Why Vasseur is the right man to lead Ferrari’s F1 revival

In the days leading up to the Abu Dhabi season finale, the winds have been blowing one way since news broke that Mattia Binotto is about to leave Maranello and that Vasseur has been designated as his replacement.

It marks the biggest challenge to date of Vasseur’s long and largely successful career in motorsport. Now he will face the pressures of a nation, not just a team. Where Stefano Domenicali, Marco Mattiacci, Maurizio Arrivabene and Binotto failed, Vasseur must now succeed by ending Ferrari’s championship longing.

And he’s definitely the right man for the job.

Vasseur will join a Ferrari team dealing with a great mix of emotions following the 2022 campaign. While it was a missed opportunity to continue a fight against Red Bull for the title, it still marked a real return to competitiveness.

A first win in two and a half years plus a solid base car gave good optimism for the future.

It seemed to underestimate the progress made this year, when Ferrari CEO Benedetto Vigna said in an interview with CNBC that he “wasn’t content with second place, because second place was first for loser.” Of course, the year didn’t give Ferrari what he wanted, but it was still his best season since 2018.

This meant that the breakup with Binotto was not without great risk. Ferrari not only lost its team manager, but also its technical chief – Binotto was never able to replace it when he left the chief coach role. Unlike his previous changes in team principal, he also had no clear successor in-house, which prompted him to look elsewhere and eventually go to Vasseur.

Mattia Binotto, Team Principal, Ferrari

Photo: Ferrari

The time it takes to get up to speed and understand the workings of the Ferrari machine, the most complex machine in F1, naturally creates a huge demand to get things right the first time in 2023.

A mindset Ferrari needs

Vasseur is too realist. He won’t go to Ferrari with the snap of his fingers and expect him to succeed right from the start, but he will have a clear idea of ​​how he wants things to go. A sign of this came when he joined Sauber as team principal in 2017. Within an hour of starting work, he had already canceled his 2018 engine deal with Honda, confident that it was the wrong direction to go. .

Being so clinical might be a different proposition for a team the size and scale of Ferrari compared to the team Vasseur ran at Sauber. He turned the team around, though, and this year finished sixth in the championship best under his rule. The momentum in the team is very positive and much of that is due to Vasseur’s influence.

He summed up his approach very well in his end-of-season interview with Autosport before the first suggestions of a Ferrari move came to light.

“Ultimately, it’s my job not to pay too much attention to the positives,” Vasseur said. “Trying to understand where we went wrong and trying to improve!”

He chuckles at his own honesty – perhaps he’ll bring in the humor that Ferrari sometimes lacks – but that shows what kind of person he is. There is a dedication and desire for the better not to get too caught up in success.

Frederic Vasseur, Alfa Romeo

Frederic Vasseur, Alfa Romeo

Photo: Erik Junius

This direct approach is something that should help Ferrari move forward. At some point in 2022, it often felt like things were going astray when mistakes saw wins slip out of hand or lead to disappointment; the narrative is inverted that there are no big problems to solve and mistakes are exaggerated. Ferrari may face more scrutiny than any other team, but that doesn’t mean it’s not right.

An approach that fits Leclerc

Vasseur’s history with Charles Leclerc is also something that cannot be ignored. On the way to the GP3 and Formula 2 titles, Leclerc raced for the ART Grand Prix, the youth team co-founded by Vasseur. He then connected with Sauber for his first F1 season in 2018, putting on performances that gave Ferrari all the evidence they needed to give him a seat for the following year.

“No, and I won’t comment on that,” Leclerc said at the FIA ​​press conference on Friday, answering a question about his choice. He said the identity of the next team principal is a call for Vigna and Ferrari head John Elkann, but expects a smooth transition regardless.

Autosport named Vasseur after Leclerc and asked if he was suitable for the job, and Leclerc said Ferrari was “a team very different from the rest”. But she spoke warmly of their relationship.

“I was already working with Fred from the subcategories he believed in, and we’ve always had a good relationship since then,” Leclerc said. “But other than that, obviously that shouldn’t affect any of the decisions. He’s always been very frank, very honest. And that’s something I like about Fred.”

As Leclerc said, getting things done with Ferrari is a very different challenge from any other team in F1, so there’s no guarantee that things will go well again with Vasseur as with ART or Sauber. But it’s still encouraging for Ferrari, that the young star, who has great hope for his future in F1, combines well with the incoming new man.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari and Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal, Alfa Romeo Racing

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari and Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal, Alfa Romeo Racing

Photo: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images

Embracing the challenge

Ferrari will be the third team Vasseur has led in F1. After a brief stint at Renault in 2016, he left feeling that his vision for the team did not match that of general manager Cyril Abiteboul. “I had some trouble adjusting to the system,” Vasseur insisted in 2018, insisting there was no regret or resentment. “It’s much better for me to stay apart because I have other projects in my life. So I quit.”

Vasseur was content with the break—until a few months later his feet itch and he had a chance to connect with Sauber. He was impressed with his future plans and how it would fit in, and said it “fitted much better with my expectations and the projects I had at the beginning of my career.”

Being in charge of Ferrari’s Formula 1 team is not something you can shape or tune the way you want. Yet Vasseur’s departure from Sauber, a team that Audi has turned to the point where he arrives in 2026 and grants him working status, points to the confidence he must have to run him.

This is a challenge that Vasseur will embrace. But the reality of that will only come into play when things get tough. As Toto Wolff, who has always had a great relationship with Vasseur and has displayed a fascinating political dynamic, recently said on F1’s Beyond the Grid podcast: “Representing Ferrari, you represent the whole country. They write you, they write you. ” down – but brutally.”

Brutality will be something Vasseur has never encountered in the same way before. But if anyone can cope with the pressure of a future-proof nation, a fierce fan base, and the infested waters of F1’s piranha club, it’s him.

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