With Ferrari changing leadership again for the 2023 season, it’s clear that they haven’t found the solution to their problems just yet. Fred Vasseur is the new leader that they will put their hopes into for the upcoming season, but will he be able to fix the historic team and if so, how long will it take for him to lead them to their next championship?
Following Ferrari’s failed title bid in 2022 it drew the ‘Binotto era’ to a swift end, although Mattia had a rocky start in 2019 with the engine debacle, he was able to build the team up to a point where they were legitimately in with a chance of challenging Redbull for the title in 2022, or so we thought. There is no denying Binotto’s technical ability as his expertise were able build Ferrari up from finishing P6 in the 2020 to P2 in 2022. There was much debate over whether he had done enough by the end of the season to keep his job, we now know that he did not but Ferrari’s issues run much deeper than changing the team principal. Ferrari’s last championship came from – a now retired – Kimi Raikkonen in 2007, they’ve gone through multiple world champions and team principals since then, but the result remains the same. Ferrari’s recent history shows that a complete overhaul is needed and Fred Vasseur may be the one to do it.
Fred was already an extremely accomplished team principal before entering the world of F1, he had experience winning championships in F3 and F2 and had also been able to successfully manage future world champions such as Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. Despite all of his previous accolades, his F1 career has not yet reflected that same success, he initially joined Renault in 2016 and subsequently moved on to Alfa Romeo in 2017 but neither of these teams saw any particularly impressive breakthroughs under Vasseur’s leadership. Renault – now turned Alpine – have seen noticeable improvements over the past few years, with them managing to take P4 in the Constructors in 2022, but this was years after Fred’s departure from the team. Alfa Romeo have continued to drift around the lower end of the midfield since Fred took over in 2017 leading to the question, is Vasseur the right person for Ferrari? Although his F1 career has not been particularly impressive, Ferrari will be relying on his 25 years of experience in motorsport to pull them towards another championship. It’s important to note that we have not yet seen Vasseur at helm of a top team in F1 and so we cannot know how he will cope with pressure, we will have to wait and see if Ferrari’s gamble of appointing a new team principal will pay off or if letting Binotto go will come back to bite them.
The single biggest issue that Ferrari is facing are their blatant and baffling strategy blunders, the mistakes and mishaps have been made in abundance to a point where it has become a running joke. Although this may just look like an ongoing joke by F1 fans, drivers – past and present – have also taken notice of Ferrari’s issues and seem to be just as bewildered as everyone else. Many have commented on Ferrari’s strategy choices that seem to make no sense which ultimately leaves their drivers “to make decisions”. This will undoubtedly be Vasseur’s biggest task as it will not be a quick fix; it will take a major restructuring of the team to begin to address this problem. If Vasseur is able to build up a new team they will need to gain the trust of the drivers in order to work effectively as it’s very evident that there has been a clear breakdown of trust within the team as the current strategists cannot be relied upon to do their job.
Speaking of drivers, the final unknown in Vasseur’s tenure is if Ferrari will be able to hold on to their current line up. Sainz and Leclerc’s contracts are both set to expire at the end of 2024, but will they stick around long enough to see their contracts out? In Fred’s first press conference as Ferrari team principal he was questioned about the speculation surrounding Leclerc possibly jumping ship to Mercedes, he seemingly brushed this off noting that it’s not currently his “number one priority”. Despite their recent shortcomings, the allure of Ferrari has remained strong enough to draw in the best drivers on the grid and they need to be careful and ensure that they don’t drive them away due to their lack of progression. Over the years Ferrari have not been short of talent as they seen the likes of Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel come and go due to their inability to reach the pinnacle at Ferrari, if this pattern continues Ferrari could be saying goodbye to their future in Charles Leclerc. Although Vasseur already has a well-established relationship with Leclerc from his days at Sauber, this can only buy him so much time, if he is unable to get a hold of Ferrari and steer them in the right direction Leclerc’s patience may eventually run out and if a spot at another team opens up who knows if Ferrari will be able to hold on to their current drivers.
It’s no secret that Fred Vasseur has a monumental task in front of him, he is being trusted to lead the most prestigious team in F1 at a time where they are severely lacking in results and nothing less than a championship will do. We’ve seen the pressure get to previous team principals leading to their quick departures from the team but will Vasseur face the same fate or will he be able to fix Ferrari? None of us know if he will succeed or not and for the moment all we can do is speculate, but I’m sure everyone will be watching with this upcoming season with a keen focus on Vasseur’s Ferrari.