Ferrari are in turmoil, and Italian media knows it better than most, Leo Turrini even more than most as he has good mates with great contacts at Maranello, including Luigi Mazzola who believes the great Scuderia should be hiring from the top down under new boss Fred Vasseur, and predicts their star driver Charles Leclerc is on the way out.
The demise of Mattia Binotto last year, and his replacement by former Sauber-man (aka Alfa Romeo) Vasseur who entered a cauldron of dissent in the wake of his predecessor’s departure, coupled to a slew of high-profile departures means that the comings and goings at #43 Via Alfredo Dino Ferrari have been lively, of late, to say the least.
Querying thoughts on the plight of Ferrari this year, Turrini tapped up Mazzola with regards to Vasseur’s plan to revive the sport’s oldest and most supported team: “I’m sorry, but I think Fred Vasseur has the wrong approach to Ferrari problems. And I say that with full knowledge of the facts. That being the case, I’m afraid Leclerc won’t renew the contract…”
Who is Mazzola? He headed up the test team that contributed so much to Ferrari’s golden era with Michael Schumacher at the turn of the century. He no longer has a role at Ferrari, but his contacts run deep and wide within Maranello, where family and close friends still ply their trade
Clearly armed with inside information privy to few, Mazzola argued: “The situation in which the Prancing Horse finds itself is worrying. Now there really isn’t a way to see Ferrari winning.”
Will an open chequebook for Vasseur to add to Ferrari’s tech expertise solve the crisis?
Turrini countered that Ferrari president John Elkann has reportedly given Vasseur an open chequebook to kickstart his tenure, a shambles he essentially inherited and no way he was going to turn it around in the two months he was in charge before their lamentable season began; for now, he is simply plugging the leaks while setting the foundation for his reign.
But Mazzola is not convinced: “The intent is commendable but the foundation is incorrect. For years, I would like to add for too many years, Maranello has been missing a leader. A technical director, I mean… I was there when Montezemolo and Todt changed the history of the racing department. Together they understood that Ferrari, before being good specialists in their sector, needed a coordinator, an authoritative guide who was a point of reference for everyone.”
AKA a Ross Brawn? “Exactly him,” ventured Mazzola. “In a complex universe like the Scuderia, it is essential that the head o f the technical department is one with charisma, credibility and authority…”
Maybe Vasseur has the some concept for the team? Mazzola argued: “Maybe, but I hear engineers being suggested who are involved in the aerodynamics or on the chassis side when in reality we should start from the top of the pyramid.”
Mazzola: What has Vasseur won in his career?
Which in effect is what Ferrari did by replacing Binotto with Vasseur, who is now still only half a year into his tenure at the helm of the Maranello ship, surely he deserves time suggested Turrini.
Mazzola agreed: “Right, let’s give him time. However, I’m not sure he’s up to Jean Todt. He certainly has a French passport in common with his illustrious predecessor. We’ll see about the rest. Todt had won everything in Peugeot before moving to Maranello. What has Vasseur won in his career?”
The Italian Ferrari-man, perhaps forgetting that Vasseur ran the ART Grand Prix team in GP2 and F2, through which the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Jules Bianchi and even Leclerc raced in. In terms of World Championships, Mazzola is correct albeit harsh to compare.
Red Bull superiority in the first five races has been astounding and embarrassing for their rivals, comfortably winning all of them with the ease of about one second per lap advantage at minimum in race pace, which means the defending Champs did a great job since the new rules were imposed last year.
And now they have a good handle on this year’s RB19, suggesting their rivals spent too much time on TikTok or YouTube, instead of making their cars go faster; the exception, of course, being the Aston Martin crowd who are the next most impressive team on the grid, from nowhere last year.
Mazzola: Leclerc will leave Ferrari at the end of 2024
Ferrari’s woes have also brought into question Charles Leclerc’s future with the team, the ‘homegrown’ chosen one to lead the team is floundering, mistake-prone from trying too hard with bad kit, no surprise, if he is starting to look elsewhere, or elsewhere (Mercedes?) are looking at him, despite denials and declarations of unending love for the Reds.
Mazzola has little faith in Charles keeping ‘the faith’ in Ferrari: “I would love to be proved wrong, but Leclerc also said it after the podium in Baku. Red Bull is on another planet and will dominate for a long time. In my opinion, he will leave at the end of 2024.
“Leclerc risks becoming the new Alesi. I experienced Jean’s professional agony up close, he was a driver but for five long years at Ferrari, he never had a single-seater capable of fighting for a World Championship. And I guess in his frustration Charles is asking a lot of questions. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to give him a technical director up to his talent,” ventured Mazzola.
Turrini also shared his own pain at Ferraris’ woeful showing in F1’s first of three races in the USA, last weekend: “This Ferrari, the Ferrari of Miami, is depressing. I swear I felt a physical discomfort seeing Leclerc duel with Magnussen’s Haas for almost the entire race. Come on. And when Sainz got his speeding penalty in the pit lane, well, I figured he was venting his frustration at being too slow on the track.”
Turrini: Max belongs to the Senna/Schumi/Hamilton clan
Despite an array of updates for the Ferrari SF23 in Miami, Turrini lamented: “It is evident (understatement) that for now the ‘amazing updates’ just don’t work. In Florida, the Reds were the fourth force, behind Red Bull, Aston Martin and Mercedes. Given the winter expectations, the balance sheet is pitiful. Painful.
“I don’t think it makes sense to rant: these matters, even very harsh ones, can obviously be expressed calmly. My unease is the son of disenchantment: if you’re in the midst of the storm, at least you must have a course. But here I have the impression that the compass has broken too!
“I don’t expect a Ferrari to be ahead of Red Bull. I know it’s impossible but maybe not behind Aston Martin and Mercedes. Of Verstappen, I will simply say that he is driving a missile but he drives it phenomenally. Sorry to the haters, but Max belongs to the Senna/Schumi/Hamilton clan.
“PS. A thought for Gilles. When he was around, I managed at least not to get depressed. Because he made me dream,” wrote Turrini in closing. We feel his pain and that of all Tifosi, and wonder: is Fred the right guy for the Ferrari job.