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Analysis

Why AlphaTauri F1 shake up has added to Vasseur’s headaches

AlphaTauri’s end-of-season management shake-up, with team principal Franz Tost being replaced at some point by Laurent Mekies, marks the start of a new chapter at the Italian Formula 1 team.

Laurent Mekies, Racing Director, Scuderia Ferrari, Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal and General Manager, Scuderia Ferrari

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

But the impact of the changes are being felt much further down the road in Maranello too, as it has provided yet another headache for Ferrari and its new team principal Fred Vasseur. 

With Italy’s most famous squad already facing a challenge in turning around the form of the SF-23 to take the fight to Red Bull, the departure of Mekies is far from ideal. 

For with Ferrari having already lost the highly-experienced engineer David Sanchez to McLaren earlier this year, the departure of Mekies means Vasseur has lost another high-profile figure. 

To lose one member of senior personnel can, according to the famous saying, be viewed as misfortune. To lose two, looks like a pattern. 

Two high profile exits, even if they are completely unrelated, gives the impression of a team that is on a spiral down – the complete opposite of outfits like Aston Martin that are building momentum and recruiting personnel to build themselves up. 

Only a few weeks ago, as rumours of Mekies’ departure first surfaced, Vasseur was emphatic that he viewed the Frenchman as a key right-hand man for the future. Indeed, he could perhaps be considered as a long-term successor. 

Asked about speculation over Mekies’ future, and potential further departures amid talk of staff being unhappy, Vasseur had replied: “To have people who are unhappy, it's two different things. I think that it's quite normal to be unhappy when you don't get the results that you are expecting, and I'm unhappy.  

“But the most important is to work as a group, to work as a team and to try to get the best out of this and to do improvement. Leaving the company. It's another story.  

“If you want to speak about Laurent, I don't know what's happened in the past with Laurent, but I know Laurent for 25 years, something like this, when he was at school.  

“I trust him, we have a very good collaboration together and he will be one of the pillars of the future of the company.” 

Franz Tost will leave his role as team principal of AlphaTauri at the end of 2023

Franz Tost will leave his role as team principal of AlphaTauri at the end of 2023

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

There is no sugar coating then that Mekies’ exit is bad news for Maranello, but equally it would be wrong to view it as a killer blow to the team and a sign that the squad is only heading in one direction now – downwards. 

For while nobody at the team would deny that Mekies’ exit isn’t great, to link it too closely to the Sanchez exit is perhaps too much.  Indeed, insiders have suggested that Sanchez’ departure produced hardly any ripples inside the team.  

As somebody who was close to previous team boss Mattia Binotto, and having helped lead design direction on a car that hasn’t matched Red Bull yet, his situation was viewed very differently to that of Mekies. 

Now though will be the true test of Vasseur’s qualities as team principal to prove that Mekies' departure is a blip than the start of an exodus. 

Vasseur was recruited by Ferrari because of his reputation as a gritty fighter, and it is those steely qualities that he is going to have to call on a lot in the next few weeks to address matters. 

It is going to be critical for him to shore up things inside the Maranello factory and use the leadership skills that he has put to good use in F1 before to get everybody pointing in the right direction. 

Those who know Vasseur well insist he is not losing faith in things. Instead, they say he is fired up for the task and has the means of digging deep and taking the action needed to pull things back together. 

Critical to it all, of course, will be performance on track. For if there can be some signs of progress for Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, then that will be the biggest factor in turning the tide at the team. 

The SF-23 is not a terrible car. It’s been close to Red Bull in qualifying trim, and there was some encouragement from the race pace shown by Ferrari in the Australian Grand Prix. 

Now though the Prancing Horse really needs to make that extra leap to show that progress is coming and that Vasseur’s faith in the entire car concept is justified.  

For if the results come on track, then suddenly all the noise in the background will quickly fade away. 

Will losing Mekies hurt Ferrari's chances?

Will losing Mekies hurt Ferrari's chances?

Photo by: Ferrari

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