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Why forcing Red Bull to make a “bad choice” is Vasseur’s main F1 target

As someone who understands well the challenges of Formula 1, Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur knows there is no magic bullet that guarantees success.

Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal and General Manager, Scuderia Ferrari

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Through all his title victories in junior categories and the delivery of race wins for Maranello, Vasseur accepts that being on top is about brilliance in all areas.

That is why his spell at Ferrari has been one of evolution rather than revolution – and is more about chipping away to make everything slightly better than finding a dream ingredient that changes it all at once.

The result has been a drip of things slowly and steadily falling into place.

There is the standout capture of Lewis Hamilton for 2025 and, this week, confirmation of the signings of Loic Serra and Jerome d’Ambrosio from Mercedes.

But change goes far beyond just getting on board key figures, and Vasseur is clear that one of the fundamentals at a successful racing team is attitude.

So, for him, when he talks about how Ferrari has evolved from its troubled end to the 2022 campaign to being within touching distance of Red Bull, it is the mindset shift that stands out.

Gone is the sense of organised chaos that sometimes unfolded on the pit wall in tense strategy moments when the clear lines of communication, and willingness of someone to put their head above the parapet and take a decision, were almost non-existent.

Hamilton and Serra will link back up at Ferrari

Hamilton and Serra will link back up at Ferrari

Photo by: Sutton Images

Instead, what Vasseur sees, is individuals open to being a bit more on edge and willing to take a few more risks. This, he says, is crucial to overhauling Red Bull.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Autosport about the changes he has made at Ferrari since his arrival, Vasseur says a willingness to push things much closer to the limit stands out.

“There has been some technical recruitment, and we made some changes internally in terms of the sporting director, strategy and so on,” he said. “I think it's working very well.

"I want to take some risks because our competitors are taking risks. I think it's the DNA of Red Bull, probably." Fred Vasseur

“The good feeling that I have on the pit wall is that the atmosphere is very calm, that we have a good collaboration and this is... I think it's efficient.

“But the other change, and it's not [a question to me], you have to ask the question to others, but... I want to take some risks because our competitors are taking risks. I think it's the DNA of Red Bull, probably.

“They are always at the limit everywhere. I'm sure that even when we were last year six-tenths off, it's not that they have the magic bullet [that provides] six-tenths [advantage] with 20 horsepower more or 15-20 points of aero.

“It's that they are just a bit better than us everywhere. I'm trying to push the culture of the company to be a bit more aggressive everywhere.”

Ferrari is aiming to close in on Red Bull

Ferrari is aiming to close in on Red Bull

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

This element of playing it too safe is something that has cropped up before at Maranello, where there were suggestions the culture was based too much on people being scared to take risks in case they tripped up, and those failures then costing them their jobs.

Pushed on whether this had been the catalyst for what he found, Vasseur said: “I don't know about the past, but it's true that if you want to be on the safe side, on every single topic, you take one kilo of margin, you take two degrees of [wing] margin, you take two millimetres of ride-height margin, everybody has a much easier weekend.

"But at the end, you left on the table three-or-four-tenths.”

On the flipside, Vasseur accepts that strategy does not need to be so risky if the team is not in a situation with an uncompetitive car where it needs to roll the dice to overcome performance shortcomings.

It is why the improved SF-24, which is much better on tyre degradation, has brought benefits to the pitwall too.

“I think it's much easier to have a good strategy when the pace is there,” he said. “And when you don't have the pace, it doesn't matter [about] the strategy, it's always the wrong one.

“The fact that we are more performant into the race, it's helping us to have good strategy, or very good strategy from the beginning of the season.”

Ferrari's pit-strategies have faced criticism in recent years

Ferrari's pit-strategies have faced criticism in recent years

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Getting Red Bull out of its comfort zone

Vasseur’s focus right now is not just on getting the lap time that can get Ferrari to the front of the chasing pack against McLaren, Aston Martin and Mercedes. Instead, sights are set on Red Bull.

While no one is anticipating that the major upgrade package Ferrari is bringing to Imola will deliver a step that will lift the SF-24 clear of the RB20, Vasseur has been consistent throughout the year that it doesn’t have to be quicker than Red Bull.

As Miami openly showed (although it was McLaren that capitalised best), if you put Red Bull under pressure, then that leaves the door open for things to go wrong – either by its drivers making errors, or its pit wall slipping up.

“Sometimes for one-or-two-tenths, you can move from P3 to P8. It means that if you left something on the table, you are dead." Fred Vasseur

Vasseur adds on Red Bull: “Last year they were in such a comfortable situation that we never put them, or almost never put them, into a situation to have to take a decision. It didn’t matter if it was Plan A or Plan B - they were in front.

“What we have to achieve is to be as close as possible, and to push them to ask the right question and to make sometimes a bad choice. When they make mistakes, then we have to be there, first step.

“The target is to be faster than them, for sure. It's not to stay behind and to wait for something. But at least last year, I think with five or six tenths [of advantage] they were so easy, that even if they missed the start, they had enough margin to overtake one car per lap and after five laps they were P1 [again].

“But if the group is much closer and if you have just one or two-tenths advantage, you can't overtake.”

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Vasseur is clearly revelling in his position as a bit of a disruptor right now – shaking up the mindset of Ferrari staff to be a bit more open to living on the edge, which then in turn will force Red Bull to roll the dice more.

But while such an approach is not without risks, it is something he is ready to accept in the quest to get the Prancing Horse back at the very front.

“Today, we have a huge convergence of performance,” he said. “Sometimes for one-or-two-tenths, you can move from P3 to P8. It means that if you left something on the table, you are dead.

“So, I think with the experience of this approach, you are more in control if you are trying to be always at the limit. And you can improve the management of the delta because then you are on it every single weekend, every single session.

“If you take margin, you are safe and you don't improve. So, it [risk taking] is the direction that we have to take as a team, collectively. I'm the first one to push. And by the way, I'm the first one to accept that we can do mistakes.”

No pain, no gain, as they say.

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