Vasseur admits level of expectation ‘too high at the beginning’ as he sums up first Ferrari season
Despite narrowly missing out on P2 in the constructors’ standings, Frederic Vasseur has taken a raft of positives from his first season as Ferrari’s team boss, particularly the closing sequence of Grands Prix that he feels gives the Italian marque valuable momentum heading into the winter.
Vasseur arrived at Ferrari from Alfa Romeo in the New Year, taking over from former Team Principal Mattia Binotto and overseeing a mixed campaign that started with reliability concerns and inconsistent pace but ended with seven podium finishes in 11 races.
That included the only non-Red Bull victory of the year with Carlos Sainz at the Singapore Grand Prix, though it was not quite enough to beat rivals Mercedes to the runner-up spot in the championship – Ferrari ultimately falling three points short.
Speaking to Sky Sports after the Abu Dhabi finale, Vasseur said: “It’s not today that we miss something. I think we had momentum into the season where we were struggling much more.
“We had the reliability issue, it’s not just the last race that is making the championship, but overall I will take the positive of this today that we are improving.
“If you have a look at the last three or four events, we are always on the first row, we are fighting with Red Bull, and we have to keep this momentum for next year.”
Vasseur then opened up about his first season at the helm of one of F1’s most famous operations, talking about the early-season pressure he experienced and how Ferrari gradually turned their campaign around.
“I think the level of expectation was a bit too high at the beginning and when we arrived to Bahrain it was quite okay, but then Jeddah and so [on] was difficult, we had quite a tough moment at this period of the season,” he continued.
“But then we went back and I would say after the [summer] break we had a very good last seven or eight races, I don’t know. We were always on the first row, always fighting for pole position, we fought with Red Bull at the last two or three events.
“I think overall it’s more some reliability issue that we pay the price of P2 than something else. It’s good to have room for improvement for next year also, [but] I don’t want to be too optimistic. But when you see the last part of the season, I think we have to build up on this dynamic.”
Vasseur added that Ferrari’s positive end to 2023 will only serve as an extra boost to a team looking to end a 15-year title drought – 2008 marking their most recent constructors’ triumph, and 2007 their last drivers’ win with Kimi Raikkonen.
“The mood of a racing team, you have to build up on results, it’s the only motivation,” said the Frenchman, asserting that “we have the dynamic with us” going into the off-season.
“I think today, even if you have the deception, because we came to Abu Dhabi and it was a clear target to finish P2, we didn’t achieve it, but on the other hand I think it’s also probably better for us to finish P3 on a good tone than to finish P2 on the crashes of the others.”