As he prepares for his first F1 season in charge at Ferrari, Fred Vasseur reckons his “close” relationship with Charles Leclerc will be an “advantage”.
For the third time in his motorsport career, Leclerc has Vasseur as his team boss.
The two first teamed up back in 2016 when the Monégasque driver raced for ART Grand Prix in the GP3 series. Leclerc won the title before moving onto Prema in F2.
But after just one year apart, the driver and Vasseur were collaborating once again as he stepped up onto the Formula 1 grid with Alfa Romeo where the Frenchman had been appointed team boss.
This year they’re again working together, this time at Ferrari.
Vasseur believes their “close” relationship with benefit both of them.
“I’ve been following Charles since his karting days,” he told Canal+. “After a period at ART in F3 [GP3 as it was then known], he made his F1 debut with Sauber, so we’ve always been close.
“It’s an advantage for me, because I know him well, and it’s an advantage for him too, because he knows me well.”
Reiterates no early-season number one driver
But that advantage, Vasseur has made it crystal clear, will not equate to Leclerc being handed number one status within Ferrari.
It was speculated that the 54-year-old’s arrival at Ferrari would see Leclerc automatically handed top billing after former Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto refused to do so.
Instead the Italian raised eyebrows in the paddock when he stuck firm to his policy of not having a number one, that said to have led to the infamous finger wag at the British Grand Prix.
Vasseur, at least for now, won’t pick favourites.
“We are in a moment in which we cannot have favourite drivers, and there won’t be any because we have a very clear goal: to win,” he said.
“And to win with Ferrari, not to win with one or the other driver.
“Our goal is to give both of them all the means to do a good job. But if at some point in the season it is necessary to push one driver more than the other to win the championship, I will make this decision without any problem.”
If Fred Vasseur wants the Drivers’ title, he’ll have to pick one
Although it’s all well and good for Ferrari to go into the season without a number one, should the team find themselves with a potential championship-winning car, Fred Vasseur will have to make that call.
After all, Red Bull already have.
The Milton Keynes squad has a clear number one and that’s Max Verstappen, their double World Champion.
If Ferrari hope to wrestle that title away from they’ll need to have a number one themselves, one driver to pick up the big points while the other acts as a “sensational wingman”.
It’s going to be a tough call when it comes, especially for the unfavoured driver. But F1 is a team sport and the team has to come first, even when it comes to the individual championship.