No number one driver policy at Ferrari, Vasseur tells Sainz and Leclerc

2023 F1 season

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New Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur says he will only favour one of their drivers over the other if it improves their chances of title success.

Vasseur insists that both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jnr will hold equal status this season, which will be his first leading Formula 1’s most successful and longest-running team. Asked whether he would prefer having two drivers fighting together for the championship or a clear number one driver, Vasseur said that both drivers will be given equal support but that the expectation is for the team’s needs to come first.

“This is a clear situation,” Vasseur told selected media including RaceFans. “I think it’s the same everywhere.

“We have two very good drivers that are able to do the job. We will have the capacity to provide them exactly the same car and the same structure and the same support. What is clear is that the target is to win with Ferrari and for Ferrari. There will be no number one and number two. But if at one stage we have to take action, I will take action. Doesn’t matter if it’s for one or the other? But if at one stage in the season I have to do something, I will do it.”

Leclerc and Vasseur are reunited at Ferrari
Vasseur stressed that such a decision would be taken when it was clear that one driver was realistically out of the hunt for the title.

“It’s not a matter to take a decision in June, September,” he explained. “You have to take action in the season when it’s obvious that one will be in a much better position than the other and not before. It could be two races before the end or before.”

Vasseur was appointed as the new team principal of Ferrari following Mattia Binotto’s resignation at the end of last year. Binotto’s resignation came following a disappointing second half of the 2022 season, where a series of car problems, ineffective strategies and team mistakes saw Leclerc’s early championship challenge fade away as Red Bull and Max Verstappen cruised to both world titles.

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Leclerc heads into the penultimate season of his current contract with Ferrari in 2023. With speculation that he may be growing disillusioned with the team he pledged his future to in 2019 following the collapse of their championship challenge last year, Vasseur says he will focus on improving the team’s performance and trust that will earn the driver’s confidence.

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Renault, Sochi Autodrom, 2018
Vasseur began moves which brought Sainz to Renault
“I think that we have still a couple of months of contract with Charles in front of us,” Vasseur said. “But I don’t want to put this topic on the table today. I think it wouldn’t be a good way to start the collaboration.

“We have to be focussed on the sporting side to get results. It’s like for a wedding, if both sides of the table are happy with the situation, we will continue. But I think it’s not the priority today, we have a good relationship and we’ll have time to discuss about this. But first and I think the only topic today is that we have to be focussed on pure performance and to get results.”

Although Vasseur and Leclerc worked together at Sauber during the driver’s debut season in Formula 1 in 2018, the new Ferrari chief insists that he rates Sainz as highly as his team mate. Vasseur made efforts to sign Sainz to each of his previous two teams.

Frederic Vasseur, Ferrari, 2023
“We won’t have a number one and a number two” – Vasseur
“I started the discussion with Carlos and Carlos’ management when I was at Renault, to attract him and to sign the contract for ’17, or something like this,” Vasseur said.

“Then he joined a bit later, when I was at Sauber, I tried to sign Carlos again without success. I said, ‘okay, if I want to attract Carlos, the best way is to join the team where he is!’

“We had always a very good relationship. I trust him and I think he showed a couple of years that he’s a potential winner. That is very important for the team. And again, on this one, we won’t have a number one and a number two.

“The organisation is crystal clear that they have to do the job. If at one stage I will have to take action for Carlos or for Charles I will do.”

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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12 comments on “No number one driver policy at Ferrari, Vasseur tells Sainz and Leclerc”

  1. Proesterchen_nli
    27th January 2023, 8:51

    Mistake, you’ve made your first.

    1. But he vowed to understand all previous mistakes..

    2. It’s hardly a mistake. The number of times Driver A can actually benefit from Driver B being ‘sacrificed’ is very small, so it makes no sense to make it this big an issue. Especially where there’s nothing yet at stake given it’s entirely unclear which teams have a realistic shot at the 2023 titles.

      And as Vasseur notes, Ferrari has far too much money to be in a position where they have to chose which parts go on which car, like the small teams often do and where this ‘lead driver’ stuff is a more pressing issue.

      1. You build Carlos Sainz Jr up at your own peril.

        All you’re accomplishing with that is making it harder for yourself once the inevitable day comes and Carlos has to move over for Charles.

        1. There is no doubt Leclerc is the quicker of the two. In any case, as Vasseur notes, the most common #1 driver choice made in F1 is irrelevant for Ferrari, which has the means and facilities to have two cars at the most current spec at all times.

          Not to belabour the point, but #1 drivers rarely get gifted positions, because #1 drivers don’t tend to be behind #2 drivers in the race. When they are it tends to be due to different strategies, in which case it always makes sense to arrange it so the faster of the two cars is ahead so he can best exploit its strategy, regardless of who is the #1 driver.

          In any event, it won’t matter at all if neither Ferrari nor Leclerc is in a position to challenge for the title. Then the best they’ll be able to hope for is sporadic wins, where Sainz may or may not be able to assist (by running interference on strategy to his own detriment, for example).

  2. There’s no No.1/No.2 policy – until there is.
    Same as other teams, basically.

    1. Exactly.

    2. Yeah, it really depends on how the drivers do compared to each other.

  3. I.e., nothing has changed from before.

  4. It will be the biggest surprise of 2023 if SAI really shows somw perfomance that would create some doubt that LEC is the best driver of the two, at least in terms of championship winning.
    Yes, if you want a driver to finish between 3rd-5th every time the car sees teh checkered flag, then SAI is your driver.
    If you want a driver to fight for wins and WDC, LEC is your pick.
    Sincerely I dont remember a race in 2022 in which SAI “beat” LEC. I think everytime SAI finished ahead of LEC was some team error or DNF.

  5. It was obvious after the first 5 races this season that Leclerc is a contender and Sainz should be a supporting driver. Maybe Vasseur should realise that sooner than Binotto did… Especially since he wants to learn from their previous mistakes.

  6. We all know who is the number one….

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