Five biggest headlines from Fred Vasseur’s first media briefing as Ferrari team boss
Fred Vasseur has rubbished reports Ferrari found an extra 30hp during the off-season and believes he’ll continue to have a “good relationship” with Toto Wolff despite taking on the Ferrari team boss job.
Ferrari announced last year the Frenchman would replace Mattia Binotto as the Scuderia’s team boss, Vasseur taking up the reins on 9 January.
As the Italian stable wrapped up their pre-season “wake-up” at Fiorano on Thursday, the Frenchman faced the media for his first briefing as Ferrari’s team principal.
PlanetF1.com looks at the five headline-grabbing points.
Ferrari PU gains ‘just a joke’
Earlier this month Gazzetta dello Sport reported that Alpine were “suspicious” about the horsepower gains made by their rivals in the off-season, most notably Ferrari who are said to have found an extra 30hp.
Heading into the second season of Formula 1’s engine freeze, manufacturers may only make alterations to their power units if it’s to improve reliability.
But, while doing so, Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull all reportedly made performance gains.
Vasseur says the claims of 30ph are “just a joke”, adding that “we made some step but it is just about reliability.”
The new team boss is convinced Ferrari’s power unit has the grunt to race wins, it was just the reliability that let them down last season.
“The performance of the engine was not an issue,” he said. “The issue was reliability and the first target is to fix it.
“So far, it looks okay but the reality of the track is a different thing.
“A couple of issues that the teams suffer – and it’s not just true for Ferrari – in terms of reliability are also coming from track operation, [aerodynamic] bouncing, and vibration. Everyone will have a much better idea [at the pre-season test] in Bahrain in a few weeks’ time.”
He added: “We talked about the reliability of the engine, one of the problems of last season, also with regard to penalties. But this now seems under control.”
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‘Good relationship with Toto’
It’s fair to say Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff and former Ferrari team boss Binotto did not get along, at all.
Wolff blamed the Italian for Mercedes’ 2020 engine woes, claiming the Scuderia’s illegal engine from 2019 forced Mercedes to push too hard with their own power unit thus making it unreliable.
Speaking to the media after Binotto tendered his resignation, he spoke of “too much porcelain broken between us in the last two years” for Mercedes to offer the Italian sanctuary, and also said Binotto had held onto the Ferrari job “longer than I thought”.
But while Wolff wasn’t a fan of Binotto’s, he and Vasseur have an amicable relationship. It’s one the Frenchman believes will continue in the same manner.
“I am sure I will maintain a good relationship with Toto,” he said as per Motorsport.com.
“I think we are smart enough to be able to fight on the track, fight with the FIA, fight with the stewards and still have a good relationship. I think it’s also the best way for Formula 1 as a whole to move forward, and I won’t change on that point.”
Ferrari targeting the double in 2023
Great news for Ferrari’s Tifosi with Vasseur adamant the “goal” this season is to win the championship double.
The Scuderia hold the record for the most Constructors’ titles, 16, and the most World titles, 15, but their current dry spell has been rambling along for most than two decades.
The last time Ferrari won the Drivers’ title was back in 2007, Kimi Raikkonen pipping the feuding McLaren team-mates.
There have been several near-misses since, the closest of those being Felipe Massa in 2008 when the Brazilian was the World Champion for all of 39 seconds.
That year, 2008, was the last time Ferrari won the teams’ title. Vasseur says the target this year is to break that drought, and he wants them both.
“That’s the goal,” he said. “The goal of [Ferrari CEO] Benedetto Vigna, John [Elkann] and over a thousand people.
“When there’s a challenge like this, when you have the resources and the tools we have, when you have Charles and Carlos in the car, you can’t have any other goal than to win.
“It’s the same for Mercedes and Red Bull, but in the end there will be only one winner, that’s sport. We can’t have another goal.”
Vasseur: "I am convinced that this team has everything it takes to become world champions. We just have to put the pieces of the puzzle together properly."
— tami. (@Vetteleclerc) January 27, 2023
‘Still too early to say anything’
The 54-year-old knows more about the 2023 Ferrari F1 car than the rest of us, he’s seen the data that’s come from the wind tunnel and simulator.
But he’s not sharing any of that other than to say he’s not expecting any nasty surprises when the car hits the track at pre-season testing.
It has been reported in the Italian media that the ‘675’, its code name for now, will be “at least one second faster” then its predecessor.
But whether that’s true or not Vasseur is keeping that to himself.
“At the moment we only have the data relating to the new project, we haven’t hit the track yet,” Vasseur said when asked about what he expects from the new car.
“The first check we’ll do is that relating to the correlation between what we see in the wind tunnel, on the simulator and what will emerge from the circuit tests, but I think it will be fine, given that there weren’t any major problems in the past either.
“It’s still too early to say anything, let’s wait to be on track and we’ll see. But the goal is clear, you don’t come to Ferrari to aim for a fifth place, the goal is to win, there are no others.”
Ferrari will launch the car, although will probably keep a few secrets back, on Valentine’s Day.
The following week Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz will share the driving duties in this year’s only three-day pre-season test, which runs from the 23rd to the 25th of February.
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Driver management ‘will be under control’
There was a fair amount of speculation, and let’s be clear it was unconfirmed, about Leclerc and his former team boss Binotto clashing over driver status.
Leclerc it was said wanted Ferrari to support to his title campaign especially after racing to two wins in three races but Binotto said no, and to prove his point, gave Sainz the preferential strategy in Britain.
The Spaniard won the race, Leclerc falling from P1 to P4 in the final few laps. His side of the garage was said to be so irate they didn’t attend the podium ceremony.
But as said, that was all rumours, none of it confirmed by Ferrari.
With Vasseur arriving at the team the latest rumour is that Leclerc will be number one given his past relationship with the former Sauber team boss.
The Frenchman has been quick to nip that in the bud, saying ” there will be no number one or number two” driver.
He’s also not expecting any drama between his drivers.
Asked about managing their ambitions, he said: “I think that after the first weekend of the season in Bahrain I’ll be able to answer better… I’m just kidding, because I’m really convinced that everything will be under control.
“We touched on the subject a couple of times and I was very clear on my goals for the team, and theirs too.
“The group comes first, and that has been made very clear. I’m not concerned on that front, I’ve known these guys for years, we’ve had a relationship in the past and I was in touch with them right away when I made my decision to accept this challenge.