Thanks to Ferrari’s return to the top endurance category, the motorsport spotlight a few weeks ago was on the 24 Hours of Le Mans. For Formula One, it was a moment of reflection, especially for the historic Italian team. The return of the sport to Europe after the cancellation of the Imola Grand Prix coincided with the debut of significant updates on the different cars.
With the exception of Mercedes, several teams unveiled their major upgrades in Spain, a track that has always provided significant feedback on the design quality of the cars due to its layout. For the Prancing Horse, the Iberian stage was meant to represent a race for a performance turnaround, considering the important package of updates applied to the SF-23.
Unfortunately, the immense effort aimed at giving more consistency to the 2023 car did not yield the desired reward for the men from Maranello. The pattern was the same as in previous races: good qualifying sessions, excluding Charles Leclerc’s problem, but a race pace characterized by an indecipherable management of all the compounds provided by Pirelli.
Speculations about fuel load sensitivity are not supported by an analysis of the race pace of the two “Carlos.”
Despite the lackluster performance in Spain, Frederic Vasseur believes that the updates worked as expected, as aspect which was partially confirmed last weekend in Canada. However, tire management was once again complicated at the Circuit de Catalunya to put it mildly, and Mercedes’ leap forward is proof that fruitful work can yield significant improvements even in the short term.
The feeling is that the engineers in Maranello are groping in the dark, unable to replicate on the track what was appreciated in simulation. Given the magnitude of the updates, it is intellectually correct to evaluate the performance of the sports management over a few races. For example, the next round in Canada was more favorable to the red team, as it was a circuit that required less aerodynamic load. Moreover, the Montreal circuit has always been generous to Ferrari.
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Despite the performances displayed in this early part of the racing campaign, it is evident that Mattia Binotto’s legacy obliges the head of the racing department to restructure the team’s organizational setup. Since taking office, the French executive has entrusted the technical aspects to his front line while personally managing organizational and political responsibilities. The feeling is that the Scuderia Ferrari lacks a man of the present.
Fred Vasseur has taken on the responsibilities that should allow him to reshape the racing department, but the results will only be appreciated in the near future, at best. In the months to come, however, it would be necessary to give the technical management a profile of substance. Currently, several top figures can be defined as “mere caretakers.” When a synergistic working group is not coordinated by a charismatic figure, passing the buck becomes the norm, especially in times of adversity.
Based on these premises, the divergences between the technical areas could worsen, leading to a sterile blame game, a dynamic that has been entrusted to the team during the early 1990s. The Modena-based team is the only one with a Racing Director who has already moved on elsewhere, and moreover, without an officially promoted Technical Director in the most crucial position of the organizational structure, as explained by F1 expert Roberto Cecere for FUnoanalisitecnica.
In this context, all engineers are under scrutiny, and interim responsibilities do not confer authority to those who must lead work groups composed of dozens of engineers. While waiting for Fred Vasseur to shape the Scuderia Ferrari, many technicians may succumb to the allure of the competition, and whoever takes over will need time to integrate into the internal dynamics of the Maranello team.
The handover between Mattia Binotto and the French manager was a mere formality. The position of the former team principal of the red team had been shaky for a while, and the company’s top management had to identify an internal resource to manage the transition between the two mandates.
In all corporate realities, there are non-recurring activities and operational ones, where non-recurring refers to long-term projects/programs, while operational or “running” refers to the set of daily activities. From this perspective, Frederic Vasseur is certainly the man for long-term projects. But then, where is the figure responsible for the recurring management, in other words, the man of the present in the sporting aspect of the red team?