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Mekies: Gardening leave avoided “intensity” of in-season F1 team switch

New AlphaTauri Formula 1 team principal Laurent Mekies says that his Ferrari gardening leave saved him from the “intensity” of taking up the role in the middle of the season.

Laurent Mekies, Racing Director, Scuderia Ferrari

Laurent Mekies, Racing Director, Scuderia Ferrari

Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Mekies will officially join the soon-to-be-renamed Faenza outfit on January 1. He will work alongside CEO Peter Bayer in a two-man arrangement as former boss Franz Tost heads for retirement.

Former Ferrari sporting director Mekies remains a Maranello employee until the end of this month, but he has been on gardening leave and has not worked since the summer break.

He believes that the time off has actually been beneficial as it has allowed him to gather his thoughts before rejoining the team that he previously worked for as an engineer in its Minardi and Toro Rosso days.

“At the very beginning, when I realised I had to wait all these months, it was a bit frustrating,” he said at Sunday’s Autosport Awards. “Because you want to jump straight away and think how you can contribute and support.

“But the truth is if you have gone from a job to another straight away, you will probably be taken straight away by the intensity of the racing calendar, by the day-to-day decisions that you have to make.

“So it's been actually quite a great luck to have to step back, to have to look perhaps at the bigger picture, to have a chance to think on how you want to do a lot of things. It could be all about finding great people there.

"It's really what is our sport now. It's the people, it's the people-to-people. And that's very much what I'm looking forward to start with again.

“I'm very, very fortunate to come from an incredible racing family and going to another incredible racing family. So very, very grateful.”

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT04, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT04, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

The departing Tost said in Abu Dhabi that he’s confident that the team he ran for 18 years is in good hands.

“First of all, Peter is with us since June and I think that we are working together very closely,” said the Austrian. 

“He understands the team now much better, and he has got a lot of experience. He knows F1.

“And Laurent Mekies anyway was working with us, he knows the team from the past and I think that these two people are absolutely the right people to take over the team.

“And I expect that they will bring the team to another level because both of them have a lot of experience. Both of them know F1, and I'm convinced that they will do a very good job.”

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Meanwhile AlphaTauri’s new name is set to be revealed next week when the official 2024 F1 entry list is released by the FIA.

“It will be for AlphaTauri to announce whatever name change they choose,” said Christian Horner, boss of sister team Red Bull.

“There’s a lot of speculation about naming and so on and of course, you’ve got company names, you’ve got entrant names that pay deference to partners as well. 

“I’m sure, when the timing is right, they’ll announce what their rebrand is going to be for next year which will be as Franz’s chapter comes to a close. Peter and Laurent Mekies have ambitious plans for the team as they go forward.”

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