After the disappointment of Bahrain and Jeddah, Ferrari team boss Frédéric Vasseur sat down with Spanish journalists for an interview, and of course, among the subjects was the plan for Carlos Sainz at Maranello amid perceptions that Charles Leclerc is the Scuderia’s ‘chosen one’.
After two races in charge, Vasseur’s stats are not encouraging, as Sainz was only good for fourth in Bahrain, with a DNF for Leclerc at a race they won one-two last year; in Jeddah, both cars finished with the Spaniard leading home his teammate, in sixth and seventh respectively.
Reflecting on his 85 or so days in charge at Maranello, Vasseur said: “Many people told me that Ferrari would be difficult to manage internally and that is not entirely true. The atmosphere and collaboration within the team are good, but we have more pressure from outside.”
Vaseur pointed out: “These types of comments can affect the morale of the team, people can be affected by rumours like this, that have nothing to do with reality.”
Vasseur worked with some of the best junior drivers for decades
On the driver front, the Frenchman – who worked with the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Jules Bianchi – assured the Spanish media that Sainz is very much integral to his plans: “We have two strong drivers who can score points, make podiums and win races, we have to use that as a resource. We can push fully with both.
“I have spent 30 years on the pitwall with young drivers and in the junior categories, there is no first and second driver. They all have the same equipment. If you can do it in junior categories, I can’t imagine that Ferrari doesn’t have the capacity to provide both drivers with the same material. It would be even harder not to.”
However, Vasseur concedes that if one emerges as a stronger option for a title tilt or challenge, decisions would be made irrespective of the driver: “Then at some point in the season, you may have to make a decision. If Carlos fights with Verstappen and you have to give him the slipstream at Monza.
“But they have a lot of points ahead of the rest, it’s easier to make decisions. We have two drivers capable of winning races,” insisted Vasseur.
The former Sauber team boss, and co-owner owner of ART GP, pointed to the potential friction arising between Max Verstappen and Red Bull, a dominant car setting the pair well ahead of the chasing pack, teammates turned foes for the title.
Carlos lacks nothing. We don’t have to start saying if he is missing there or there. [In Jeddah] he wore out one more set of tires in Q2 which compromised Q3. But he is there.”
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“Imagine that now Pérez wins two races and Verstappen retires,” reasoned Vassuer. “A gearbox fails and he receives a penalty for the next one. And after Monaco, Pérez is 100 points ahead of Verstappen…
“These situations can happen anywhere, we must remember the season of Rosberg and Hamilton (2016). Nobody expected Nico to win the F1 world championship but did. You have to push with both drivers and then the points situation leads you to make decisions.”
With regard to Sainz, Vasseur was adamant, surrounded by Spanish reporters he gave his word: “Carlos lacks nothing. We don’t have to start saying if he is missing there or there. [In Jeddah] he wore out one more set of tires in Q2 which compromised Q3, but he is right there.”
Vasseur knows he is at the helm of F1’s most successful and loved team, and needs support from the factory floor to the top: “I try to get the message across that progress comes from everyone in the organisation, including logistics staff because if they can make a minimum saving, those will go directly towards our race car. Not just aerodynamics and engine.
“Same with reliability, each employee is part of the reliability goal when they design and produce a given part. That is the mentality I want, to convince everyone that they all have something to contribute to the team,” explained Vsseur.