Fred Vasseur told to bring his ‘knuckle-dusters’ to sort out Ferrari mess

Thomas Maher
Fred Vasseur looking serious on the Ferrari pit wall. Bahrain March 2023

Team boss Fred Vasseur looking serious on the Ferrari pit wall. Bahrain March 2023

A former sparring partner of Fred Vasseur believes there’s no better man to lead Ferrari after taking over the role in 2023.

Vasseur is settling into life as the team boss of Scuderia Ferrari, having taken over the role following Mattia Binotto’s resignation during the winter.

With seven races under his belt, it’s been a tough start to life in red for Vasseur, with Ferrari struggling to keep pace with Mercedes and Aston Martin – let alone runaway championship leaders Red Bull.

But former F1 racer and three-time Le Mans winner David Kennedy, who was team boss of Status up against Vasseur’s ART in GP3 and GP2, believes the Frenchman is the right person to take Ferrari out of their current situation.

“In my book, I don’t think you could get much better than Fred Vasseur. He’s got a fantastic pedigree,” Kennedy told PlanetF1.com in an exclusive interview.

“It’s like the old days when Ron Dennis was a racer, where Frank Williams was a racer, where Eddie Jordan was a racer – to bring a depth of experience, and a consummate knowledge to make a difference, to really understand it.

“Fred has been running race teams for eons and they have been outstandingly successful so I think, provided they give him the latitude and he wears his knuckle dusters, he can make a big difference.”

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But Vasseur is the latest in a long line of managers to inherit what appears to be the poisoned chalice of leading Ferrari. Binotto’s resignation after more than two decades of respected servitude at Ferrari comes not even five years after the departure of Maurizio Arrivabene, who himself only took over from Marco Mattiaci at the end of 2014 – Mattiaci himself having only put in a year.

Put to him that Ferrari may be too big and corporate for a single man to make all the difference and turn the Scuderia’s fortunes around, Kennedy believes Vasseur’s willingness to go to battle will stand to him in the long run.

“It depends upon that person,” he said.

“It’s certainly a difficulty when you’ve got extraneous departments making decisions that can impact on the performance.

“My mother always said ‘you’re old and ugly enough to be able to just sort it out’. He’s been in the trenches a long time. He really probably has to set the stall out that ‘I’m not going to take any prisoners’.

“When Jean Todt moved into Ferrari [in 1994], I had several conversations with him before he signed up Michael Schumacher, and he built it up by consensus. He had another style to be able to bring the pieces in – the Ross Brawns, the Rory Byrnes, and the Michael Schumachers. Vasseur has been around enough to know the politics as well as the nitty-gritty of getting the car to work.”