With the change at the helm in Maranello, Ferrari will once again be the focus of many F1 fans attention as the season begins to unfold on track in just 4 weeks time.
Freddy Vasseur is a relatively unknown character to the English speaking media and fans and as such there will be a fascination to understand who he is and how things will be done at Ferrari on his watch.
Vasseur sets out his vision
The Frenchman is a long standing motorsport engineer and has managed various Formula series teams. He joined Renault F1 as team principal in 2016 but resigned at the end of the season due to disagreements with Cyril Abiteboul the managing director.
Vasseur then found himself in 2017 at Sauber as MD, CEO and principal of the F1 team.
Of course Frederic now has the hot seat in Formula One in charge of the tifosi backed Ferrari team and this week in an extended media event he set out to explain how he would be running the Maranello outfit.
Team orders are coming at Ferrari
During the reign of Mattia Binotto, the drivers were often left to fight it out amongst themselves on track, rather than receive instructions from the team.
This clearly cost them on several occasions particularly at the British GP 2022 when LeClerc closed quickly on Sainz, but the team refused to instruct the spaniard to let him through.
This simply allowed Hamilton to close on the pair a rate of knots.
Vasseur has indicated hen will use team orders to back one driver over another.
No number one and number two drivers
“This is a fierce situation,” said Vasseur when questioned whether he would appoint a number one and number two driver.
“It’s the same everywhere, we have two very good drivers that are able to do the job and they are going to do the job.
“We will have the capacity to provide them exactly the same car and the same structure and the same support. What is clear is that the target is to win with Ferrari and for Ferrari.
“There will be no number one and number two. If at one stage we have to take action, I will take action. It doesn’t matter if it’s for one or the other, but if at one stage in the season I have to do something, I will do it.”
Ferrari drivers favoured on race by race scenario
In the moment this is easy to say but now always easy to do depending on the state of the championship. Clearly the goal is for Ferrari to do the best in each given scenario to maximise the team’s result in that race.
However, the waters get muddied when the big picture of the championship has to be considered.
So in effect Vasseur is suggesting he would have forced Sainz aside at the example above in Silverstone. Yet were the roles reversed and LeClerc was slower but the Ferrari favourite for the drivers’ title, it is easy to make the argument for the second car to hold station and defend from the opposition.
Vasseur admits he will favour one driver or the other for the title but explains how this decision will be made.
One Ferrari driver will eventually be backed for the title chase
“It’s not a matter to take a decision in June, September, you have to take action and decision when it’s obvious that one will be in a much better position than the other and not before,” said Vasseur when asked about the timing of choosing a driver to back.
“It could be two races before the end or before.”
From his comments it appears the Ferrari boss hopes the decision over which of his drivers to back for the title can be delayed as long as possible, yet it could be he needs to assert his authority much earlier than this.
Were LeClerc to be significantly ahead of Sainz with 6-7 races complete, and the battle between Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes close, surely the decision has to be to back the Monegasque ahead of the Spaniard?
Theoretical musings of how things may pan out are all well and good, yet when the rubber hits the road then will Freddy Vasseur’s judgement be called into action.
Chatting with Fred 🗣️
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) January 28, 2023