Parc Ferme: The Horse Whisperer

Parc Ferme: The Horse Whisperer

Parc Ferme: The Horse Whisperer

Whilst the Japanese Grand Prix was pretty much a Red Bull Racing fest, don’t cancel your Formula 1 TV subscriptions just yet.

Sure, Max Verstappen and Co. dominated the event, but that was to be expected at Suzuka. However, scratch the surface and the first green shoots of competition on the F1 grid are starting to become evident.

It’s easy to point fingers at Carlos Sainz as the source, but, we should dig a little deeper if we want to see what is enabling his current performance.

Not a vintage year

2022 was an annus horribilis for Ferrari, culminating in its Team Principal, the affable Italian engineer Mattia Binotto, being replaced by a French one, Fred Vasseur.

I often felt sorry for Binotto and saw him as a square peg in a round hole. I never imagined he would tame the prancing horse. His first obstacle was being a Swiss-born Italian. You would presume this to be an advantage.

However, there’s just too much national baggage to carry when trying to wrestle Scuderia Ferrari into some sort of functional state.

The Guv’nor

The other challenge was that he was an engineer first and a business manager second. This does not work in F1. Vasseur is an accomplished engineer, but he is foremost a pitlane scrapper who gets things done, through his people.

Look at all the top teams, and you’ll see that trait. Say what you like about Toto Wolff, Christian Horner, and Zak Brown, but they all know how to motivate people, trade horses, and throw paddock punches when necessary. Binotto, well he was just too nice.

Non monsieur

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Fred was always the right man to take on the Ferrari behemoth. First of all, he’s French and possesses a certain Gallic arrogance. A necessary requirement when you need to tell the personnel, it’s “my way or the la route.”

Secondly, his disarming, almost buffoon-like charm, can lead people to underestimate him and his team. It’s a big mistake for any competitor to get sucked into this false narrative.

Mix it up

To say John Elkann put a fox in the Scuderia Ferrari henhouse would be an understatement. However, one could have anticipated more clucking and feathers once the Old Renard got inside.

But that is not Vasseur’s style. Chickens “disappeared” quietly, without fuss, slowly making way for the new ones. There was still plenty of the of the 2022 Ferrari muppetry going around in 2023. However, as the season progressed, things started to settle down.

A cunning plan

So far, the start of the 2024 season has demonstrated that the momentum of 2023 continues onwards and upwards. Yes, they have a better car than last year. But more importantly, they have a functional race strategy to go with it. The pit wall now exudes quiet confidence and competence. It no longer asks the drivers what to do but instead, and it’s a little novel for Ferrari, it takes charge and directs. This is the Vasseur chickens coming home to roost.

Pas de vin

It should not be lost on the Tifosi that the last time Ferrari ruled the F1 world, they also had a French Team Principal. It is interesting to note that when Jean Todt took over, one of the first things he did was ban wine on the table during the race weekend. Possibly because they were serving a Valpolicella instead of a Bordeaux.

Either way, it was said that after he left, it returned. Ferrari now looks like they’re back, and I guess Fred doesn’t drink wine.