Some of F1’s team principals are engaged in a high-stakes round of musical chairs
December 14, 2022 at 10:35
by Sam D. Smith
With both 2022 Formula 1 titles wrapped up before the end of the season, and the big stories in the driver market keeping us busy during the summer break — namely Sebastien Vettel departing the sport, Fernando Alonso taking his place at Aston Martin, and Alpine somehow managing to lose both Alonso and their prodigy Oscar Piastri, with the latter headed to McLaren, someone might have expected that this year’s game of musical chairs would be over.
Other surprises came down the line, including Daniel Ricciardo being left without a seat for the new season and returning “home” to Red Bull as the third driver, as well as Mick Schumacher having to vacate his spot for a returning Nico Hulkenberg. While the moves may have raised a few eyebrows, nothing was truly shocking.
Conversely, the moves up and down the pitlane during the last few days have caught many by surprise, not least because rather than involving drivers, they all center around team leaders.
The First Domino: Binotto Leaves Ferrari
Starting with the least surprising change, a domino effect was triggered when Ferrari’s team principal announced his resignation last week. Mattia Binotto was appointed to the role in 2019 but had been a member of the Scuderia since the mid-90s, having joined the engine department, and tasting success during the Michael Schumacher years.
However, as both championship titles eluded the team in red for yet another year, Ferrari stuck to their track record of shaking things up when things don’t go their way. Binotto’s replacement will be the fifth team principal Ferrari has had in the last eight years.
A New Savior: Fred Vasseur At Maranello
The rumors had been buzzing for a few months, but it was finally made official, with Alfa Romeo boss and Sauber Motorsport CEO Fred Vasseur announced as the new head honcho for Scuderia Ferrari. Vasseur has more than two decades of experience in motorsport, working closely with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg during their respective GP2 championship years and having nurtured Ferrari’s current front-runner, Charles Leclerc, including when he was an F1 rookie at Sauber.
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While Vasseur takes on one of the biggest jobs in motorsport, he leaves the prospect of guiding Audi’s debut into the F1 arena, set for 2026 when the new engine regulations come into place. Vasseur is upbeat about the prospect though, saying, “as someone who has always held a lifelong passion for motorsport, Ferrari has always represented the very pinnacle of the racing world to me.”
Surprise No 1: Jost Capito Leaves Williams
In a move that seemingly came from out of the blue, Willams announced that they were parting ways with their team principal, Jost Capito, after just two years.
Capito, known for his success with Volkswagen’s WRC efforts, was initially brought out of retirement to head up the British outfit after it was taken over by investors Dorlinton Capital. Many felt the team was making strides forward last year but once again dropped to the back of the field this year.
In addition to the team principal role becoming vacant, technical director FX Demaison will also be leaving. It leaves two high-ranking holes at F1’s second-most successful team, and it’s unclear who will fill them.
Surprise No 2: Andreas Seidl Leaves McLaren, Becomes Sauber CEO
Another move that somehow managed to escape the radar of the rumor mill is McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl departing his role at the British outfit and heading to fill in half of the part made vacant by Vasseur. Alfa Romeo is still looking for a team principal, with Vasseur’s role now being split into two.
On reflection, Seidl’s appointment with the team that will become Audi’s factory operation in a few years makes sense. Along with experience working as Sauber’s Head of Trackside Operations for multiple years previous, Siedl also managed Porsche’s LMP1 squad.
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It appears Vasseur’s vacation from the Sauber position sped up the process of Seidle’s McLaren departure. Zak Brown, Mclaren CEO, revealed that the German had already related his intentions to move on from the team, but a switch was expected until the end of 2025 when his contract was up.
Meanwhile, McLaren has opted to promote from within, with Andrea Stella, the team’s Executive Racing Director, getting the call upstairs for 2023.
So there you have it: the latest news from the world of F1 team principals and CEOs. With several spots available, and the start of the new year not long away, expect a few more intriguing announcements — and perhaps enough material for a bonus episode of Netflix’s Drive To Survive.