Motor racing-Ferrari's only target is the title, says new boss Vasseur

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - November 20, 2022 Ferrari's Charles Leclerc celebrates with a trophy on the podium after finishing in second place in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel

(Reuters) - Ferrari have everything they need to succeed and will be chasing the title this season with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz starting on equal terms, according to new team boss Fred Vasseur.

Vasseur, who joined from Swiss-based Alfa Romeo on Jan. 9 as Ferrari's fifth boss in less than a decade, told reporters via Zoom in his first media call since taking over that the target was obvious.

"I think when you are a top team, you can't have another target than the win," he said.

"You can't start the season (saying) 'OK I will be happy with P2.' It would be a lack of ambition and I think we have everything to do a good job and the target has to be to win for sure."

Ferrari, the sport's oldest and most successful team, have not won a championship since the constructors' crown in 2008. Their last drivers' title was won by now-retired Kimi Raikkonen in 2007.

They finished a distant second last season to Red Bull, despite starting out strongly with the quickest car, after strategy and driver errors as well as engine reliability problems.

Vasseur said strategy was not just about "the guy who is at the top of the iceberg" and the team was in process of reviewing everything and recognised improvement was necessary.

He said, however, it "would be arrogant" to shake up the technical organisation or try to change the culture after just two weeks in the job as replacement for departed Mattia Binotto.

"We have discussions to try to understand how we could improve the system, what could be the weakness of the system and to try to do a better job," he explained.

"But it's more continuous improvement than big steps or big changes that from my point of view wouldn't make sense.

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

Leclerc raced for Vasseur at Sauber, as well as in junior categories, but the Frenchman played down speculation the Monegasque would be favoured.

"The target is to win for Ferrari. There will be no number one and number two but if at one stage we have to take action, I will take action. It doesn't matter if it's for one or the other," he said.

Vasseur will be only the second Frenchman to lead Ferrari, after Jean Todt presided over a golden era at Maranello with seven times world champion Michael Schumacher in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

While playing down comparisons, other than joking that they were of a similar height, Vasseur revealed he was in close contact with Todt and would meet up with the former FIA president soon.

"All the advice is welcome," he added.

"I have known him for more than 20 years. He was never far away from me in my professional life and I think it makes sense for me to discuss with him."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Toby Davis)

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