Ferrari seem to have a very difficult task this year.
The Italian team is one in transition – a new leader is at the helm in the form of Frederic Vasseur – and an outfit in this scenario would usually be forgiven if it takes some time for them to get fully up to speed. But this is Ferrari. Expectation is always off the charts at Maranello.
Everyone and their mother has already had their say about Vasseur’s appointment. In some respects it is a shrewd move, to bring in an experienced team leader and a wily operator who already has a pre-existing relationship with Charles Leclerc, the driver Ferrari is building its future around.
There are also concerns. An outside hire will take time to bed in, which most likely isn’t compatible with Ferrari’s goal of competing for the championships this year. Plus – and I know this shouldn’t matter, but in Italy it really does – he is French.
Perhaps the biggest worry at the moment is that Ferrari might not have addressed the actual problem. Replacing team boss Mattia Binotto was probably not the fix needed – the major issues lied in the staff structure and many felt the former chief needed more help rather than his P45.
In any case, he took that decision out of the team’s hands and resigned, although he did that because he didn’t have the confidence of executive chairman John Elkann. Whether or not Ferrari would have sacked him themselves this winter, after the way their 2022 title challenge imploded, is a question to which we will never know the answer.
It seems Vasseur’s appointment will not be the only senior change at Maranello, though. While Binotto oversaw the technical department while also team principal, Vasseur is set to give those engineers more autonomy and responsibility.
Laurent Mekies – Ferrari’s hard-working an versatile utility man – will have his role simplified, having had a swathe of different responsibilities last year. A sporting director will be promoted internally to help with that.
Plus, Simone Resta is expected to return to the team to be the chief designer of their 2024 car, having been sent to work with engine customer Haas as their technical director. Vasseur knows him well – Resta’s previous ‘loan’ spell organised by Binotto, who apparently viewed him as a threat, was at Alfa Romeo Sauber.
Jonathan Giacobazzi is another sidelined by Binotto who is likely to be brought back into the fold, in charge of the team’s logistics. Other changes may follow, though Ferrari aren’t expected to bring in many other faces from outside the team. In terms of outgoings, strategy chief Inaki Rueda may well be a casualty of the team’s 2022 failure.
Frankly, what Ferrari need is calm. That will be what Leclerc and Carlos Sainz will be desperate for – along with a competi t ive car, of course. The more they are left alone to simply drive as well as they can, the better off they will be. There have been questions over what the power balance between the two drivers might be, given Leclerc is already Ferrari’s chosen one and Vasseur already knows him well.
Whether or not Sainz will start to play second fiddle – and get irritated in the process – is something to watch out for in the coming months. As for their title chances, the noises coming out of Maranello indicate they may have another excellent car on their hands, but the rest of the picture might make challenging Red Bull difficult again this year.