News from Maranello seems desperate as a Formula 1 season of more pain looms for Ferrari and Tifosi. Begging the question: are John Elkann and Benedetto Vinga really that ignorant?
“I have a direct relationship with Vigna,” new Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur explained as Maranello’s January propaganda festival to kick off the season, the new era. Those were among his first words dressed in Red; as Mattia Binotto’s replacement.
“Vinga comes to me for dinner a few times a week,” Fred went on. “He and Elkann phone every day. I have the authority to run it as I want, and I will do that.” Remember that?
Powerful Italian newspaper, Corrierre Dello Sport wag Fulvio Solms for one, seems to think otherwise. He suggests that Fred is utterly muzzled by Vigna. Solms says that Vigna is the man wielding all the power down Maranello way, not poor Fred who appears to have far less influence from his new after dinner pal, than he may ever have imagined.
The epicentre of the Maranello earthquake
“The rift between Vasseur and Vinga constitutes the true epicentre of the ongoing earthquake orchestrated by President John Elkann,” Solms explains. “Elkann put Vigna in charge of Vasseur. But Vasseur has far less power than any of his nine Formula 1 team boss peers. In fact Vasseur has virtually no control as team principal.”
So, does our Fred really have that freedom “to run Maranello as I want”? It seems he may have been a bit confused. And if the Italian media is anything to go by this past week, it is actually Vinga calling the shots from his padded office. Will Fred take it? Or will he turn tail and get the hell out of Dodge? Merrily leaving our beloved ‘fish to rot from the head’ as they say.
Vinga, by the way, is not your average Ivy League CEO with a Harvard business degree. He’s actually a celebrated inventor. His motion-sensing discoveries are even used in the Nintendo Wii our kids play with. So he’s a smart cookie, but that doesn’t mean he has any empathy at all for Formula 1. Besides exercising his control over our Scuderia, as Solms suggests?
A streetfighter is always a streetfighter
Vasseur is on the other hand a born and bred racer renowned for making seat-of-the-pants decisions to steer underdog teams to unexpected results. Which may be another issue. Ferrari is not quite an underdog. A mismatch? Perhaps. But still, a streetfighter is always a streetfighter, and some of us trust that Fred’s nous will move Ferrari forward.
Solms suggests that Vasseur is hamstrung on media and sponsor coordination. That the cracks already started to appear at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Not only were Fred’s SF-23s destroying tyres at an alarming rate, but it soon became clear that the car’s aero was not as pure as anticipated. Allegedly leading to the ejection of wind man David Sanchez.
Vasseur had already debunked any such crises as a mere set-up malady. He said his quick car just needs to be dialled in better. But the rot is clearly far deeper than that. Take Charles Leclerc’s now famous demand an emergency meeting with playboy Agnelli scion and big boss John Elkann the second he stepped off that plane from the Gulf, for example.
Is Leclerc also ready to jump the Maranello ship?
Charlie is not at all happy. With his contract up at the end of 2024, some say he’s ready to jump. To Mercedes, they say. From which Lewis is apparently coming the other way. Enough about that. Getting back to ten-year Maranello veteran aerodynamicist Sanchez; his resignation is said to be another certain sign of the uncertainty within our team.
Sanchez was already on the way out, his position effectively taken by Diego Tondi. But David is not the only Ferrari head to roll. Team boss Mattia Binotto was sent packing in December. Chief Strategist Inaki Rueda in February. Gino Rosato and Jonathan Giacobazzi, a man once even touted as a plausible team principal, are gone too.
Now team elder Laurent Mekies is apparently home hunting in Paris. This brings us back to Fred Vasseur, who is, “already disenchanted with his role as team principal, which apparently carries very little power.” The mercurial Frenchman was expected to take Ferrari to the next level after Mattia Binotto left. But it now seems even that is in jeopardy.
The irony is palpable
The irony in all of this is however palpable. Neither egghead Vinga nor offspring Elkann seemed to care a stuff about our beloved Scuderia, not twelve months back. They left Binotto to make the calls, stop the buck. Now all of a sudden the new man is not allowed to make a call, chat to sponsors, or discuss affairs with the media. Even scratch his balls.
Which is all pretty odd, considering that it’s the same Vinga & Elkann calling the shots. Half the world away, at the best of times. Left like that, our beloved Scuderia could very well implode. To steal yet another year to find our already shaky feet.
Much of this is of course based on hearsay. Lunatic Italian media hearsay. But then, where there’s smoke… Smoke enough to suggest that there’s some serious rot burning in the head of our famous fish.
Petty Maranello polemics
Red Mist is clearly not the only Tifosi dreading the next news out of Maranello. So with you, I pray that far from his head rolling, that Fred and the lads are flat-out bashing that data to find the SF-23 set-up silver bullet he seems so convinced is hiding in there.
Let’s pray that they have the time, and the freedom to do just that. Rather than fight petty Maranello polemics that now threaten to break a sad 21-year record none of us ever wanted to see again.