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Honda decision a no-brainer says Vasseur

NEWS STORY
24/01/2018

Sauber team boss Fred Vasseur has admitted that his decision to cancel the planned deal with Honda was made within an hour of joining the Swiss team.

The Frenchman, who has worked with a number of today's most successful F1 stars as they worked their way up the motorsport ladder, most notably Lewis Hamilton who he guided to the GP2 title with ART in 2006, was recruited by the newly formed Renault team in 2016 but left at the end of the year citing a 'too many cooks' attitude at the French outfit.

In 2017, in the wake of Monisha Kaltenborn's 'departure' at Sauber, Vasseur was recruited as managing director & CEO as well as team principal. One of the very first decisions he took on joining the Swiss team was to scrap the deal made to use Honda engines in 2018 agreed just three months earlier.

"I joined on July 17 at 9am, and the meeting was at 10am," he told Motorsport.com. "For me it was important. It is never easy to change the engine supplier first, but Honda was not in a very good shape. Plus, and probably most important for me, was that we were linked to McLaren for the gearbox with absolutely no internal resources to do our own one.

"I was convinced, as I had some contacts at McLaren, that they would do their best to leave," he continued, the move coming two months before McLaren and Honda formally announced their divorce. "So I could not be in a position to risk that. Imagine today if I had to request the Honda gearbox from McLaren. It would be an absolute nightmare. Being in the process of working on our 2018 car, we were not able to postpone the decision."

Following years with his own ASM team in French F3 and the Formula 3 Euroseries, and then ART Grand Prix which he formed with Nicholas Todt, in 2013 Vasseur formed Spark Racing Technology which won the contract to supply the chassis for the newly formed Formula E series. However, his move to Renault in 2016 marked his first involvement in F1. The Frenchman admits that joining Sauber allowed him the opportunity to sort out some unfinished business.

"I spent the last 27 years of my life on track and for sure you want to succeed. You don't want to finish like this," he admits. "It is nothing to do with revenge or something like this. I was always looking for the good project for me in F1 and I think this one was perfect for me.

"I didn't want to say that Renault wasn't a good one," he insists. "But I had some troubles to fit with the system, so it is much better for me to leave and to stop because I have some other projects in my life. And I stopped. I was quite happy to have a break, even if after six months, the break was a bit too long! My wife pushed me to find something else, and said: 'don't stay at home any more'.

"Then we started to discuss with Sauber. The discussion was a good one, the project was a good one because it was much more fitting with my expectations and the projects I had at the beginning of my career."

In his short time at Hinwil much has changed including closer ties with Ferrari and a title partnership with alfa Romeo. However, he plays down talk of Sauber being a Ferrari B-team.

"What people call us doesn't matter," he says, "nobody is taking care of whether we are a junior, or a customer. We just have to build up something with them based on a common approach and mutual agreement. We need to have a close relationship but I don't want to buy the car of Ferrari because I want to keep the know-how. If we don't do that, I will be in exactly the same position as we could be in today with the gearbox, and I want to avoid this kind of decision.

"We have to be patient," he says looking ahead. "It is a three to five year project. It is not that you will sign an engineer from Ferrari or Mercedes, that next week the car will be much better.

"When you are outside the business it is sometimes not easy to understand, and you may have the feeling that you can buy the performance. Without the budget you won't fight with Mercedes, but you need to have a long term project, you need to know where you need to go and how you have to do it."

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1. Posted by Mad Matt, 24/01/2018 14:10

"Interesting to hear his thinking. I wish him the best of luck!"

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