Scuderia Ferrari confirmed a long-rumored move, announcing that Frederic Vasseur will join the team after the start of the year as their General Manager and Team Principal.
Mattia Binotto resigned at the end of November, bringing to a close four tumultuous seasons at the helm of the racing giant. A number of candidates were rumored to be in the mix for Ferrari, with the team reportedly reaching out to candidates such as Red Bull’s Christian Horner to gauge interest, but quickly settled on Vasseur.
Vasseur brings a lengthy resume to Ferrari, including over two decades of experience in motor racing, and over a decade in Formula 1. Vassuer is largely known for driver development, having played a key role in the growth of both Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton during his time in the GP2 series.
In announcing the move, Ferrari CEO Benedetto Vigna had this to say about Vasseur: “We are delighted to welcome Fred Vasseur to Ferrari as our Team Principal. Throughout his career he has successfully combined his technical strengths as a trained engineer with a consistent ability to bring out the best in his drivers and teams. This approach and his leadership are what we need to push Ferrari forward with renewed energy.”
Another potential reason for this move? The link between Vasseur and Charles Leclerc, one of Ferrari’s drivers.
Vasseur and Leclerc have worked together before, during the driver’s first F1 season. That came with Alfa Romeo — branded as Sauber at the time — and with Vasseur as the Team Principal. Since those days, Vasseur has continued to sing Leclerc’s praises.
The driver himself spoke about his relationship with Vasseur recently. In speaking with Motorsport.com, Leclerc had this to say about his former — and now current — boss: “I’ve been working with Fred already from the junior categories, where he has believed in me, and then we’ve always had a good relationship,” said Leclerc. “But apart from that, obviously this shouldn’t influence any of the decisions. He has always been very straightforward, very honest. And this is something that I liked from Fred.”
However, the move to bring in Vasseur may not sit well in some circles, most notably those around Carlos Sainz, Ferrari’s other driver. Vasseur is a strong believer in the idea that a team should build around a top driver. Years ago, Vasseur stated that “[f]or the last 25 years, all good projects have been built around a reference driver. Ferrari with Schumacher, Renault with Alonso, Red Bull with Vettel, Mercedes with Hamilton.”
Vasseur steps into one of the most prominent — and most difficult — jobs in all of motorsport. The head role at Ferrari has often been described as a “poisoned chalice,” with a tremendous amount of pressure placed on delivering success. On a recent episode of the Beyond the Grid podcast, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff had this to say about the job:
“Representing Ferrari, you’re representing the whole country. They write you up, they write you down - but with brutality.”
Time will tell how Vasseur answers the challenge.