Ferrari need to appoint a new team principal – and if they were to poach one from a rival team, who would they be most likely to target?
We do kind of know the answer to that question already, because there are very strong rumours about one particular candidate. There has also been speculation that another turned down the opportunity to replace Mattia Binotto.
Italian football clubs have traditionally changed their manager regularly and there is no stigma about hiring an individual closely connected to a major rival.
So if Ferrari were to cast envious eyes along the pit wall, who would they most longingly gaze at?
Here’s the order we would suggest, starting with the least likely.
9 Toto Wolff (Mercedes)
A complete non-starter for many reasons, although, given the fractious relationship he had with Binotto, you could perhaps excuse a touch of smugness if by some miracle Wolff did ever find himself behind the Maranello team principal’s desk.
But not only is Wolff the boss at Mercedes he also owns one third of the team, so no way would this move ever happen.
8 Christian Horner (Red Bull)
Horner appeared to be friendlier with Binotto than Wolff, but again it would be a shock of gigantic proportions if the Briton left his long-standing role – it will be 18 years in January – at Red Bull to join the Scuderia.
Settled with his family in the English countryside, why would Horner walk out on the team that has just dominated the 2022 season for the soap opera that is Ferrari? ‘Drive to Survive’ would love it, mind.
7 Mike Krack (Aston Martin)
We now leave the world of fantasy to enter the ‘vaguely realistic’ group – and Krack is the first of the current team principals who might actually give a second thought to Ferrari if an offer came in.
His position in this list is down to the fact he has only had one season at Aston Martin, and a campaign in which they failed to set the world alight, to put it mildly, so that lack of experience and accomplishment would surely count against him entering Ferrari’s calculations.
6 Otmar Szafnauer (Alpine)
In contrast to Krack, Szafnauer is a proven operator at team principal level, having been in charge at Force India/Racing Point/Aston Martin for 12 years before switching to Alpine last winter.
By no means a ridiculous idea that Ferrari would come calling after leading his new team to fourth in the championship, but his handling of the Oscar Piastri/Fernando Alonso saga in the middle of the 2022 campaign raised a question mark over Szafnauer’s effectiveness at managing drivers.
5 Franz Tost (AlphaTauri)
If a steady pair of senior hands is what Ferrari are looking for, they could do a lot worse than Tost who has steered the Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri ship since 2005.
He works for an Italy-based team as well. But as he approaches his 67th birthday, you have to wonder whether a veteran deeply entrenched with Red Bull would be the right fit – despite being a master at knowing what makes drivers tick.
4 Jost Capito (Williams)
Like Tost, age could be a potential barrier here. Capito has freely admitted he was on the verge of retirement when he accepted an offer from Williams for 2021 – and now he is both the team principal and the CEO!
One of those roles would obviously be shed at Maranello, reducing the workload at a much more competitive team than he is with currently, and despite Williams’ struggles the German deserves credit for the job he has done there. Ferrari would be a completely different ball game, though.
3 Guenther Steiner (Haas)
If Netflix would love to see Horner at Ferrari, just imagine Steiner! And it is not as daft a prospect as you might think, due to Haas’ close connections with the Scuderia and the American team having a design office at Maranello.
Being an Italian would help his cause, he takes no nonsense and his uncompromising style could knock the team into shape. But does Steiner, who answers only to Gene Haas, have the right corporate image for this most iconic of brands?
2 Andreas Seidl (McLaren)
And now we reach the real contenders. Seidl has been linked to Ferrari and is reported to have turned down the position at the team with which his McLaren outfit were directly competing in the 2021 campaign.
It is unknown whether the German was the No 1 candidate but the 46-year-old, who has been McLaren team principal since May 2019, has clearly built his reputation to a peak – and it would be no surprise if Mercedes were also eyeing him should Wolff decide to take a step back in the coming years.
1 Fred Vasseur (Alfa Romeo)
As soon as reports indicated Binotto was on borrowed time, Vasseur’s name was immediately in the frame to be his successor. Connections to Ferrari, it has been claimed, date back even to the late Sergio Marchionne’s reign as president.
The 54-year-old Frenchman worked with Charles Leclerc in the driver’s first F1 season at Sauber in 2018, while this year his Alfa Romeo team, with Ferrari engines, climbed from ninth to sixth in the Constructors’ standings.
Will it be Vasseur with his steady hand on the Ferrari tiller next term? He would certainly bring more experience than sporting director Laurent Mekies, who has also been linked, and Benedetto Vigna, the Ferrari CEO whom it has been reported will step in as interim boss.
Binotto’s predecessor, Maurizio Arrivabene, meanwhile, will soon be available after the entire board of Juventus resigned following the club’s huge financial losses. Arrivabene remains managing director but only on a temporary basis.
For Vasseur, it would make plenty of sense to take the job. Alfa Romeo are leaving F1 at the end of 2023 as Audi start to snuggle up with Sauber for their 2026 arrival on the grid, creating some inevitable uncertainty beyond the end of next season.
An appointment could be confirmed early in the new year…watch this space.