Ferrari take issue with AlphaTauri’s ‘aggressive’ Laurent Mekies announcement

Thomas Maher
Ferrari's Laurent Mekies and Fred Vasseur at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Sakhir, March 2023.

Ferrari's Laurent Mekies and Fred Vasseur at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Sakhir, March 2023.

Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur says the team won’t move to block Laurent Mekies’ departure to AlphaTauri.

In the lead-up to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, AlphaTauri announced a management shake-up for 2024, with long-time team boss Franz Tost departing after 17 years in the job.

In his stead, current Ferrari race director Laurent Mekies has been announced as his successor – Mekies having previously worked with AlphaTauri in their previous guise as Toro Rosso as their chief engineer between 2006 and 2014.

Mekies then worked with the FIA before joining the Ferrari team as sporting director in 2018.

Also serving as deputy team principal under Mattia Binotto and now Fred Vasseur, the French team boss was keen to stress that he is pleased for Mekies to be given the opportunity as a team boss but said the nature of his departure has not yet been fully confirmed.

Fred Vasseur: Ferrari won’t block Laurent Mekies’ exit

“First of all, I think it’s a mega opportunity for Laurent, considering also that I have a good relationship with him,” Vasseur told media in Azerbaijan, as quoted by The Race.

“And I won’t block Laurent, for sure.

“Then I think also, if you speak about timelines, I think Toro Rosso [AlphaTauri] was probably a bit aggressive on the press release. We have a long-term contract with Laurent and we’ll have to discuss about details.

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“I’m there to protect Ferrari’s interests, and it’s Ferrari first and it will always be Ferrari first, it means that I will have to discuss about the conditions of this.”

With Mekies still a Ferrari employee and now announced as joining a rival team, Vasseur said a transitionary period and the possibility of a ‘gardening leave’ period would need to be discussed.

“We have a long-term contract with him and we’ll have to find the best for Ferrari,” he said, “and depending on when he will move to Toro Rosso [AlphaTauri], we will decide the end of the collaboration. We’ll do it properly and the relationship is very positive.”

Fred Vasseur unconcerned by another high-profile departure from Ferrari

Vasseur also downplayed the fact that Mekies is the second high-profile name to leave the upper echelons of Ferrari’s management since Mattia Binotto’s resignation in December, with David Sanchez leaving to join McLaren’s new technical structure.

“To lose two persons out of 1600, it’s not a drama,” Vasseur said.

“You know that the power of the team is always more important, and the power of the group, than the individuals. We have to keep this in mind, that the most important is the group. The group is there, we are recruiting massively, we are not communicating that but we are recruiting massively.

“And we will do that step-by-step because you can’t put an organisation in place in two weeks. You know perfectly the system of recruitment in F1, it’s quite long and painful. But we are working on it. Don’t expect that, in one day, you will have a new organisation. It will be step by step and we are putting something in place.”