Silly season is something we only expect with driver changes during the breaks in the season, whether it be summer or winter break. One thing that many Formula 1 fans didn’t expect was having not one but three different teams announce changes in management in a single day. This week's events were certainly out of the ordinary, so I am going to break it all down and highlight one key question for each team involved.
The chain of events that started it all
It all began with an announcement at 8 a.m. local British Standard Time (BST) from the Alfa Romeo Formula 1 team that team principal Fred Vasseur was leaving the team. Vasseur, who led the team to six successful seasons, would be moving on to a new opportunity. His next challenge awaited him at the gates of Maranello, Italy. A mere 30 minutes later, Scuderia Ferrari's official Twitter account tweeted out that Fred Vasseur would be joining the team as Team Principal and General Manager.
This created a gap at Alfa Romeo, which wasn’t exactly filled. Andreas Seidl, now former McLaren Team Principal, was appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Sauber Group.
McLaren would waste little time answering the question of filling that spot, putting out a tweet around 10:15 am BST that Andrea Stella was being appointed Team Principal with immediate effect. This was the last thing tweeted out regarding Team Principal news, though Alfa Romeo and Williams still have spaces to fill. Now let's dive into the questions, first starting with Ferrari.
Is Vasseur the answer to Ferrari’s problems?
Despite Charles Leclerc finishing second in the drivers’ standings, it was not a great year for himself or Ferrari. A change in the management position for the Maranello-based Ferrari team needed to happen, clearly Mattia Binotto wasn't the answer. So is Fred Vasseur the answer to Ferrari's problems?
I believe so. It makes sense why they chose Vasseur. He has had great success with the Afla Romeo team, capped off by leading the team to sixth place in the Constructor standings in 2022 after consistently finishing 7th or below the past five years. Despite finishing near the bottom of the standings during his tenure with the team, he helped them achieve realistic goals for them and helped bring in Valterri Bottas, who has been a great addition to the team. Plus, Vasseur already has excellent chemistry with Charles Leclerc, who used to race for him back in 2018. The strong connection between the two will help him quickly rebuild Leclerc's confidence for 2023 and help Ferrari challenge for the title.
Now, will we see them immediately win the Constructor's Title in his first season with the team? Probably not, but I think we will see a significant difference in the culture at Ferrari, which will help them give Red Bull and Mercedes a strong fight for it. Vasseur has a different leadership model. He is much more outgoing and combative with specific topics regarding the team, unlike Binotto, who seemed not fit for the role of team principal. Binotto is highly knowledgeable as an engineer but does not have the qualities to lead a race team to consistent victories. Vasseur, however, is; I expect great things to come from Ferrari in 2023 with Vasseur at the helm.
What are Sauber’s expectations of Andreas Seidl?
If you are the Sauber Group and just appointed Andreas Seidl as your new CEO, coming from a successful role as team principal at McLaren, you are probably expecting him to jump right into things and help the team find immediate success, right? Of course, I would expect the same thing if I was in their position on the board of directors. Seidl will be under immense pressure to continue the success the team had in 2022, as they will undoubtedly seek to continue to improve and climb further up the standings.
After adding Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou over the past two seasons, Alfa Romeo has proven that lower-budget teams can have success with the right leadership and team behind them. As such, I would expect Seidl to help the team to finish fifth or even higher in the Constructor's Standings, as they look to fight with teams like McLaren or even Alpine over the next couple of seasons. Plus, I can see them expecting to have multiple double points finishes over the season, pushing even for numerous top-five finishes.
Now it may seem that a lot of these expectations would be put on the team principal, but at the end of the day, the CEO is the one who faces the music. They are the one who has to make a lot of difficult decisions to help manage the team to be successful.
Now focusing back on them finishing fifth or higher in the standings. It is a feasible goal for them to reach in the next two seasons, as long as Ferrari can provide them with a strong engine over the next couple of seasons until new engine regulations coming into effect in 2026. After that, things might change a bit. It was confirmed by Sauber earlier this year that Audi will partner with the team for 2026 and beyond. I think such transitions will provide a unique challenge for Andreas Seidl, and I am excited to see what he can do in his new role.
Can Stella bring McLaren back to its winning ways?
Andrea Stella has a breadth of knowledge and experience in the motorsport industry, especially regarding the engineering process of building a Formula 1 car. He started his career in F1 at just 15-years-old when he joined Scuderia Ferrari, which included time as Michael Schumacher's performance engineer. He joined McLaren in 2015 as Head of Race Operations and quickly moved up the corporate ladder, having been promoted to Performance Director in 2018 and Executive Director in 2019.
Can he lead a team into a successful campaign of consecutive double-point finishes and return McLaren to its winning ways? No, not right away. But that is okay. Team principals have tended to struggle to earn victories and score points in their first few years. Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner didn't even help win a race for Red Bull before their sister team Toro Rosso did in 2008.
It's hard to say right now that he will succeed with the team and help them continue pushing for podiums. I think eventually, over time, he will be able to help McLaren put together consecutive podium finishes and race wins.
Looking ahead to the 2023 season, it will be fascinating to see how each of these new team bosses perform in their new roles and what it means for the ever-fascinating F1 standings. It's going to make for an exciting new season, and I don't know about you, but I can't wait.
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