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Vasseur the new man at Ferrari? His CV speaks for itself

Vasseur the new man at Ferrari? His CV speaks for itself

15-11-2022 14:10


Frederic Vasseur will in all likelihood get the role as team boss at Ferrari from January. He is to replace Mattia Binotto. Vasseur already has a long career in motorsport and has also been successful in F1.

Vasseur's talent factory

Vasseur laid the foundations for his current work at ESTACA, where he studied aeronautical engineering. After graduating, he founded the ASM team in 1996, in collaboration with Renault. The focus was on talent development. It proved to be a great success. Thus, the team won the Zandvoort Masters, but Macau and the Korean GP were also added to its record.

In 2004, ASM is renamed the team we now know as ART. Nicolas Todt took shares in the company and set to work with Vasseur to make a great success of this project. After successes in the lower classes, ART is unbeaten in Formula 3 between 2004 and 2009 and delivers the winner of the GP2 championship in 2005 and 2006. The drivers' names are unmissable: Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.

After years of success, Vasseur chooses a different route as the team's founder. Sebastien Philippe succeeds him as the team's president. Still involved with the team, Vasseur also founds Spark Racing Technology in 2012. This brand starts working for Formula E, and when the electric class makes its debut, the Gen1 car is designed by Vasseur's company. Later Gen2 and Gen3 cars also come from Spark Technology.

No match for Renault

Vasseur's role does not go unnoticed in Formula 1, and in 2016, Vasseur is given the chance to shape an F1 team to his liking as Renault's team boss. In 2016, Renault is just returning to F1, but 2016 does count as an intermediate year with the old Lotus chassis.

Yet the combination does not prove a success. Vasseur wants to take Renault to the top and has his own ideas about this, but the management does not want to go along with this. Vasseur leaves after a year, stating that there are too many different visions within the company. In retrospect, the Frenchman turns out to have been right. Indeed, Jerome Stoll and Cyril Abiteboul were also unable to get things going.

That Vasseur himself decided to quit as team boss says enough about his financial and mental independence. He makes his own choices, knows what it takes to achieve success and was not heard within Renault. At Sauber, things seem to be a lot better.

Sauber finds its way up

Indeed, Vasseur is not without a place in Formula 1 for long, with Sauber appointing him as managing director and CEO of Sauber Motorsports in mid-2017. First, Vasseur is saying goodbye to the engine deal that was on the cards with Honda. The Frenchman sees nothing in a deal with the Japanese engine supplier and will ensure that Ferrari supplies the latest engine from 2018. Indeed, in 2017, that was still the old Ferrari engine from the previous year.

Sauber finishes stiffly at the bottom of the championship in Vasseur's first half season. With drivers Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein scoring five points. In addition to a new Ferrari engine, Vasseur also provides a new title sponsor in 2018. Alfa Romeo will appear on Sauber's car and that cash injection helps the team immensely.

The biggest change, however, is seen in the drivers. Whereas in previous years Sauber invariably opted for drivers with money, now Charles Leclerc is put forward. Vasseur knows from his past that talents can make the difference and Leclerc is paying off that confidence. Leclerc scored 39 points in 2018 and, together with Ericsson's nine points, that is good for eighth place among constructors.

Vasseur sees his star driver leave after just one year, but manages to persuade Kimi Raikkonen to sign a contract with Alfa Romeo. When the team officially moves on under the Italian marque's name in 2019, Raikkonen will be the new star driver. Perhaps not as fast as in the days of his world title in 2007, but still a big name for fans and sponsors. Besides Raikkonen, Vasseur cleverly chose Antonio Giovinazzi, keeping ties with Ferrari warm. The 57 points in that season even show progress as a team.

In 2020 and 2021, the team falls back a bit. Only eight points are scored by Raikkonen and Giovinazzi in 2020 and 13 in 2021. It results in eighth and ninth place among constructors, respectively. Vasseur and his team have been working on 2022 for some time. Alfa Romeo/Sauber does not have the resources of the top teams and therefore switches early to the new 2022 regulations. It makes for lesser performances in 2020 and 2021, but it still appears to pay off in 2022.

The new man for Ferrari?

Indeed, from a rearguard team, Vasseur has now managed to turn it into a mid-tier team. Alfa Romeo, which will have a race winner in its ranks in 2022 with Valtteri Bottas and a talented driver with Guanyu Zhou to provide an influx of Chinese sponsors, is in sixth place with one race to go. Sauber last managed that in 2012. Should Alfa Romeo finish seventh, it will also be a great achievement, as it happened for the last time in 2013.

In this respect, Vasseur has shown as a leader that he is capable of top performances. He has taken his own team to the top of the junior classes and, with limited resources, has made Sauber perform better and better. Teams are visibly improving under his leadership, something that cannot be said of Ferrari led by Mattia Binotto.

It has not yet been officially announced by Ferrari that Vasseur will be the new team boss, but it would not be a wrong choice. He is someone with a strong opinion and a man not afraid to make a big sweep through an organisation. However, his time at Renault has also shown that he will not be fooled. So Ferrari will have to go all-in.

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