New Renault F1 Racing Director Frederic Vasseur says last year’s title double in GP2 and GP3 convinced him it was the right time to move on from his ART Grand Prix team and make the leap into Formula 1.
Vasseur founded the ART GP team in 2005, along with Nicolas Todt, but it can be traced back to 1991 in its previous ASM guise.
ART previously attempted an F1 bid for the 2011 season, but withdrew due to “unfavourable economic conditions”.
The team won both the 2015 drivers’ and teams’ titles in GP2 (with McLaren reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne) and GP3 (with Renault third driver Esteban Ocon), and enjoyed its best-ever DTM season. Vasseur says this made his decision to leave the team easier.
“It was not too difficult due to the season I had last year, it was a good one,” said Vasseur. “In GP2 and GP3 we won four titles, we had a very successful time in DTM also.
“I had the feeling that it was a very good moment for me to move. Also, partly because I’m French, but the challenge was exciting.”
F1 step is “no big difference”
Vasseur believes his years in junior single-seater formulas mean he’s well equipped to deal with all aspects of the step up to managing an F1 team.
“So far my feeling is that there is no big difference,” he said. “You have exactly the same structures – OK you have more people – but you have engineers, mechanics, drivers.
“You have to push on the drivers, to ask them to brake later, take the throttle earlier, and blah, blah. The approach is quite similar, the only difference is that you have 10 times more people around you to manage. And this kind of party also [alluding to the media attention].
Vasseur also runs the SPARK company that supplies all cars to the FIA Formula E Championship, but said his Renault role will take priority.
“So far it’s been taking up more than 100 per cent of my time,” he quipped of his new job.