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Ferrari is back, but don't tell Vasseur: "If you think you are good, you are dead"

Ferrari may finally have caught up with Red Bull in Formula 1, but for team principal Fred Vasseur now is not the time to bask in fleeting glory.

Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal and General Manager, Scuderia Ferrari

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After McLaren announced its arrival at the top echelon of F1 in Miami and Imola, Ferrari officially joined the three-way fight in Monaco. While Monaco's cramped street circuit will always remain an outlier, it has confirmed trends that Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari have all closed up to within a tenth and a half, with the favourite on a given weekend partly down to the nature of the circuit and the execution of a race weekend.

Although Red Bull is still set to be the favourite on smoother, high-downforce circuits like Barcelona, it no longer has that comfortable margin to snatch race wins on layouts where the RB20 can't flex its muscle and its weakness over bumps and kerbs sticks out like a sore thumb.

As Charles Leclerc closed to within 31 points of Max Verstappen and Ferrari is now 24 points behind Red Bull in the constructors' standings, the tifosi and the Italian media have smelled blood. Team boss Vasseur has been hailed as the Scuderia's saviour, some 15 months after taking over the helm.

But Vasseur doesn't want to hear about it. Now is not the time to lean back and soak up the adulation, but to strike the iron while it's finally starting to get up to the desired temperature. His top to bottom overhaul at Maranello to make every single department of the Gestione Sportiva more efficient and performant will just continue as planned.

"If you start to think that you are in a good shape, you are dead," Vasseur told the Italian media, including Autosport's Italian sister site, on Thursday.

"It means that we need to keep the same approach and to have continuous improvement, department by department, on every single area, including drivers, including the pit wall, including everything.

"Even when you are doing a good job, you have to do a better job the week after. If you start to be convinced that what you are doing is good, it's the beginning of the end. On every single area we have to push the boundaries a little bit more."

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-24

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-24

Photo by: Erik Junius

It is all part of Vasseur's overarching philosophy that has apparently done Ferrari a world of good. Don't let your highs get too high, but also don't let the lows get too low. Mistakes are being dealt with, but without the finger pointing and blame culture that pervaded under previous regimes.

While it was the only team that prevented Red Bull from sweeping the 2023 season with Carlos Sainz's cunning win in Singapore, Vasseur's first year in charge unearthed a lot of systemic need for improvement. That work isn't done yet, but Ferrari feels like a different team already. It is more confident and less tense.

"He's got such a clear vision of what he wants to achieve and how to achieve it," Leclerc said. "He doesn't lose time and that is definitely his strength. I think since the first day he joined, he's got everything to bring back the team to where it belongs and that means to a world championship."

"It would be a mistake, strategically speaking, to think about the end of the championship"
Fred Vasseur

But while targets have shifted from race wins to championships, as Red Bull comes within reach, Vasseur is quick to dismiss any long-term dreaming.

"It would be a mistake to think too much about the long-term future," Vasseur warned. "We have a very enthusiastic [sic] championship with three teams fighting each other, with five or six cars able to fight for pole position.

"We know from one weekend to the next, you can move from P1 to P6, like what happened to Max last weekend. And it would be a mistake, strategically speaking, to think about the end of the championship.

"We have to be focused on the next race, on Canada, on the development, to get the best from what we have and to do a good job and then [we'll see] what will come at the end."

Podium: Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal and General Manager, Scuderia Ferrari

Podium: Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal and General Manager, Scuderia Ferrari

Photo by: Ferrari

That is not to say that Ferrari's second win of the season isn't a vital tonic. After Sainz's Australia triumph, Leclerc is now also on the board in 2024 following a trying streak of 40 grands prix without a win. And while Melbourne's victory came with some caveats as Verstappen hit trouble, Monaco is a bigger confidence booster.

"For the team it's also confirmation of the fact that we are pushing in the right direction and this is giving the guys self-confidence," Vasseur acknowledged. "I don't know if I have to be proud of something, but the good feeling is that at least I can feel the self-confidence in the team, the mood in the team and the capacity of taking risks.

"I think it could also help Charles on his own self-confidence, because he was waiting for the win in Monaco for years and he spent one year and a half without a win."

Vasseur also reserved praise for Sainz, who has enjoyed a very strong campaign so far despite the knowledge he will have to leave his winning seat to Lewis Hamilton next year. The Spaniard is still weighing up a decision on his next move to what is likely going to be a squad that won't race for wins.

"He has exactly the same mindset as when we launched the car in February," Vasseur explained. "The first reaction in February was: 'Okay, Fred, it's a tough decision, but let's push until the last corner of the last lap of the season.'

"He is a mega professional, fully committed and he is doing a great job. I am convinced that it will stay like this until the end of 2024. The approach is very professional, very dedicated and I am really pleased with Carlos."

Vasseur revealed his victory speech to the troops in Maranello was similar in tone to what he told the press, empowering every individual and department as a potential difference maker.

Race winner Charles Leclerc, Ferrari

Race winner Charles Leclerc, Ferrari

Photo by: Erik Junius

“I told them that every single member is a performance differentiator," he said. "Everybody in the company is playing a role and it's not just about the head of aerodynamics or the chief engineer. Performance is coming from everybody in terms speeding up the production or quality.

"I told them that they are the owners of the results when the results are not great, but they are also the owners of the results when we are winning. It is their trophy as much as anyone else's."

Watch: F1 2024 Monaco GP Review – Leclerc Finally Breaks the Curse

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