The significance of a cryptic Ferrari/Leclerc change


Charles Leclerc hopes to be “really 100%” with his new race engineer immediately, starting with this weekend's Formula 1 race at Imola, because “everything makes a difference at the front”.

Ferrari announced between the Miami and Emilia Romagna GPs that long-time race engineer Xavi Marcos, who has been the voice in Leclerc's ear throughout his Ferrari career, will be replaced by Brian Pozzi effective immediately.

The short statements did not offer any insight other than the claim that Marcus would “use the valuable experience he gained as a racing engineer with the Formula 1 team to develop other important company programs.”

Having heard from one party – Leclerc – at Imola on Thursday, what remains unclear is the exact motivation for the change, why it was deemed necessary, and what the conversations were that preceded it.

“Obviously the front is very close and everything makes a difference,” Leclerc said when asked about the unusual nature of a mid-season race engineer change.

“However, the decision was made between the team and Xavi. I think they had other plans in mind.

Leclerc said he was informed of the decision “immediately after Miami.” Unless this greatly diminishes Leclerc's station, it is unlikely that he was the main instigator.

Team manager Fred Vasseur is leading a mini-revolution in the culture and making any changes deemed necessary – which they are.

Either it has been independently decided that both Leclerc and Ferrari would benefit from this, or it is possible that Leclerc raised it as an issue at some point.

It is certainly not just a completely independent decision on the part of the 'team', because even though the regulatory changes are outside its remit, a driver of Leclerc's quality and respect within Ferrari should have a say in the matter since it is an important part of their comfort and performance.

Charles Leclerc and Fred Vasseur, Ferrari, F1

Leclerc at least seems to accept the change, so perhaps he sees its advantages. He didn't have the same feeling of “I didn't expect this and I don't agree with this” that, for example, Valtteri Bottas had with his race engineer before the previous race in Miami.

All Ferrari maintains is that this change was made for regulatory reasons, and in the context of communication issues of the past, the inevitable conclusion is that Bozzi is seen as an upgrade in terms of the flow of information between Ferrari and its driver.

Vasseur has been mostly gracious about the changes he has made regarding personnel. There was an initial restructuring of some firewall/garage responsibilities upon his arrival, but Vasseur preferred to give people the benefit of the doubt, looking to improve processes rather than blaming individuals for mistakes.

There have been clear operational improvements under his leadership, but radio communications has long been a difficult issue.

It can never be perfect, that's the nature of Formula 1, but Ferrari has caused problems for its drivers on several occasions by failing to provide the right information at the right time – for example last year's Monaco Grand Prix, where Leclerc was handed a grid penalty. A completely avoidable handicap situation due to his team.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Formula 1

Leclerc seemed to downplay the importance of the communication factor, when asked by The Race: “Communication has always been a big thing since we worked with Xavi.

But we always try to communicate as much as possible; This is how I work, to try to get the best overall image.

“We will focus on making the transition as smooth as possible, and then we will focus on the things that are important to us.

“But I don't think it was a special problem.”

This change is being kept a bit of a secret, and perhaps unnecessary, if there's a simple answer – it's just seen as a pure upgrade. Ferrari may be trying to be polite and respectful towards Marcos, and so is Leclerc towards someone he clearly had a good relationship with and enjoyed success with.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Formula 1

Whatever the real reason behind this, and what it may or may not aim to improve, the priority is to ensure that there are no unintended negative consequences.

It will certainly be helped by the fact that Busi was Leclerc's performance engineer at Ferrari, which means not only is he familiar with Leclerc and the way he works but they will also have their own radio connections.

“Brian is the guy I've been working with since I arrived at Ferrari, he's always been my performance engineer, so he knows exactly how things work,” Leclerc said.

“It doesn't mean I'm starting from scratch and it's going to be a complete adaptation.

“It has been very smooth so far and I am sure it will continue like this and that we will be 100% ready already this weekend.

“That's all I can say.”



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