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Jonathan Noble

Why Vasseur isn't wielding the axe on Ferrari's F1 strategy team

From the high-profile errors that derailed its bid for victory at the Monaco Grand Prix, to questions over not pitting Charles Leclerc late on at Silverstone, to the bizarre intermediate tyre qualifying gamble in Brazil, it was a recurring theme throughout the campaign.

While the mistakes prompted some to suggest that Ferrari needed to be harsh and replace its strategy chiefs, then team principal Mattia Binotto was more sanguine about matters.

He felt that Ferrari's strategy errors were overplayed at times, especially with the way that F1's own international television feed often focused more on the Prancing Horse's pit wall conversations than other teams.

Plus, he felt that the mistakes made were never strictly the fault of the top strategy chief making bad calls, as his decisions could only ever be as good as the information he had available to him at the time.

So, for example, a lack of clear data about the slick tyre delta in Monaco, or a calmness on the pit wall about changeable weather at Interlagos, were all equally as much to blame.

Binotto's conviction in the strategy team flew in the face of an ongoing belief many had about the need to change something if Ferrari was not going to squander the kind of opportunities it had last year.

So with new Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur brought on board to help give Maranello the push it needs to gun for the title, it is obvious that strategy will be one of his key areas of focus.

But while there were some early suggestions that Vasseur could wield the axe on his current pit wall crew and start afresh with new personnel, his actual approach appears to be very different.

Similar to Binotto, Vasseur believes it would be wrong to view strategy errors as wholly the fault of a single individual.

Frédéric Vasseur, Ferrari (Photo by: Ferrari)

Instead, he reckons that there are deeper factors at play behind what went wrong at Ferrari last season, and that mistakes on the strategy front are often the culmination of infrastructure problems.

So while he admits that discussions are ongoing to better understand how things can be improved, the solution for Ferrari probably revolves more around better processes than a change of personnel.

"When you are speaking about strategy or aerodynamics or another topic, you have to avoid being just focused on the top of the pyramid," explained Vasseur when asked by what changes he planned to make for the start of the season.

"Very often, when you are speaking about strategy, it's much more a matter of organisation than just the guy who is on the pitwall.

"I'm trying to understand exactly what's happened on every single mistake and what's happened last year. And to try to know if it's a matter of decision, if it's a matter of organisation, or of communication?"

One possibility, Vasseur says, is that Ferrari's lines of communication were too complicated, and involved too many opinions.

"Very often on the pit wall, the biggest issue is more the communication and the number of people involved than the individuals," he added. "If you put too many people discussing about the same things, when you will have the outcome of the discussion, the car will be on the next lap.

"You just need to have a clear flow of discussion and clear flow of communication between the good people at the right position for sure. But it's a work in progress."

Vasseur's stance on the strategy front is in line with his approach to the rest of the team, with him clear that it would be wrong of him to come in and change the technical structure too quickly.

"It will be arrogant on my side to take action on the technical organisation after two weeks," he said. "We have discussions to try to understand how we could improve the system, what could be the weakness of the system and try to do a better job.

"It's more a continuous improvement than a big step or big changes that, from my point of view, wouldn't make sense.

"I trust the guys in place, and that I will try to do the best for them also, to put them in the best condition to do the job. It will be time after a couple of weeks or months to take action if it's not working. But I trust them."

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