Frederic Vasseur is aware that strategy may once again be Ferrari’s downfall as they chase Formula 1 silverware this year.
The Frenchman has the job because of the Scuderia’s failures last year. Mattia Binotto handed in his resignation at the end of a season in which they had a car capable of challenging for the titles, but were let down by, among other things, a series of dreadful strategy blunders.
How much of an improvement the team makes in that regard will be one of the main ways in which Vasseur’s job performance, at least in the eyes of the fans, will be measured. And the experienced team boss is fully aware of how important the task is.
“Strategy is a critical part of Formula 1,” he told Racecar Engineering. “However, it is made complex by specific allocations such as tyres, the timing of sessions throughout the race weekend, and developing and bringing new parts to the circuits where they’re going to be most performant.
“The closer you are to peak performance, the more dramatic the effect of any single mistake in the operations or strategy. You must be sure you’re doing the right thing at the right time to exploit the opportunities you have to collect data and make progress.
“Strategy during the race is entirely different. It hinges on what’s about to happen next and how to make the most of that. Teams are constantly looking at the next lap and simultaneously checking what their rivals are doing to see if they must manipulate what they’re going to do next because of what the rivals are doing. It also knows whether there are points in some races where your competitors might make mistakes.
“Typically, this will be around when tyre degradation is high, or some drivers are fighting for position. In moments like this, it can change your entire race. If there is a safety car, for example, you can make giant jumps in the field or make good progress on a new set of tyres when others are not putting in the best lap times.”
Vasseur will broadly be working with the same group of people as Binotto was last year. The Frenchman has made it clear that he trusts them and believes they can redeem themselves, but has also warned that he will “take action if it’s not working”.
Making it even more important that they get things right in that regard is the belief they will again have a very good car to call upon this year. Noises coming out of their Maranello indicate they could have a car that is “at least one second faster” than the F1-75 challenger they fielded last season.