Frederic Vasseur, Lewis Hamilton, Baku, 2023

Vasseur made “the most difficult calls” to Sainz and Wolff after Hamilton deal

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Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur admitted he faced two difficult phone calls after luring Lewis Hamilton away from Mercedes to join his team.

Vasseur is a long-standing friend of Hamilton, his former driver, as well as Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff. The team confirmed earlier this month Hamilton will replace Carlos Sainz Jnr in their line-up next year.

Telling Sainz the team had decided to replace him “was not the easiest call of my life,” Vasseur told media including RaceFans.

“One of them [that] was the most difficult, with the one with Toto,” he continued. “But I’m fully convinced that he’s a very professional driver, that he understands that was have a long season in front of us, that it’s a huge opportunity.

“We had a long discussion as you can imagine but I will be fully supportive with Carlos, he is fully committed and we know that we have to do the job together. We are together, we are professional.”

Speaking at the launch of the team’s car for the new season today, Vasseur said he won’t allow the impending arrival of Hamilton to become a distraction for the team.

“It’s a huge opportunity for the team, for sure,” he said. “We are sure that it will bring us a decent step for the future. It will be a good challenge for everybody.

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“But we want to be focused on 2024, we don’t want to have any kind of distraction. It’s also why we made the announcement so early, because it was important for us to be focused on 2024.”

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Hamilton will be paired with Charles Leclerc, leaving Sainz’s future uncertain. However Vasseur is certain his outgoing driver will continue to perform at his best.

“I’m fully convinced that Carlos will be fully dedicated and fully committed to the season until the last lap and the last corner of the season,” he said. “I’m sure that all the team will be fully motivated and fully behind Carlos, he did a great job for us so far.”

Vasseur will be reunited with Hamilton, who raced for him at the ASM and ART teams in the mid-noughties, winning the GP2 (now Formula 2) and Formula 3 Euroseries championships. The pair have remained friends since, which led Vasseur to pursue a deal with the seven-times F1 champion.

“We have a good relationship for, now, a bit more than 20 years,” said Vasseur. “We were always in contact, we speak about different things and I think it came naturally. I don’t know what was decisive [for him] and what was not but it went like this, step-by-step.”

He said the team’s decision to hire Hamilton was no reflection on the performance of Sainz, who was the only non-Red Bull driver to win a grand prix last year.

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“I think for the team the opportunity of Lewis is something that you have to consider in any case,” said Vasseur. “He has the biggest promise of the field, he’s the guy with the biggest experience and it’s a huge opportunity for us. It has nothing to do with Carlos.

“Carlos did a great job last year. I’m sure that he will do a great job next year. He’s very focused, we had a very good personal relationship. But it is like it is and we have to be focused on the future.”

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6 comments on “Vasseur made “the most difficult calls” to Sainz and Wolff after Hamilton deal”

  1. We wanted everyone to focus on 2024.
    Thats why we announced Hamilton at the start of the season instead of at the end.

    1. Im trying to work out if its really smart managing of people or clever misrepresentation.

      1. It’s far better management to be clear when the deal is done and avoid months of rumours and whispers.

    2. News at middle of season can disturb dynamics of a team, also makes more difficult for the driver that departs to find another team.

    3. There was no way this was going to be kept secret for a whole year.

      By getting it out there before the first 2024 sessions, it allows everyone to process the announcement and then shift to the current season. Hamilton to Ferrari is already a bit like Audi’s 2026 plans; the excitement has worn off, it’s now there in the background, everyone knows about it, but it’s not a distraction.

  2. presumably Lewis’ exit option said he had to activate it before the season really started. But with it all being mates and values nobody wanted it to sound like that

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