Fred Vasseur has had rough start to his tenure as boss of the iconic Scuderia F1 team. The departure of the much liked Ferrari ‘lifer’ Mattia Binotto was invariably set to be the cause of of a period of instability and this has proven to be the case.
It appears Vasseur has struggled to steady the ship with a stream of notable senior staff leaving Maranello.
Ferrari lose chief designer
David Sanchez heads the list of high profile Ferrari personnel leaving Italy for pastures new. As chief engineer, Sanchez is responsible for the design and development of the recent Ferrari F1 cars though this input on this seasons SF-23 will have been limited due to garden leave.
Sanchez originally joined Ferrari from McLaren in 2012 as principal aerodynamicist before becoming chief of aero in 2016.
The Frenchman was then promoted to lead the entire aerodynamics department in 2019, before his promotion to chief engineer, head of vehicle concept in 2019.
Another high profile figure exiting Maranello is Laurent Mekies, a highly respected engineer within the paddock, has been Ferrari’s sporting director since 2018.
Binotto’s right hand man leaves Scuderia
As soon as Binotto revealed he was leaving the business, Mekies revealed he too wanted out but his contract has obliged him to stay.
Mekies would stand in for Binotto on weekends when the Ferrari boss chose not to travel to the race and the Ferrari head of communications has been snapped up by Alpha Tauri to replace th retiring Franz Tost.
Having preciously worked as chief engineer for the Red Bull junior outfit, Mekies is a perfect fit for AlphaTauri with his knowledge of the personnel and the culture that runs through the Faenza based F1 team.
Now it has been revealed Ferrari are to lose two of their senior engine personnel. Reports in the Spanish Press claim the two key cogs in the Ferrari power unit side of the F1 business.
Engine specialists depart Maranello
Emanuele Guidotti and Angelo Rosetti, have left the Scuderia.
Mercedes were keen to sign both to their performance engine division but it appears Red Bull Racing stole one of their targets from under Toto Wolff’s nose.
Guidotti, a ‘turbo and simulation specialist’, is believed to be ready to start in Brackley however Red Bull’s much improved offer of remuneration seems to have persuaded Rosetti to decline Mercedes’ offer and plumb for a future in Milton Keynes.
Rosetti who is a ‘specialist in fluid dynamics and combustion’, has been a long serving member of Ferrari completing 12 years at their base in Maranello.
Ferrari executives responsible
F1 writer Mark Hughes believes the departure of senior staff from Ferrari “can be seen as a continuation of the senior management’s decision to ease Binotto out of his role last year,” he wrote for the Race.
“Binotto had presided over a period of technical creativity and had banished the climate of fear which had run through the team for too long. Mekies was a crucial part in that much-improved working atmosphere within the factory.”
However the ever shifting finger of blame has returned to the home of the Scderia and has even undermined the position of the new Ferrari boss.
Ferrari CEO, Benedetto Vigna, reportedly took Vasseur to task for sharing a flight to testing in Bahrain with Toto Wolff. It was apparently not “becoming” for Ferrari to be seen as subservient to Mercedes and Vasseur’s alleged “cosiness” with Toto Wolff was forbidden for the future.
Ferrari CEO “micro managing”
Worse still for Vasseur, Vigna is said to be micro managing certain parts of the Ferrari F1 manufacturing operation believing there absolute freedom afforded to Binotto was inappropriate.
Benedetto was quoted in the Italian press claiming he “wants to take on a more active role alongside Vasseur”.
The sledgehammer approach was adopted by Ferrari chairman John Elkann and CEO Benedetto Vigna who fired the individual who had made progress with Ferrari
Yet Binotto’s achievements did not reach the demands of the Scuderia highirarchy so his football style sacking was delivered without their full knowledge of how the F1 environment operated.
Vasseur finding it hard to recruit
Sanchez and Mekies in particular both held Binotto in high regard and were clearly unconvinced of the new direction Ferrari is taking.
The new team principal of Ferrari recently admitted he was finding it difficult to recruit and replace this who are leaving the team since Binotto’s sacking.
Seven of the Formula One teams are based in the Uk and within just over an hour of each other, while Ferrari and AlphaTauri are located in Italy and the Sauber – soon to be Audi – is in Hinwii, Switzerland.
No Ferrari titles for 15 years
“It’s not the same situation,” Vasseur lamented. “You can move from Red Bull to Mercedes, keep the same hours, keep children in the same school and from the Friday to the Monday you can change and everything is perfect,”
“If you want to come to Italy, it’s a different approach. You have to change the family environment and so on.”
Add into the mix that Ferrari have not won a championship since 2008 when the Scuderia claimed the constructors’ title while Lewis Hamilton topped the drivers’ table.
Move some F1 operations to England
Just as Ferrari appeared to be getting their act together, delivering a car capable of winning races and challenging Red Bull, they sack their principal and their leader in the creative department.
Unsurprisingly Ferrari are now struggling this year having slipped from second in 2022 to a distant fourth, some 223 points Red Bull after just nine races and trailing Mercedes and Aston Martin too.
AlphaTauri are set to resolve their recruitment problems by shifting a significant part of their F1 operation to the UK leaving behind most likely just the fabrication and assembly of the F1 cars.
It would be truly shocking were Ferrari forced to chose to following the AlphaTauri solution even if only in part – yet the brain drain continues and somehow Fred Vasseur with his hands tied behind his back has to turn the iconic but failing F1 ship around.
Ferrari did allow their chief designer John Barnard to set up an office in England during the early 1990’s prior to Jaen Todt becoming the principal of the team and recruiting Rory Burne.
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 1, 2023