If Charles Leclerc had the power to rewind time to rewrite the present, he would certainly craft a completely different script from what unfolded in 2023. Ferrari’s season, one filled with great hopes and promised redemption, has turned into a long and arduous campaign where Charles faced challenges in adapting to a car that is generally slow and exhibits persistent understeer, demanding a forced change in driving style. However, this aspect will be discussed in a subsequent focus with more technical insights.
This text, on the other hand, seeks to emphasize that even in a transitional year when things have been far from satisfactory, it’s not all to be discarded. What remains are the lessons that fortify character and expand the wealth of experience. These are precious elements in an increasingly competitive Formula 1 world where every little detail is required to strive for the forefront.
For Ferrari, 2023 has been a year of significant changes. Starting from the leadership, entrusted to Frédéric Vasseur, an old acquaintance of Charles. The team also saw a repositioning in its political and strategic approach with Inaki Rueda’s change in role and the farewell of Laurent Mekies. Furthermore, there’s been a revision of the technical department, which lost David Sanchez, the architect of the SF-23, and this shift in top positions may have caused certain disruptions.
Perhaps, in the midst of these tectonic shifts, it was impossible to expect anything other than a transitional year in which, for now, only one victory has been secured. Moreover, the gap from the top has widened considerably compared to the highly optimistic expectations that marked the start of 2022 but have gradually faded into disappointment.
But things seem to have changed, at least in terms of momentum. For Charles, there’s now a new lifeline in a sea that’s gradually becoming calmer: Frédéric Vasseur, the man who introduced him to Formula 1 and under whose protective wing he unlocked his potential, making Leclerc one of the fastest drivers on the grid.
“Fred has known me for a long time,” the driver began in an interview with The Race. “In a way, there were no surprises because I knew exactly what to expect when Fred arrived. I knew how good he was. Everyone is different. There has always been a special bond with Fred in the past. He’s really good at motivating you when you need it and calming you down when it’s necessary. And he has always been very, very straightforward with me.”
Ferrari: Leclerc and the “Halfway” Relationship with Binotto
Charles explained that what helps him unlock his full potential and perform at his best is someone who can be tough when things aren’t working and can praise when it’s deserved. This reasoning might seem basic, but it’s not a given in a sport like Formula 1, where, according to the Monegasque driver, it’s difficult to find people with these qualities.
Clearly, for Leclerc, the presence of Fred Vasseur is a reassuring factor after certain misunderstandings with Mattia Binotto. Although hidden for the team’s sake, these misunderstandings seemed evident, especially during the engineer’s departure from the team, which received little attention from the driver.
Many have written that the bespectacled manager had a special relationship with Carlos Sainz, but this is a historical inaccuracy fueled by the fact that the Spaniard was personally chosen by Mattia Binotto. What made the relationship with Leclerc controversial wasn’t any confirmed favoritism toward his teammate, but the way the team was managed.
Blocking developments for the F1-75 and handling the issue of reliability poorly were signs that left their mark on the Monegasque driver. Additionally, there were issues with certain strategies that were considered detrimental. One’s mind might recall races like Silverstone and Monaco in 2022. These small elements, when combined, weakened a bond that had appeared more robust in previous years.
Ferrari, Leclerc: With Vasseur, the Team’s Ability to React Has Increased
As highlighted earlier, one of the criticisms of the previous management was its inability to respond to negative events. 2023 had its fair share, but Leclerc acknowledges a different approach. It’s no coincidence that the SF-23, a product of the old management, initially struggled but gradually improved. This was the opposite of the trajectory described by the F1-75. The driver notes that Ferrari’s response to the numerous problems encountered during the season, which reached the sixteenth race, has been better than in the past.
There’s satisfaction in the way the Prancing Horse has identified both weaknesses and strategies to address and overcome them. The evident growth in the performance of the SF-23 is a factor that instills hope for the 2024 Formula 1 championship. Without being overly emotional, this year must be a period of solid growth to significantly close the gap with Red Bull and hold its own against the return of Mercedes, Aston Martin, and McLaren, who are becoming increasingly formidable.
Charles emphasized that Fred Vasseur, after a normal period of adjustment, has been adept at extracting the best from every team member, whether they’re on the track or in the factory. The Monegasque believes the team principal has begun to set the right direction for the team’s journey to success.
The French manager managed to overcome the trial by fire presented by the insatiable hunger of the environment for immediate success. He has set medium-term plans, knowing well that there was little he could achieve in the short term. This approach may not sit well with the drivers but is necessary for carefully planning a different and victorious future.
Now, claims Charles Leclerc, with some indirect allusions to the previous management, there’s an impression that everyone seems to know what they are working towards. Fred Vasseur seems to have given the right push to each technician to perform at their best. This did not appear to be the case before. Binotto’s name is never mentioned, but the allusion is quite clear.
Charles Leclerc is convinced that past mistakes will not be repeated, and the team will be able to keep its emotions in check, as it always has an exceptionally passionate environment. “I believe that passion and emotions, at times, can be challenging to manage compared to other teams,” Leclerc explained. “Fred has been in motorsport for a very long time, and he is always super rational and calm.”
“He always has an excellent overview of everything that’s happening, whether we’re going through a very tough time or a good phase. His emotions are quite flat, in a way. Which I think is great for the team because this puts everything on the right track.”
The renewed confidence drives Charles Leclerc to deepen his bond with Ferrari. We revealed this several months ago: negotiations for the contract renewal are further along than the key players suggest. Fred Vasseur’s presence, and above all, the rejuvenating care he is administering to the Maranello team, are additional incentives to continue.
“I believe in the project as much as I have ever believed. Especially since Fred arrived. It’s also clear that I want to win. But I believe in this project, and I’m sure we’re working in the right direction.”
These words leave no room for interpretation and confirm that the bond between Leclerc and Ferrari is stronger than ever. It’s a fact to remember when we come across certain conspiracy narratives that seek to portray a red team that is alternatively adverse to one of its two drivers.
Believing that the SF-23 is a car tailored to Carlos Sainz is an outright fallacy that regrettably prevailed in recent months to fuel a tedious war of factions, which often descended into absurdity. At Ferrari, everyone works for the good of the team. Charles Leclerc does it, Fred Vasseur does it, Carlos Sainz does it, and so do all the employees. Let’s hope the words of the former Sauber driver have finally shifted the debate onto a more appropriate and serious track.
Source: Diego Catalano for FUnoanalisitecnica