Frederic Vasseur has replaced Mattia Binotto as Ferrari team principal ahead of the 2023 Formula 1 season; Vasseur says the reliability “looks to be under control” on the team’s 2023 car; Frenchman confirms decision yet to be made on strategy chief after 2022 failings
Last Updated: 27/01/23 6:00am
Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur says he has made it “crystal clear” to Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz that they will have equal status within the team to start the 2023 Formula 1 season.
Vasseur, who joined Ferrari from Alfa Romeo to replace Mattia Binotto, has been tasked with ending the team’s 14-year title drought.
The fact that Leclerc previously drove under Vasseur at Alfa Romeo led to speculation that the appointment would see the Monegasque favoured over Sainz, but Vasseur has vehemently dismissed those suggestions.
“The target of the team is to win – with Ferrari and for Ferrari, this is the policy of the team,” Vasseur told Sky Italy.
“I already spoke with the drivers about this. It’s crystal clear that we’ll give them exactly the same treatment and we’ll support both of them in the same way.”
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Leclerc finished second behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the 2022 drivers’ standings, and at times expressed frustration over a lack of support from Sainz, who ended the season 62 points back in fifth.
Vasseur continued: “For sure, if at one stage during the season, one is in a much better place to fight for the championship, we’ll have to take action, but it’s not that one will be the number one from the beginning of the season.
“This can’t work because you never know what will happen, and we have to do the best for the team, not for the drivers.”
‘Reliability looks to be under control’
Ferrari made an excellent start to the 2022 campaign as Leclerc won two of the first three races, and appeared to have a faster car than Verstappen for much of the first half of the campaign.
However, retirements from the lead in Spain and Baku that were caused by reliability problems handed the initiative to Verstappen.
With Sainz also suffering failures in Azerbaijan and Austria, Ferrari made a decision to lower the power on their engines during the second half of the campaign, which played a role in Verstappen running away with the title.
Leclerc was forced to retire from the race lead in Spain after losing power in his Ferrari
With pre-season testing in Bahrain (February 23-25) fast approaching, Vasseur offered an optimistic update on the team’s 2023 car.
Asked about his expectations for the car, he said: “This, we will have to wait for Bahrain. Even the test in Bahrain might not be super relevant for performance.
“Reliability is key – it’s key for the test because you have to do a lot of mileage in three days. We have only one test this year.
“It means that you have to arrive in Bahrain with reliability, or it could be much more difficult. Then we’ll see during the season about reliability, but it looks to be so far under control.
“Then performance, I think that everybody will do some sand-bagging in the first test to distort the level of performance, but let’s see.”
‘We need to discuss strategy’
In addition to Ferrari’s 2022 reliability woes, a series of strategic errors also cost Ferrari a significant number of points.
The failure to address these issues as the season went on appeared to have been a factor in the team’s decision to move on from Binotto, with Vasseur expected to improve organisation at the top of the Italian outfit.
Take a look at some of the Ferrari’s biggest strategic errors of the 2022 F1 season
“On what I can bring to the team, we’re at a really early stage,” Vasseur said. “I spent the last 32 years of my life on the pit wall, and I will try to bring this kind of expertise to them.
“I’m not better than all the employees on their own job, but my job is to give them the best condition to do their job in the best way, and to get the best from everybody. But the group of people is a very good one.
“Don’t have to expect big changes to the team the next couple of weeks or even during the first couple of races. I will try to do my best and sometimes small details can make the difference and I will try to put everything together.”
Along with his role as team principal, Binotto also held the position as technical director, which Vasseur has confirmed he will not be doing.
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As for the team’s strategy chief Inaki Rueda, Vasseur appeared to suggest the Spaniard is not certain to continue in the role this season.
“On the strategy, we’ll have to think about this and to discuss it,” Vasseur said.
“It’s not just a matter of who is the guy, it’s a matter of structure and communication, factory-based guys. It’s not just the visible part of the iceberg.”