Fred Vasseur does not believe his “good relationship” with Toto Wolff will disintegrate this season as he takes on the role of Ferrari team boss, fighting Wolff’s Mercedes for race wins and potentially the championship titles.
Such is the relationship between Vasseur and Wolff that when the Frenchman joined Renault in 2016 and needed a place to live in England, he crashed at Wolff’s house.
They remained on good terms when Vasseur swapped from Renault to Sauber, but already questions are being asked about whether they can maintain that friendship now that Vasseur is in charge at Ferrari.
The 54-year-old joined the Scuderia last month, taking up the reins after Mattia Binotto tendered his resignation.
The former Ferrari team boss had a fractious relationship with Wolff, the latter blaming the Italian for Mercedes’ engine reliability issues, saying Ferrari’s engine cheating scandal from 2019 had forced the Brackley squad to push beyond the limits.
Today, though, the Mercedes motorsport boss has a much friendlier relationship with the new Ferrari chief. The question is how long can it last.
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Asked by Autosport if his new role at Ferrari meant he’d be willing to ‘throw Wolff under the bus if he needed to’, Vasseur joked: “We are not speaking any more!”
Jokes aside, Vasseur believes his “good relationship” with Wolff can only be a positive.
“I think globally, it’s an advantage, but we have to be clever,” he said.
“I know that we will fight on track, we will fight with the stewards, we will fight in the FIA, and we will fight for the Concorde Agreement. This is life.
“But, at the end of the day, I think for the global picture, it’s an advantage also to have a very good collaboration between teams.
“And on this side, when the common interest of the teams or F1 will be to have discussions and to find an agreement, I think it will be a huge advantage to have a good relationship.”
But while they have a good relationship, the former Alfa Romeo boss says he’ll fight “like hell” if and when it’s necessary.
“I also have a good relationship with a couple of other of my colleagues,” he said. “I think this is always good.
“Then we have to be clever enough to split completely [this friendship], and you can be sure I will fight like hell with Toto on the track and out of the track!”
Vasseur v Wolff won’t turn into Horner v Wolff, yet
Toto Wolff versus Christian Horner has been the pick of the team boss rivalries in recent seasons, the two verballing battering one another.
Although not a single wheel has been turned with the 2023 cars, Wolff has already fired the first shot of the new year declaring he lives “rent free” in his Red Bull counterpart’s head.
It’s just the latest in a long line of one-liners the two have thrown at one another, their drivers’ ferocious fight for the World title in 2021 – which included two massive accidents – the catalyst for all this.
Vasseur won’t be joining that war of words, at least not this season. Don’t be mistaken, he can throw out a zinger or two when he wants to.
Last season he told those crying for an inflationary increase in the budget cap to “switch off” their wind tunnels before later in the year, having secured P6 in the Constructors’ and the additional prize money that comes with it, saying the extra “two million is nothing but now we have five times nothing” in response to Horner’s comments that Red Bull’s $2m overspend was nothing.
He, though, arrives in the Ferrari job without the years of animosity of trying to beat the others to the championship titles as he’s been with teams fighting for points.
It will take a few years of fighting at the front, arguing over every hundredth of a second advantage, to build up the tension that could lead to a Vasseur v Wolff v Horner battle.
The best part of that? It means out on track fans will have a three-way fight for the race wins and the titles, fraught enough to have the team bosses going at it.