Vasseur declares Leclerc, Sainz equals at Ferrari
By Mat Coch
Friday 27th January, 2023 - 11:00am
New Ferrari F1 boss, Fred Vasseur, has asserted neither Charles Leclerc nor Carlos Sainz will be given preferential treatment with the Scuderia’s best interests the priority.
Vasseur joined Ferrari at the start of January in place of Mattia Binotto, who resigned from the Team Principal role following last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Frenchman joins a team that mounted a championship charge in the early part of 2022 before that faded.
Charles Leclerc headed the drivers’ competition until the Spanish Grand Prix, but by year-end only just held on to second ahead of Sergio Perez.
A slow start for Carlos Sainz, however, left the Spaniard trailing his team-mate from the early rounds.
Though his performances improved, logically priority should have been given to Leclerc in his quest for the title – at least until it was mathematically impossible.
And that is the approach Vasseur said he will adopt.
“This is a clear situation, it’s the same everywhere,” he began when asked if he would allow his drivers to fight between themselves.
“We have two very good drivers and both of them are able to do a job, and we will have the capacity to provide them with the same car, 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, then we will take action.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s for one or the other, but if at one stage in the season, we have to do something then I will do it.”
That could see the team exercise team orders at any point, not just late in the season, Vasseur added.
“It’s not a matter to take a decision in June or September,” he reasoned.
“You take a decision when one it’s obvious one is in a much better position than the other, and not before.
“It could be two races before the end, it could be before.”
In their two seasons together, Leclerc and Sainz stand at one apiece – with Sainz the best-placed Ferrari driver in the championship in 2021, and his Monegasque colleague the better-placed last year.
Leclerc has also enjoyed the lion’s share of race wins, while the bulk of reliability issues fell last year to the other side of the garage.
However, Sainz broke his duck at last year’s British Grand Prix with a strong performance.
It was something of a turning point and from that point on he proved a more consistent match for Leclerc.
Vassuer rates Sainz highly, such that he tried to sign him to Sauber in his previous role, which goes some way to explain his reluctance to appoint a clear lead driver.
“The target is to win the championship, and if you want to win, you have to beat Red Bull,” Vasseur said.
“Regarding Carlos, when I was at Renault, I started a discussion with him and his management to attract him, and when I was at Sauber I tried to sign him again, without success.
“So I thought ‘Okay, if I want to attract Carlos, the best way is to join the team where he is’,” he added in jest.
“We’ve always had a very good relationship. I trust him, and he’s shown the last couple of years he is a potential winner, which is very important for the team.
“We won’t have a Number 1 and Number 2. The organisation is crystal clear but they have to do their job.
“If, at one stage, I have to take action for Charles or Carlos, I will do it.”
The 2023 Formula 1 season begins with pre-season testing in Bahrain on February 23-25, followed by the opening round at the same venue on March 3-5.
Ferrari will launch its new contender on February 14.
You can stay across F1 throughout the 2023 season with dates, drivers, key personnel and more with Speedcafe.com’s Key Details reference, available here.
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