Why Ferrari Elevated Frederic Vasseur to F1 Team Principal Post

Former Alfa Romeo team boss has successful past relationship with Ferarri driver Charles Leclerc.

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  • Vasseur, 54, has been the Team Principal and CEO of the current Alfa Romeo-branded team in Formula 1 since mid-2017.
  • Vasseur replaces the Mattia Binotto, who officially resigned as Ferrari team boss on November 29.
  • It will be the third stint together for Vasseur and Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, as Leclerc won the 2016 GP3 Series title (now Formula 3) for Vassseur’s ART squad.

    Ferrari has appointed Frederic Vasseur as its new Formula 1 team boss, in place of Mattia Binotto.

    Vasseur, 54, has been the team principal and CEO of Sauber Motorsport, which operates as Alfa Romeo in Formula 1, since mid-2017. He will take up his new role in Maranello on January 9.

    “We are delighted to welcome Fred to Ferrari as our team principal,” said Ferrari CEO Benedetto Vigna. “Throughout his career he has successfully combined his technical strengths as a trained engineer with a consistent ability to bring out the best in his drivers and teams. This approach and his leadership are what we need to push Ferrari forward with renewed energy.”

    f1 grand prix of japan
    Frederic Vasseur, right, will hope to lead Leclerc to some of the same success the two had in the lower ranks.
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    Vasseur has had a distinguished career in motorsport, the majority of which has been spent in the junior categories, aiding the journeys of several promising youngsters. He founded Formula 3 outfit ASM in the mid-1990s and by the early 2000s it had emerged as a strong contender. A transformative move came in 2004 when Vasseur joined forces with Nicolas Todt, son of then Ferrari Formula 1 boss Jean, to create ART Grand Prix.

    Vasseur was the day-to-day figurehead of ART Grand Prix’s racing operations and under his watch the likes of Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Hulkenberg won titles in Formula 1’s feeder category, the GP2 Series, which later morphed into FIA Formula 2.

    Vasseur’s first Formula 1 opportunity came in 2016, with the revived Renault outfit, but he quit at the end of the year over disagreements with other senior figures over the direction of the struggling team.

    He reappeared on the Formula 1 scene mid-2017, with Sauber, which was all at sea on-track after a period of financial strife, prior to its acquisition by Finn Rausing.

    Under Vasseur’s leadership Sauber, as Alfa Romeo, re-established itself in the lower midfield, and recruited cannily, fielding Charles Leclerc in 2018, veteran Kimi Räikkönen across 2019-21, before signing the experienced Valtteri Bottas for 2022. Bottas spearheaded Alfa Romeo’s charge in 2022 to finish sixth overall, its best result since 2013, though the team faded after a strong start. Behind-the-scenes Vasseur also canceled a planned Honda deal immediately after taking the Sauber job, realigned the operation with Ferrari, and secured a long-term future for the organization in 2022 after confirmation that it will unite with Audi from 2026.

    In its press release Alfa Romeo paid a glowing tribute to Vasseur, with Rausing hailing “six years of inspiring leadership and hard work” in which he “helped rebuild our company and our team.”

    Rausing said Vasseur “was able to encourage every one of us into giving our best and the increasingly good results we have enjoyed are testament to the quality of his performance at the helm of the team.”

    Vasseur’s recruitment by Ferrari will bring him back into a working partnership with lead Ferrari star Leclerc. It will be their third stint together, as Leclerc won the 2016 GP3 Series title (now Formula 3) for Vassseur’s ART squad. It will also re-align Vasseur with Todt, who has managed Leclerc throughout the Monegasque’s career. Vasseur and Todt’s business arrangement ended in 2018, amid a fallout, with Todt relinquishing his shares in ART.

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    Ferrari finished a distant second to Red Bull in the Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship in 2022.
    Bryn LennonGetty Images

    For Vasseur this will be the biggest job in his career to date and he will face regular scrutiny at levels he has not previously experienced. Keeping Ferrari’s senior figures, such as chairman John Elkann and CEO Vigna, at arm’s length and away from Ferrari’s race team will be one important task, as the squad chases an end to the title drought that began in 2008.

    Vasseur will be the fifth team principal since 2008, following on from Stefano Domenicali, Marco Mattiacci, Maurizio Arrivabene and Binotto. Vasseur’s hire nonetheless represents a change in tact by Ferrari, which promoted from within when it gave the team boss job to Binotto. Vasseur will bring a fresh set of eyes to an organization which delivered a front-running car in 2022 but which fell desperately short in other areas, such as reliability, strategy and race management.

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