New Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur says he will only favour one of their drivers over the other if it improves their chances of title success.
Vasseur insists that both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jnr will hold equal status this season, which will be his first leading Formula 1’s most successful and longest-running team. Asked whether he would prefer having two drivers fighting together for the championship or a clear number one driver, Vasseur said that both drivers will be given equal support but that the expectation is for the team’s needs to come first.
“This is a clear situation,” Vasseur told selected media including RaceFans. “I think it’s the same everywhere.
“We have two very good drivers that are able to do the job. We will have the capacity to provide them exactly the same car and the same structure and the same support. What is clear is that the target is to win with Ferrari and for Ferrari. There will be no number one and number two. But if at one stage we have to take action, I will take action. Doesn’t matter if it’s for one or the other? But if at one stage in the season I have to do something, I will do it.”
Vasseur stressed that such a decision would be taken when it was clear that one driver was realistically out of the hunt for the title.
“It’s not a matter to take a decision in June, September,” he explained. “You have to take action in the season when it’s obvious that one will be in a much better position than the other and not before. It could be two races before the end or before.”
Vasseur was appointed as the new team principal of Ferrari following Mattia Binotto’s resignation at the end of last year. Binotto’s resignation came following a disappointing second half of the 2022 season, where a series of car problems, ineffective strategies and team mistakes saw Leclerc’s early championship challenge fade away as Red Bull and Max Verstappen cruised to both world titles.
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Leclerc heads into the penultimate season of his current contract with Ferrari in 2023. With speculation that he may be growing disillusioned with the team he pledged his future to in 2019 following the collapse of their championship challenge last year, Vasseur says he will focus on improving the team’s performance and trust that will earn the driver’s confidence.
“I think that we have still a couple of months of contract with Charles in front of us,” Vasseur said. “But I don’t want to put this topic on the table today. I think it wouldn’t be a good way to start the collaboration.
“We have to be focussed on the sporting side to get results. It’s like for a wedding, if both sides of the table are happy with the situation, we will continue. But I think it’s not the priority today, we have a good relationship and we’ll have time to discuss about this. But first and I think the only topic today is that we have to be focussed on pure performance and to get results.”
Although Vasseur and Leclerc worked together at Sauber during the driver’s debut season in Formula 1 in 2018, the new Ferrari chief insists that he rates Sainz as highly as his team mate. Vasseur made efforts to sign Sainz to each of his previous two teams.
“I started the discussion with Carlos and Carlos’ management when I was at Renault, to attract him and to sign the contract for ’17, or something like this,” Vasseur said.
“Then he joined a bit later, when I was at Sauber, I tried to sign Carlos again without success. I said, ‘okay, if I want to attract Carlos, the best way is to join the team where he is!’
“We had always a very good relationship. I trust him and I think he showed a couple of years that he’s a potential winner. That is very important for the team. And again, on this one, we won’t have a number one and a number two.
“The organisation is crystal clear that they have to do the job. If at one stage I will have to take action for Carlos or for Charles I will do.”
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