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Ferrari give Vasseur green-light to head-hunt F1 talent

Ferrari give Vasseur green-light to head-hunt F1 talent 230004-bahrain-gp-thursday

Ferrari have given team principal Fred Vasseur the green-light to start head-hunting the ‘troops’ he needs to make the Scuderia great again, amid a disastrous start to their 2023 Formula 1 season.

The Scuderia are reeling under Vasseur’s early stint at the helm, in the aftermath of Mattia Boinotto’s demise, their ace driver Charles Leclerc suffering two DNFs already, a mere year after he dominated, while Carlos Sainz has picked up the pieces, but they have been meagre, as the 2023 F1 championship table (at the foot of this post) shows after three rounds.

Last week Vasseur sat down with senior members of the Italian media, Ferrari-watcher Leo Turrini, where the Frenchman, in charge of the world’s most supported racing team, had a multi-faceted discussion regarding the current F1 landscape, and the way forward under his watch.

Turrini reported, in his Profondo Rosso column, on the sitdown with the Ferrari F1 boss: “The Reds will begin a campaign of recruiting prestige engineers and technicians. In fact, Fred Vasseur has obtained the go-ahead from the top management: he will be able to look abroad for those professionals to integrate and strengthen the structure of Ferrari.

“Of course, the French manager could not talk about it in the meeting, he had with us hacks, but he’s already moving, behind the scenes with that cool suburban air, Vasseur drips goodness from all his claws!”

Carlos was very dejected after the Melbourne penalty

Regarding appealing Sainz’s result in Melbourne, Vasseur revealed to the assembled Italian journos: “We have asked the FIA ​​to review the sentence which took away a well-deserved fourth place from Sainz in Melbourne. Carlos was very dejected, among other things, the marshals didn’t even listen to him, but he’s reacting, already this week he was here in Maranello in the simulator.”

No matter how much sim-work their drivers do, Ferrari needs to claw back a second or so of race pace, and at least half a second in qualy performance to match the rampant Red Bull’s whose Max Verstappen looks set for a third crown with only teammate Sergio Perez his unlikely obstacle.

Vasseur acknowledged Red Bull’s superiority but could not resist another [not the first time has said it] dig at RBR’s F1 budget cut transgression:  “It’s evident that they have worked better than anyone else. However, I remain of the opinion that the fine they suffered for having breached the budget cap was too light. It’s not an excuse, please. But it’s the truth.”

While the 2022 car proved to be a hit out of the box, this year’s Ferrari SF23 has not done the two Charlies any favours, but Vasseur remains confident in the package that was built under, his predecessor, Binotto’s watch: CAR. “We remain convinced that the SF23 has potential that we have not yet managed to fully extract.

“For example, in Bahrain and Jeddah, we did well in qualifying but not in the race. In Australia instead, we made mistakes on Saturday while on Sunday the car had good pace, it was there with Alonso’s Aston Martin…”

Charles is fully involved in the collective effort

The lack of results has hit Ferrari’s homegrown Leclerc hard, but Vasseur has their star driver covered: “I talk to him a lot and I have no doubts about his motivation. A year ago in three races, he scored two victories and a second place, this time between engine failures, penalties and accidents at the start he collected practically nothing. But he is fully involved in the collective effort.”

With Round 4, the Azerbaijan Grand Prix next up, Vasseur revealed: “We have a plan of updates for the car. As I said, we had improved in the race in Australia. However, we are aware of having to speed up our progress.”

Finally, F1 is intent on tinkering with the format of Grand Prix race weekends to cater for the shifting landscape, while taking advantage of the bullet-proof reliability of modern F1 cars.

The long Free Practice sessions format was conceived at a time when F1 cars did not finish races as regularly as they do now, thus FP1 for many teams (and there were over a dozen back in the day) was used for simply starting the car and doing early laps. Then an hour and a half to work on setup, then another hour and a half to work on reliability etc etc.

Tedious but necessary in those ‘old days’ of the sport. Today, with non-incident related DNFs rare, the idea of so much practice is ludicrous for some, and worth using to boost the entertainment element of the three days that a Grand Prix is in town.

The Ferrari team principal said of the talked about changes: “I don’t mind that there is talk of a new format for the Grand Prix weekend. Practice is boring, who would go to watch a football team practice? Introducing elements of dynamism to F1 is a good thing.”

To which Turrini cheekily concluded: “Provided Red Bull doesn’t always win, of course!”

History shows that Ferrari’s greatest era at the turn of the century – of Michael Schumacher, Jean Todt, Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne et al –  assembled when Ferrari president at the time, Luca di Montezemolo ‘broke-the-bank’ to poach the majority from proven winners Benetton to create that incredible ‘Dream Team’ which set the template for success in F1 forever.

Worth noting for the decision-makers at Maranello, a similar burst of inspiration today would mean acquiring the services of Max Verstappen, Adrian Newey, Christian Horner, Helmut Marko and others; as daft as that seems, that’s what Luca did to launch that half-decade of unprecedented F1 success for Ferrari.

In an age when money talks over all else, have the big bosses, of the Greatest F1 Team ever, even thought of that as an option? After all, they wrote that playbook!

2023 f1 points graphic after australian gp round 3-001