Vasseur denies 2025 Sainz ousting ‘unfair’

Wed, 14 February 2024, 07:00

Feb.14 (GMM) Ferrari’s team boss denies he is being “unfair” by dumping Carlos Sainz at the end of the 2024 season.

As the Maranello team unveiled on Tuesday what Auto Motor und Sport described as a “Red Bull painted in red”, boss Frederic Vasseur admitted that having to tell Sainz that he is being replaced with Lewis Hamilton next year “was not the easiest (phone) call of my life”.

“It was one of the most difficult,” he smiled, “along with the one to Toto (Wolff).”

Indeed, while Frenchman Vasseur and Mercedes boss Wolff are close friends, Vasseur also said he has had a “very good relationship” with Hamilton “for 20 years”.

“I don’t know what made the difference in the end,” he said when asked why Hamilton ultimately decided to leave Mercedes after 2024. “It happened step by step.”

Like the rest of the Formula 1 world, however, Sainz admitted on Tuesday that the bombshell Hamilton news left him surprised.

“From my side you can understand I got the news a bit earlier than everyone else and I had some weeks to reflect and prepare,” he said.

Sainz, 29, will now spend the season in red but with plenty of time to plan for what comes next – with futures at Audi but also Mercedes potentially on the table.

He insists he isn’t worried.

“I will need time to think about where to go,” said Sainz, “but the options are there. If you have poles and races won with Ferrari it is also a positive thing to go elsewhere.

“I will listen to everyone,” he added. “I have probably the most important three, four years of my career ahead of me so I want to be in the right place at the right time.”

As for whether ousting Sainz is “unfair” given how solid a Ferrari driver he has been alongside the continuing Charles Leclerc, Vasseur insisted: “I don’t know if that’s the right word.

“Because for a team the option of Lewis is something you always have to consider. “He is the most promising driver on the grid, the most experienced driver and it is very positive for us. But nothing to do with Carlos,” Vasseur added.

“He is a very professional driver and we have a good personal relationship, but it is what it is – we have to be focused on the future.”

As for Leclerc, he denied reports that he is unhappy with being paired with a seven time world champion for 2025 and beyond – or was even in the dark about the bombshell when he recently inked his new long-term deal.

“It didn’t come as a surprise after signing,” he said. “For the rest, I don’t want to comment on it much, mostly out of respect for Carlos.”

Leclerc also pushed back on the notion that, given the incoming Hamilton, he worked key exit clauses into his contract.

“No, it didn’t change anything in my discussions,” he said. “Again, I focus on myself and what’s good for me. There was no change of any requirements whatsoever.”

As for Ferrari’s newly-revealed and shaken-down 2024 car, technical boss Enrico Cardile says “every area has been redesigned” to give Leclerc and Sainz a better title-charging platform.

Key aspects resemble Red Bull’s ultra-dominant 2023 car.

“Is it true that we were moving towards the Red Bull concept? Yes it is,” Cardile admitted.

Leclerc says the first signs are good.

“I remember that after the first 3-4 laps last year I was not very happy with the behaviour of the car,” he said. “This year it feels better, but that doesn’t mean anything about the competitiveness of the car.

“But in terms of sensations in the very first laps, I would say I had better sensations than last year.”

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