Scuderia Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur confirmed that the mood at the Maranello team is still a positive one, even though the start of the 2023 Formula 1 championship proved to be a very disappointing one, far below the high expectations set a few months ago. After the races in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Australia, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz haven’t been able to secure even a single podium finish, collecting a meager of 26 points ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, which is set to take place at the end of April.
In fact, Scuderia Ferrari even has less points than in the start of the very poor 2020 Formula 1 campaign and in a clear opposition with how things went last season: in 2022, when the new generation of single-seaters were introduced, the F1-75 proved to be a fast car, allowing Charles Leclerc to secure the race win in Bahrain and Australia and to finish in P2 at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in Saudi Arabia, which meant the Monegasque driver had a solid 34-point lead in the drivers’ championship ahead of the fourth round of the 2022 F1 campaign.
Due to how things went in this start of the season, Charles Leclerc met with Ferrari chairman John Elkann to discuss the next steps and to get reassurances after a new restructuring process in Maranello, marked by the departure of key figures such as Mattia Binotto and David Sanchez. However, Frederic Vasseur confirmed there were no problems within the Italian side:
“The mood of the team is incredibly good for level of results that we have,” – the French manager explained, in a recent interview for the Italian media – “I think everybody is very motivated, very focused. The drivers are very supportive with us. And the mood into the team is more than good. Regarding the relationship with John or Benedetto [Vigna, Ferrari CEO], trust me that it’s also very positive For sure, we don’t have the results that we are expecting but we are all working together to improve the situation.” – the Ferrari boss pointed out.
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Charles Leclerc has a contract with Scuderia Ferrari until the end of the next Formula 1 season, but given the poor performance of the Maranello team’s 2023 car there has been a lot of speculation regarding the Monegasque driver’s future in case the Italian side will not be able to recover the gap to Red Bull. For now, Ferrari is even behind Mercedes and Aston Martin in terms of race pace, as the Maranello team will be gradually introducing updates for the next races.
Despite the poor pace of the SF-23, Charles Leclerc was on his way to a podium finish in the first round of the season, before a new technical failure forced him to retire the car, despite the fact that Ferrari had focused a lot of its winter development work on fixing the reliability issues. As a result, the Monegasque’s race in Saudi Arabia was compromised even before the weekend began, due to a ten-place grid penalty, while in the latest round of the season, which was held at the Albert Park circuit, Charles Leclerc attempted an overtaking move on the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll immediately after the start, aware that he needed to recover at least a few positions as fast as possible, but the Monegasque’s Australian GP ended on lap 1 due to a collision with the Canadian driver.
Inevitably, the frustration has boiled over after Scuderia Ferrari was expected to finally challenge Red Bull and Max Verstappen for the Formula 1 titles, following a 2022 season in which Ferrari was not able to capitalize on the speed of the F1-75 car in the first part of the year, when reliability problems and a series of poor strategy decisions prevented Charles Leclerc multiple from taking more wins.
Yet Frederic Vasseur wanted to strongly deny any rumours that the Monegasque driver may not be putting his all into the Maranello team:
“I have absolutely no doubt about that motivation of Charles. For sure it’s not all gone to plan but the motivation is still there, I have a good relationship with Charles. They can’t be happy and I would be very frustrated if they were relaxed and happy with the situation but the most important for me is to keep everybody motivated, pushing in the same direction and they are supporting the team. Carlos was there the other week in the simulator and Charles will be there next week. Motivation is not an issue at all, for sure the results are not the result expected but we all know that.” – the French manager concluded.