Former Ferrari racer Jean Alesi believes Fred Vasseur will have to lean heavily upon a seasoned Ferrari figurehead in his first year in charge.
Vasseur takes over from Mattia Binotto as the new Ferrari team boss, following the resignation of Binotto from the lead position.
Vasseur had been in charge of the Alfa Romeo/Sauber outfit, following a brief spell with Renault as team boss, while his pre-F1 exploits included founding the successful ART team as well as establishing Spark Racing Technology – the company responsible for building the Formula E chassis.
While Vasseur is coming from a prestigious motorsport background, the Frenchman is taking on one of the most scrutinised and high-pressured jobs in any motorsport category.
Alesi, who raced for the Scuderia in the early 90s and claimed his sole F1 victory with the team in 1995, labelled the Ferrari team as “unwatchable” in 2022 as they squandered an early points lead through unreliability and tactical errors.
Having had a very strong start to the season, Ferrari lost out to Red Bull by 205 points by the conclusion of the championship fight.
“Let’s be honest, on the tactical front, Ferrari was unwatchable last year,” Alesi told Italy’s Autosprint.
“Things definitely need to change, otherwise there is no way out for the team.”
Jean Alesi identifies key support for Fred Vasseur
With Vasseur opting for stability for his first season in charge of Ferrari, with no planned restructuring or personnel changes, Alesi believes the 54-year-old should lean on Sporting Director Laurent Mekies for support throughout 2023.
“I think Vasseur has to rely very much on Laurent Mekies,” Alesi remarked.
“Mekies has been at Ferrari for years and he can be the ideal person for Vasseur to see where things need to be changed and what, on the contrary, should stay the same because there is potential.”
Vasseur is the first non-Italian to take over the role of team boss since the departure of compatriot Jean Todt in 2007 – Todt overseeing Ferrari’s ultra-successful period of championship wins and title challenges during Michael Schumacher’s tenure from 1996 onward.
But Alesi warned against Vasseur attempting to make cultural changes to take Ferrari out of an Italian mindset.
“If you tell me that Ferrari is going to speak or should speak more and more French, I will say no immediately,” he said.
“Maranello is Italian. One has to speak Italian and only Italian.
“I once drove for the Scuderia and there I experienced the very best moments of my career.”