China when we will have an entire Friday to assess its behaviour, functionality and its performance.

“It was not a mechanical problem with the engine, otherwise we wouldn’t have finished the race, it was an external component which may have effected it but we do not have a clear explanation now as we are inspecting the engine and hopefully we’ll find it immediately, otherwise we will take all our time, to check it all.

“I don’t know where the rumours have come from but there was nothing wrong with the MGU-H.”

Five questions that need answering in F1 2019

Binotto said switching Leclerc’s engine mapping and other adjustments helped the 21-year-old reach the finish and called the decision to continue “brave” as Leclerc went on to claim his maiden F1 podium despite being on course for a much greater result.

“When something like this happens you try to recover any combustion control or you try to change mapping or try to change setting to make sure you can find something better,” he said. “I think it has been a brave decision to continue racing in those conditions but at the end it was third place so probably the right decision.

“We are certainly disappointed today but we are in a positive mood. We know it is a long season and there is a lot of positives coming out of this weekend so it is disappointing but we are not unhappy.”