Five key questions facing Frédéric Vasseur as new Ferrari team boss
Frédéric Vasseur has left the relative comfort of Alfa Romeo to take the high-pressure Ferrari job, which instantly poses questions to be answered.
When Mattia Binotto announced his resignation from the Ferrari team boss role at the end of 2022, speculation soon turned towards who would take the plunge and jump into the firing line as his successor.
Vasseur soon emerged as the lead contender and rumours became reality when his exit from Alfa Romeo was confirmed, and Ferrari appointment was announced.
While there is plenty of attention on the midfield, Vasseur as Ferrari boss will now find himself under the most scrutiny yet during his time in Formula 1, especially after Ferrari’s title challenges in 2022 crumbled.
So, here are five key questions that Vasseur will soon need to answer as Ferrari team principal.
No-nonsense approach remains or will he have to tow the Ferrari line?
In a world of Formula 1 where many in the paddock are programmed to keep their words PR friendly, Vasseur is one of the team bosses who calls a spade a spade. He will speak his mind.
Now, that arguably is something which could serve Ferrari well, especially in their native Italy where it may be beneficial for Vasseur and the team to tackle any criticism head-on, or equally, soak up the praise if the good days come.
That being said, this is Ferrari after all, they are much more than a team, rather a national treasure representing the nation of Italy and also operating as an international team as well.
Time will soon tell whether Ferrari are comfortable with Vasseur continuing to utilise his no-nonsense approach, or whether the Scuderia will look to rein him in a bit now that he is the public-speaking face of the team and brand.
Does he show full commitment to Charles Leclerc?
Vasseur’s arrival at Ferrari will see him reunite with a driver who is very familiar with, that being Ferrari’s homegrown star Leclerc.
It was at Alfa Romeo-Sauber where Leclerc made his Formula 1 breakthrough, arriving at Vasseur’s team as part of the Ferrari programme to learn the ropes of the top series, having impressively won the GP3 and Formula 2 titles back-to-back.
In an F1-75 which at least started 2022 as the pacesetter, Leclerc had the edge over team-mate Carlos Sainz for much of the season, finishing with three wins to Sainz’s one, and nine pole positions against three for Sainz.
The final points tally showed Leclerc on 308 and Sainz 246, but while Ferrari have a history of deploying a number one and number two driver, Binotto was adamant that he would not be giving such orders to Leclerc and Sainz.
Considering their history, it remains to be seen whether Vasseur will look to build the team around Leclerc, or keep the ‘let them race’ approach.
Can he fix Ferrari’s race day operations?
Before the F1-75 began to fall behind the RB18 for outright race pace in the second half of the season, Ferrari had already gone a long way to wrecking their title chances with poor strategical decisions and communication.
Monaco and Leclerc’s explosive reaction to the confusion over his pit stop was arguably a perfect illustration of the indecision and the shortcomings at Ferrari in the strategy department, this meaning that by the time they delivered a faultless display at the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP, it was far too late.
Of course Ferrari need to ensure that this was a sign of what is to come and not a one-off where it went well, so can Vasseur turn Ferrari into a consistently efficient outfit?
If Red Bull, Mercedes or any rival team start with a challenger that can match or even slightly outpace Ferrari, then Vasseur needs to make sure his team are positively influencing their results on the pit wall, not the other way around.
Will Vasseur eliminate the no-blame culture?
Despite the mistakes that were clear for everyone to see, Binotto chose not to point fingers at members of his team, part of the no-blame culture which he had tried to create, but he even went as far as to deny that Ferrari’s strategic nightmares were a problem.
Tying in with Vasseur’s aforementioned no-nonsense approach, will he continue the trend of protecting those at Ferrari after any negative occurrences, or will there be more public and private scrutiny on those individual team members looking to get the Scuderia back to the very top?
How long do Ferrari give him?
Ferrari made a clear point in their statement announcing Vasseur’s appointment that his leadership is an asset which the team need moving forward, which would suggest that the Scuderia are ready to allow him to mould the team into his vision, even if Ferrari CEO Benedetto Vigna is after a more “active” role alongside Vasseur.
This then would of course need time, logically one may say Vasseur should be afforded at least until the end of 2025, at which point the current engine regulations will bow out, to get Ferrari firmly on a positive run.
But if P2 in the final 2022 standings, after a season where Ferrari started out with a title-contending car, is the foundation, then would P3 or below in 2023 be considered a failure which puts Vasseur’s position in doubt?
Mercedes are expected to return to title-challenging ways for 2023, while Alpine for example are talking positively after a strong 2022 with further gains expected into the new season, so competition may well be fierce if Ferrari are to at least maintain P2, or make the only possible improvement from there, win the Constructors’ or Drivers’ title…
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