Felipe Massa Kii Raikkonen Jean Todt Ferrari team

Montoya: I would’ve chosen Jean Todt for Ferrari F1 boss

Felipe Massa Kii Raikkonen Jean Todt Ferrari team

While Tifosi and their beloved Ferrari team welcome new team principal Fred Vasseur to the hottest ‘seat’ in sport, Juan Pablo Montoya says he would’ve rehired Jean Todt to take the great team back to Formula 1 world championship-winning form.

Speaking to Motorsport Netherlands last week, about Ferrari, Montoya said: “One of the tricky things about Ferrari is that no one there feels confident in their job. Everyone seems to be waiting for you to do something wrong so you can get fired.

“At least that is the impression I have as an outsider of the situation there. If you watch Toto Wolff, you know he’s not going anywhere. If you look at Christian Horner and Helmut Marko, you know they stay where they are.

“But when it comes to the Ferrari team boss, the question is again and again how long that person will last,” mused the Columbian former F1 driver.

Vasseur replaced Matia Binotto at the helm of Maranello, tasked to rebuild the team into a winning force, do away with the errors in strategy and the glare of the pitlane. In other words, the Frenchman is there to raise the bar that slipped in recent years, a period of unaccountable mediocrity.

That ended when the ‘sword’ was wielded by John Elkann, in a blink, Mattia was to go while Fred was renting accommodation near Maranello for the role he took up at the start of this year, Binotto staying until the end of his tenure last December.

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The Reds need to be led by Fred to the next level of performance on the track, and off it. Basically, raise the bar that has slipped since the slickness and ruthlessness of the much-vaunted Jean Todt led Michael Schumacher golden era for the Italian team.

And here’s the curved ball Montoya threw into the conversation: “I actually thought they were going to put Jean Todt in the position of team principal. That would have been my choice. I don’t know if he would have wanted to do it, but at least he has shown in the past that he can get things going there.

“And everyone has so much respect for him that they won’t screw him. Moreover, he is someone who does not necessarily need that job. And if you don’t necessarily need a job, and you don’t really care if you lose it, then I think you have more balls to make the right decisions,” ventured Montoya.

Last year Ferrari started well enough with Charles Leclerc an early title leader until it all went wrong, while Carlos Sainz in the sister car was error-prone and not as effective as he had been in his first year with the Scuderia. The reality is that with a potent Ferrari among the top three teams, F1 is in a better place.

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“I hope Ferrari will do well,” insisted Montoya. “It was a bit of a surprise last year that they had such a strong car at the start but then didn’t make the most of it. At one point they said, ‘Oh, but we can still win the next ten races’. But they didn’t win another one.”

2022 stats show that Ferrari won race 11 of the 22-round season, the Austrian Grand Prix, and neither driver made it to the top spot of the podium thereafter.

As for Leclerc versus the reigning F1 World Champion Max Verstappen in 2023, Montoya did not mince his words: “I don’t think Charles is on the same level, I think he is a very good driver, but Max has more experience.

“Max has also won more races and has already won a few championships, so there is much less pressure on him. That makes it a lot easier for Max to become world champion than for Charles, who is still looking for his first title,” reckoned Montoya, a seven-time Grand Prix winner.

Jean Todt was General Manager at Scuderia Ferrari from 1994 to 2007, becoming CEO and Special Advisor from 2004 to 2009. In October 2009, he was elected President of the FIA where he remained until December last year.