It has been only one race, but already the media, particularly the Italian media, are heavily criticising Ferrari. While it is fair to say that Ferrari’s 2023 debut did not go as well as hoped, it should be remembered that neither did Red Bull’s 2022 season debut. In fact, a lot of what Red Bull achieved in Bahrain 2023 is very similar to what Ferrari did the same time last year, and we know how things went for Ferrari afterwards. In fact, Ferrari team principal, Fredric Vasseur, is surprised that the team is already copping criticism after one race.
Speaking to AutoHebdo, Vasseur said, “I’m having a hard time understanding how it is possible for the team to become a target to hit after just one race. We know what went wrong in Bahrain, but there’s nothing that can’t be improved. The correlation between the track and the simulator is good, we are aligned.
“I’d be tempted to smile if these statements had no impact on the team,” he added. “Personally, I have no problems, I know what I want to achieve and I will do it. I hear from John Elkann and Benedetto Vigna every day, I know what they expect from me.”
When news broke that Ferrari’s head of vehicle concept, David Sanchez, had resigned and would be leaving immediately, Vasseur reasoned that with the departure of former team principal, Mattia Binotto, many would leave with him.
“There are people who were very close to Mattia and who prefer to leave,” said Vasseur. “It’s something that doesn’t worry me, and there are others who may have feared for their future for a moment.”
Similar personnel issues are arising with rumours stating that assistant team principal and race director, Laurent Mekies, is considering leaving for another team. Some sources believe that Mekies is not happy with the leadership of Ferrari’s CEO, Benedetto Vigna.
Despite this, Vasseur is crystal clear that Mekies will still play a large part in Ferrari’s future.
“To have people who are unhappy it’s two different things. I think that it’s quite normal to be unhappy when you don’t get the results that you are expecting, and I’m unhappy. But the most important is to work as a group, to work as a team and to try to get the best out of this and to do improvement.
“But leaving the company: it’s another story. If you want to speak about Laurent, I don’t know what’s happened in the past with Laurent, but I’ve known Laurent for 25 years, something like this, when he was at school. I trust him, we have a very good collaboration together and he will be one of the pillars of the future of the company.”
It is unfair for a team undergoing such dramatic leadership and personnel changes to have all the kinks ironed out immediately. However, it should be noted that these changes are entirely Ferrari’s fault thanks to their scapegoating of Mattia Binotto.
The team has stated that Bahrain is a difficult track for Ferrari due to the highly abrasive track surface and tight corners. The team are staying hopeful that things will improve in Jeddah, a track far more suited to their car. However, this could also just be PR-speak from the team to calm the media storm they currently find themselves in.
Part of the blame can be blamed on Ferrari as they hyped up the 2023 car before the season started saying that they had fixed the engine reliability and tyre degradation issues, but we saw in Bahrain that wasn’t true with Charles Leclerc’s engine failing, and Carlos Sainz’ tyres leaving him vulnerable to Fernando Alonso.
If Ferrari don’t have a stronger showing in Saudi Arabia, the media storm will only intensify.