Red Bull-owned AlphaTauri said on Wednesday that Franz Tost, 67, will be stepping down as principal at the end of the 2023 season with Mekies arriving to replace him at a date to be confirmed.
He was the second senior team member to head for the exit since Mattia Binotto was replaced by Frenchman Vasseur in January. David Sanchez left in March and is due to join McLaren in a senior technical role early next year.
Vasseur added: “I think it’s a mega opportunity for Laurent. I won’t block Laurent, for sure. If you speak about the timeline, I think that Toro Rosso (AlphaTauri) was probably a bit aggressive on the press release. We have a long-term contract with Laurent and we’ll have to discuss about details.”
Fred: We are recruiting massively
Vasseur said he had a good relationship with Mekies and they had open discussions but he would always put Ferrari’s best interests first: “To lose two persons in 1,600, it’s not a drama. The power of the team is always more important than the individuals.
“The group is there, we are recruiting massively — that we are not communicating but we are recruiting massively — and we will do step by step. You know perfectly the system of recruitment in F1, it’s quite long and painful but we are working on it,” added the team boss.
Vasseur recognised Mekies’ current role was “quite large” and said it could ultimately be split in two, as some other teams have done.
The Frenchman also said Charles Leclerc remained a central part of the Ferrari project, amid media reports the Monegasque could be looking elsewhere with a contract that expires at the end of 2024.
After an uncommonly long early season hiatus, F1 gets into full gear starting this weekend with the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Round 4 of the 2023 F1 World Championship in which Ferrari are struggling and only three rounds have been raced. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)