F1 rumours: Laurent Mekies part of Ferrari mass exodus? Leclerc meets Ferrari president
Charles Leclerc reportedly met with Ferrari president John Elkann following a troublesome F1 2023 season-opener in Bahrain, while a host of staff, including Laurent Mekies, appear to be heading for the exit door.
After last season’s title challenge did not go to plan for Ferrari, the team returned to the drawing board for F1 2023 and came up with the SF-23 as they looked to take a fresh crack at reaching the Formula 1 summit for the first time since 2008.
Reliability, strategic errors and ultimately a lack of pace cost Ferrari in 2022 as Red Bull strolled to a title double, and one of the main changes over the winter at Maranello was a new team boss as Fred Vasseur made the move from Alfa Romeo, following Mattia Binotto’s resignation.
The Scuderia then were hoping to be within range of Red Bull at the first round of F1 2023, even if they did expect Red Bull to have the edge over a race distance. As it turned out though, it was more than an edge.
Ferrari, this time, were sharp on the strategy front as they snubbed a final attempt at pole with Leclerc, instead saving a fresh set of soft tyres for the race, but the best Leclerc could manage was holding Sergio Perez at bay in the first stint as reigning World Champion, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, drove off into the distance.
Perez eventually cleared Leclerc, who was resigned to a distant P3 finish at the time that the power unit in his SF-23 called it quits, reliability still an issue for Ferrari at the start of this new campaign.
However, it was that alarming deficit to Red Bull which La Gazzetta dello Sport say prompted an “evidently concerned” Leclerc to ask for and receive a meeting with Ferrari president Elkann, the report adding that Leclerc wanted “reassurance” that Ferrari can move forwards after his P2 finish in the 2022 Drivers’ standings, the thought that they cannot reportedly being “unacceptable” to him.
‘Bringing the team back to triumph is a mission he will not easily give up. However, after four seasons at Ferrari, even the boy wonder feels that time is running out,’ La Gazzetta dello Sport claim.
Furthermore, the report references a “tense” atmosphere at Maranello, with the recent resignation of long-serving Ferrari chief engineer David Sanchez an “indication of the uncertainty at the team”.
Sanchez according to this report is heading for McLaren, having sent his CV around the teams over the winter, with his former Ferrari colleague Andrea Stella, now McLaren team principal, opening the door at Woking.
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And the trend of existing staff reaching out to other teams reportedly stretches beyond just Sanchez. Long-serving Ferrari personnel Gino Rosato and Jonathan Giacobazzi are said to have left the team, while Inaki Rueda, who has been demoted from the head of strategy role, may also be on his way out.
But it seems that is not the end of it, with Corriere della Sera stating that Ferrari race director Laurent Mekies could be set to bid the team farewell, though the situation is apparently “at a standstill” after Vasseur reportedly vetoed a deal for Mekies to work with Formula 1 alongside its president and ex-Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali.
It is also said that Enrico Cardile, Ferrari’s aerodynamics chief, who is taking on the role of technical director, will as it stands see his contract with the team end next year, and it remains uncertain whether he will stay with the team.
One interesting potential movement in the other direction which Corriere della Sera note is that of Simone Resta, Haas’ technical director who reportedly could be in line for a return to Maranello.
Vasseur and Ferrari CEO Benedetto Vigna are also reportedly having clashes, Vigna said to be unhappy that Vasseur flew to the Bahrain test with his friend and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, while Vasseur was also apparently blocked from bringing an unnamed new sponsor onboard at Ferrari.