Laurent Makies will begin gardening leave on July 31st, allowing him to take over as AlphaTauri Team Principal at the beginning of 2024. Frederic Vasseur tried to hold back the Frenchman, but ultimately did not want to block Mekies from this opportunity. Negotiations with Red Bull, to free the French engineer from his existing contract with Ferrari, ended in an agreement – albeit a different one than speculated by some F1 news outlets.
Crucially, this deal is unrelated to the “top guy” announced by Vasseur and who “will work on the 2025 car”.
The Ferrari-Waché marriage did not materialise: Waché renews with Red Bull
In recent weeks, the name of Pierre Waché has been mentioned as part of a possible ‘exchange’ for Mekies’ departure. Wache’s acquisition was already a goal at Ferrari from the previous management, namely that of Mattia Binotto, who had tried to approach him, albeit without success.
Binotto’s successor, Frederic Vassuer, returned to office by leveraging the Mekies-Alpha Tauri negotiation, which brought in “second / third tier” engineers from Red Bull. However, the main deal they were aiming for, Pierre Waché, stayed at Red Bull, with the Austrian squad securing an important renewal.
Helmut Marko has made complaints of teams that “come to offer important engagements to our engineers, and with the budget cap it then becomes difficult to support everything for us”. It is not only Ferrari that have worked to sign prominent members from Milton Keynes.
The last key man to leave Red Bull was Rob Marshall, who moved to McLaren, not to mention Dan Fallows jumping ship to Aston Martin.
Waché’s profile was a strategic and targeted choice by Ferrari. He is Adrian Newey’s deputy, but possesses all the skills of his superior. He is an engineer with ‘aerodynamic’ studies, his resume includes a past at Michelin.
In 2001 he was recruited by the French company to study the interaction between tyres and asphalt. He also held the role of Project Leader, becoming responsible for F1 simulations. Following Michelin’s exit from F1, Waché remained in the motorsport world arriving at BMW-Sauber as “Vehicle Performance Engineer”, mainly dealing with tires and suspension.
In 2013, he was recruited by Red Bull as Chief Performance Engineering with the same duties as in his previous adventure, slowly acquiring more and more importance.
He capitalised on his aerodynamic knowledge, taking the role of Technical Director from 2019.
Wache is a big name who, like Newey, has knowledge on every macro part of a modern F1 car. It is no coincidence that Red Bull has done everything to keep him, offering him a renewal featuring a substantial fee. By contract, the reigning Champions let Rob Marshall go, who will start working for Mclaren from 1 January 2024 after 17 years in Red Bull.
Ferrari has also looked at Mercedes: Loic Serra is the ‘Top Guy’ Vasseur mentioned
Like any big company, Ferrari had more than one option, so much so that when the negotiations with Red Bull were still underway, Frederic Vasseur announced that another ‘Top Guy’ was already signed.
The Frenchman went to knock at Mercedes’ door, the team led by his friend and rival Toto Wolff. Vasseur was looking for a figure to expand the technical knowledge of the Maranello squad and integrate Enrico Cardile, Diego Tondi and all the other Senior Engineers, who now make up the ‘7 Bello’.
This engineer’s profile is similar to that of Waché, i.e. an engineer with important knowledge on suspensions, vehicle dynamics and the interaction of the latter with the tyres.
At Mercedes, this role was held by Loic Serra, Performance Director of the Anglo-German team, who is the top guy announced by Frederic Vasseur.
formu1a.uno contacted Ferrari and Mercedes, who declined to comment on this news
His official departute date from the former World Champions is still being finalised, but this shouldn’t derail the good engineer’s landing in Maranello.
Serra, who is also French, has past very similar to the current Technical Director of Red Bull. He spent period in Michelin, before landing in F1 with BMW-Sauber, more or less in the same years.
During his time at Michelin, he had the role of developing tyres and new types of suspension for its customer F1 teams. He has developed a deep knowledge of vehicle dynamics, in particular the interaction between tire and car.
Loic Serra remained in Michelin’s Research and Development department until 2006, when the French manufacturer left F1. He too found an opportunity with BMW Sauber, dealing specifically with the suspension department in Hinwil.
In 2010, he was hired by Mercedes, where he worked and also worked on, since 2019, one of the most important roles in the Brackley team, namely that of Performance Director.
He is certainly not of the same stature of Wache but, at least at Mercedes, he has always worked on optimising the aerodynamic platform, decided by another department, through vehicle dynamics.
He will do the same in Maranello, trying to deepen the study of mechanics, one of the most deficient departments within the Italian team, and make sure that there is the best possible interaction with the chosen aerodynamic concept.
This role will not overlap with Enrico Cardile, who will finally be named officially as Technical Director. Ferrari will confirm this reorganisation after the farewell of Laurent Mekies. He will join the “7 bello” next year, who are tasked with reviving the fortunes at Ferrari.
Authors: Piergiuseppe Donadoni & Paolo D’Alesandro
Co-Author: Giuliano Duchessa
Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang