How Fred Vasseur became the Ferrari Team Principal

Fred Vasseur of Alfa Romeo during the press conference before the final practice ahead of the Formula 1 Grand Prix of The Netherlands at Zandvoort circuit in Zandvoort, Netherlands on September 3, 2022. (Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Ferrari chose Fred Vasseur for the highest-profile job in Formula one through his ability to develop drivers and his team experience.

The last month brought a top team merry-go-round that has never been seen before. The circus began when Ferrari announced the resignation of Mattia Binotto as their Team Principal. Then came the shock move of Fred Vasseur into their top role from the Alfa Romeo team.

The Maranello-based team began considering Binnotto’s departure at the end of the 2021 season. Ferrari took a giant leap in 2022. They went from winning the 3rd-place battle over McLaren in 2021 to pushing Red Bull early in the season for both titles. This progress could have been enough if the team did not get in their way.

Strategic Fails

A series of strategic blunders in various races left the drivers helpless on track. One of the more notable incidents was at Silverstone, where the team took too long to switch Sainz on track with the faster Leclerc. Instead, Charles was stuck behind a struggling Sainz. Eventually, the call came to change the drivers, but the damage was already done. Even more egregious, Ferrari left Charles out on used Hard tires in the same race while many others switched to fresh soft tires.

The strategic mistakes feel as if they came from the pressure to not make mistakes at Ferrari. However, that only bred a high level of indecision and led to panic. Binotto regularly attempted to defend his team and tried to limit the high level of turnover.

He tried to quash the toxic Ferrari culture that plagued the Scuderari, but in trying to do so, he allowed for a consistent pattern of mistakes to be overlooked. It is one thing to attempt to create a much more positive, comfortable culture. But ignoring a trend of strategic mistakes which hindered the team is what eventually led to his time at Ferrari ending.

Now, Fred Vasseur inherits a team looking to continue building from where Binotto left off while also trying to take the team in a new direction.


Vasseur enters his third Formula 1 job. He was previously the Team Principal for Renault in 2016 but left due to issues about how to run the team with Cyril Abiteboul. In 2017, he took over as Team Principal of the Sauber Racing Team, known currently as Alfa Romeo.

Fred studied aeronautics and engineering before he entered the junior Formula racing scene. He founded ASM, a Formula 3 team, and eventually moved on to manage ART at the GP2 level.

In his last season at Alfa Romeo, Vasseur led the team to an impressive top 6 finish after excellent strategy calls throughout the season. The Alfa car started so well in the early portion of the season, pushing the Mercedes cars and having the pace to finish in the top 10 easily. They were able to get a good hold of the regulations and thus outperformed their expectations.

As the season progressed, however, the pace left the car. Alfa Romeo struggled for points as other teams caught up. Aston Martin was right on their heels. Vasseur knew the team did not have the pace to hang on against Aston Martin, so he made Zhou and Bottas go on longer stints and time their pitstops to hurt Aston Martin’s race. This strategy call worked as they finished tied on points with Aston Martin, and Alfa Romeo was awarded the 6th place and the extra money.

This kind of strategy call has led Vasseur to outperform expectations at all places he went and what qualified him for Ferrari.

A driver’s Team Principal

Ferrari likely went with Vasseur as the new Team Principal mainly because of his track record of developing drivers. When he managed ART, Vasseur led the team that included the young Charles Leclerc. Vasseur was the leader when Leclerc eventually won the GP2 title.

In the past, Fred also managed Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at the Formula 3 level to various championship wins. He has a significant reputation for successfully handling young drivers and bringing them along.

When Leclerc made his F1 debut, it was under the Sauber Racing Team led by Vasseur. Leclerc credits Vasseur for helping him develop as a driver both in GP2 and F1. Charles told Racer,

“I can only comment on my experience with Fred, which obviously has been good. I’ve been working with Fred since the junior categories where he has believed in me and we’ve always had a good relationship. But apart from that — and obviously this shouldn’t influence any of the decisions — he has always been very straightforward, very honest, and this is something that I like from Fred.”

Based on his experience, Vasseur has the attitude and skills to lead a team like Ferrari forward. He can manage a driver dynamic and show the group’s other parts. He comes off as a strong figure who can make changes to push Ferrari forward. Time will tell if he can handle the pressure cooker that is Ferrari and if he can make the job less of a pressure cooker.

Featured Image Credit: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images