MARANELLO, Italy — Chasing its first Formula One drivers’ title in 15 years, Ferrari is counting on experience and familiarity by hiring Frédéric Vasseur as team principal.
Vasseur was most recently team principal at Sauber and Alfa Romeo and has had an extensive career in F1 and auto racing. His hiring set off a chain reaction with Andreas Seidl leaving McLaren to replace Vasseur as Sauber’s new team principal. McLaren, in turn, promoted its executive racing director Andrea Stella to replace Seidl.
That comes a day after Williams announced that its team principal Jost Capito and technical director François-Xavier Demaison were leaving after the team finished last in the constructors’ championship — meaning four of the 10 teams changed leadership in a 24-hour span.
The 54-year-old Vasseur worked with Ferrari lead driver Charles Leclerc at Sauber and the pair already have a solid relationship.
Known for fostering driver talent, Vasseur was also behind Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton’s GP2 titles in 2005 and 2006, respectively.
“Throughout his career he has successfully combined his technical strengths as a trained engineer with a consistent ability to bring out the best in his drivers and teams,” Ferrari CEO Benedetto Vigna said as the Italian automaker appointed Vasseur on Tuesday. “This approach and his leadership are what we need to push Ferrari forward with renewed energy.”
Vasseur, a Frenchman, replaces Mattia Binotto, who was let go following a hideous season of botched strategy calls that cost Leclerc any chance to contend for the championship.
Leclerc opened with two wins in the first three races and seemed poised to challenge Max Verstappen for the F1 title, but he finished nearly 150 points adrift and without a win since July.
Carlos Sainz Jr. is Ferrari’s other driver.
“As someone who has always held a lifelong passion for motorsport, Ferrari has always represented the very pinnacle of the racing world to me,” Vasseur said. “I look forward to working with the talented and truly passionate team in Maranello to honor the history and heritage of the scuderia and deliver for our tifosi (fans) around the world.”
Ferrari last won a drivers’ title with Kimi Raikkonen in 2007 and its last constructors’ title followed a year later.
The last Frenchman to lead Ferrari’s team was Jean Todt from 1993-2007, when the scuderia won six drivers’ titles with Michael Schumacher (5) and Raikkonen (1), plus eight constructors’ titles.