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Formula 1

The early impact of Ferrari’s ‘excellent’ new boss

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
3 min read

New Ferrari Formula 1 team principal Fred Vasseur has already made several meaningful changes to how the team should be structured and operated trackside.

After starting 2022 with the fastest car, Ferrari had a disappointing season as its title challenges capitulated due to a mix of strategy errors, weaker development and poor reliability.

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Team boss Mattia Binotto left at the end of the year amid widespread speculation he did not have a good relationship with Ferrari CEO Benedetto Vigna, with Vasseur recruited from Sauber as his replacement.

Binotto’s messaging around the mistakes Ferrari made through the year was often regarded as well-intended but slightly flawed.

In trying to avoid blaming certain people or departments he would protest that mistakes had not been made in the first place.

That led to concerns he may not make the changes necessary to eliminate the kind of strategy problems that cost Charles Leclerc so dearly in races like Monaco and Britain.

Vasseur’s arrival has countered that. And Leclerc has repeatedly stressed one particular skill of his new boss: “His job is to put people in the right positions, and he’s excellent at it. Amazing.”

Leclerc knows Vasseur of old, most recently from his rookie F1 season with Sauber in 2018. He has seen how Vasseur works first-hand and clearly trusts him.

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Carlos Sainz said little on Friday, but his many small answers added up to the same theme: “Ferrari brought him in for a different approach. It’s going well. I expect he’ll take more and more control as we go.

“Fred is little by little having an influence. Obviously, he has my full support.”

Vasseur’s most headline-grabbing move so far has been moving head of strategy Inaki Rueda off the pitwall and out of a trackside role entirely, to a factory-based position. He is believed to have viewed Rueda as the “iceberg” – a favoured Vasseur metaphor – that was the most visible part of a bigger structure. So, Vasseur’s logic is that Rueda still has something to offer the organisation but may have suffered in the spotlight.

In his place, Ravin Jain – already part of the Ferrari strategy team – takes charge trackside. Vasseur has put his faith in quite a young man, with only a few years of experience in F1, but it is a show of great confidence and it is clear that Jain also has the backing of other members of the strategy team. Plus, it is worth remembering F1 strategies are managed by multiple people rather than one person calling the shots.

There’s another visible sign of Vasseur’s impact too. The Ferrari pitwall has been reduced from eight spaces to six. Vasseur is believed to have viewed this as unnecessarily overcrowded and space has been created with Rueda gone and Claudio Albertini, another senior trackside figure, moved to the Ferrari Driver Academy.

But this goes beyond just a strategy-related reshuffle. Vasseur has also rejigged Laurent Mekies’ responsibilities to make sure he is leading the trackside team as efficiently as possible.

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Vasseur has clearly defined his duties as team principal to include media and sponsor engagements as well as some driver-related activities. For Mekies, instead of being pulled into other activities as he was last year when Binotto seemed to pull back on what he took on, he will be solely focused on his responsibilities as ‘racing director and head of track area’.

There may be questions about how much of this is Vasseur’s doing and how much was already planned by Binotto, who some say had intended for these changes to be made over the winter to begin with.

But they have been committed to by Vasseur, in a short space of time, and they are regarded by those in the team as the first clear sign of his influence.

“He arrived with very clear ideas and understands a team that’s very big,” says Leclerc.

“Within few days he understood what had to be done and he did it. It’s positive.”

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