Ferrari has a tremendous history in Formula 1, which is accompanied by an expectation the team will deliver at the front of the field. Anything other than victory is a disappointment.
It is no coincidence that Ferrari’s unsatisfactory start to the 2023 season (defined by a DNF for Leclerc and inability to compete with Red Bill) has ignited significant criticism of the Maranello team.
Then again, team principal Frédéric Vasseur has set very clear objectives for this season, declaring that “winning both titles” is the aim at Maranello.
This is something of an obvious target, given the team finished second in the Constructors’ last year. However, such expectations can quickly deteriorate on track – as was the case for Ferrari in Bahrain.
CEO Vigna knows this better than most after declaring, “The SF-23 will be the car that will have no precedent in terms of speed” after Ferrari’s 2023 launch.
This prediction was based on Ferrari’s simulator numbers. However, after running almost one second per lap slower than the RB19 in Bahrain, it seem
s unrealistic for the Italian squad to mount a title challenge. This is also because of a series of issues at the Maranello camp – some expected, and others less so.
Ferrari: In a month, Sanchez will have given guidelines for 2024 to the various departments
The start of the season was very disappointing, even if Vasseur tried to find some positives: “Now we have a clearer view of the situation. We know where to intervene.”
To try and keep the team together, Vasseur organised a day in Maranello with the drivers and the whole team, as shown (not surprisingly) by the photos published on Ferrari’s social media.
This was also an opportunity to say goodbye to David Sanchez, now ex-Head of Vehicle Concept at Ferrari, who has recently resigned and is negotiating the exit details with the Scuderia. He will then sign with Mclaren.
This is a significant move, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the many requests in the department led by the aerodynamicist.
After Binotto’s farewell, we reported on the rumours about the departure of some key technical figures in his management. Sanchez was one of these, unsurprising given his close ties with Binotto.
Losing the Head of Vehicle Concept means Ferrari has lost the person who decided the team’s development direction for these regulations.
In short, Sanchez, in about a month, will have explained the guidelines of the Ferrari 2024 to the team’s various departments. This departure is not catastrophic, though, with Ferrari not feeling the need to find an (external) replacement.
A technical ‘reshuffle’ to Fred Vasseur’s liking can be expected.
However, the handover between Mattia Binotto and Frédéric Vasseur, by the will of the Frenchman, has been quite gentle. Vasseur was not eager to dismiss Binotto’s team.
The two were seen chatting together during the days of the SF-23 presentation. The Italian Swiss engineer had personal commitments with the company he’s worked at for over 20 years, but he was still happy to speak with the team.
The discussions between the two, however, did not stop there. Quite the contrary, in fact, Vasseur and Binotto communicate more often than one might think.
Vasseur benefits from hearing Binotto’s opinion and getting a more in-depth view of how to reorganise and understand the team that Binotto himself built and moulded from 2019-2022.
Ferrari: Here’s why Mekies would like to leave
However, we shouldn’t expect the farewells to stop at the loss of Sanchez, given that even Laurent Mekies has expressed his intentions of leaving the Scuderia.
For now, similar sentiment has not been confirmed from Cardile and the engine department, which seems to be less turbulent at the moment.
The Frenchman (formerly from the FIA) has offers from Alpine, Liberty Media and the FIA itself – but his contract with Ferrari would be rather complicated to break without facing a significant penalty.
With Vasseur, who would like to keep him, Mekies’ discontent arises from the presence of Vigna, which has now become very cumbersome compared to the previous management.
We have reported in recent months that Vasseur’s appointment suited Ferrari’s CEO above all else. Elkann wasn’t convinced (he would have liked a more prominent character as team principal), but Vigna was and convinced him.
The Italian manager took over GES (Gestione Sportiva, Ferrari’s centre) so easily, thanks to a figure like Vasseur, who is now mainly left with the role of sporting director. However, that was not exactly the plan.
Such decisions also have repercussions on Mekies and the other top-level figures in the team, with the French engineer more interested in reporting to Vasseur than Vigna.
However, the management ‘powers’ of GES were taken over by the Italian manager.
It is no coincidence Vigna pushed hard for the departure of Biotto, who Vasseur often speaks to, as mentioned above, something not fully appreciated by the CEO.
But if he doesn’t want to get to command himself, given Vasseur’s early dissatisfaction, he will certainly have to take a step back.
While Elkann, who gave Vigna free reign, will have to be more proactive, putting things back in his place and enforcing high standards.
The Leclerc dimension cannot be forgotten – His contract ends in 2024, and he is understandably concerned by Ferrari’s current position.
The guarantees made by Elkann last autumn, who Leclerc often speaks to, seem to have fallen flat at the start of the 2023 World Championship.
With the SF-23 now showing the potential seen in the factory, leading to the usual hunt for a culprit, the environment at Ferrari has worsened.
This is especially true when those in upper management, who are supposed to be managing internal discontent, are also frustrated and trying to address issues.
Among many things, Ferrari’s performance in Bahrain has highlighted the fragility of the current Ferrari structure.
Author: Piergiuseppe Donadoni
Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang