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Laurent Mekies' Honourable Leap to RB F1

Mekies’ Bold Move: Ferrari to RB F1

03/06/2024

Laurent Mekies’ shift from Ferrari to RB F1 was a tough yet honourable decision, driven by the potential he sees in the Faenza-based team.

Laurent Mekies has vacated his role as Sporting Director at Ferrari to assume the helm at RB F1 this year. The Frenchman acknowledges that the decision wasn’t straightforward but saw immense potential in the Faenza-based team.

“It will always be very difficult for a Formula 1 or car enthusiast to leave Ferrari due to what it represents to a fan,” he told PlanetF1. “But the reality is, it’s quite unique to have the chance to be associated with a project we regard as a new team.”

“From a shareholder’s perspective, we view it as a new team with an extraordinary foundation. It was a unique opportunity, and that’s why I decided to take the plunge.”

“It’s an honour to be part of this group. That’s what I feel every day. There is immense talent, and we are all fortunate that this fresh start allows us to be more competitive and ambitious. We are given the means to attempt to build a team that can succeed.”

“Looking at the grid, when someone says we need to build a team to be at the front of the pack, you think, ‘hold on a second, there are six car manufacturers plus Red Bull Racing,’ so it’s almost like there are seven top teams.”

“So if you don’t want to be between eighth and tenth, you need to be a serious organisation, and fortunately, that’s our goal. We are still much smaller in team size compared to the others.”

“We are nearly 600 people between Faenza and Bicester, but it’s still a step forward. Yes, the budget gap has helped move things along, but there’s still a lot to do externally to be ready to face that gap.”

“So there is a delta in terms of available resources, team size, infrastructure, tools, processes, and equipment. That’s the gap analysis we’re currently conducting with the team to see what we lack to progress.”

“Beating someone bigger than us”

James Vowles, the director of Williams, recently highlighted the organisational gaps he found upon taking over the team, and Mekies admits there is work to be done on all fronts at RB F1: “I can’t comment on James’s situation, but what I can say is that it’s a 360-degree problem. There’s hardware. It’s a software issue. It’s at all levels.”

“This is what makes the adventure fantastic, as you can continue and shape it in a way that challenges other teams, but I think it’s equally true that we won’t beat them by being bigger than them, because we won’t be bigger than them.”

“So it’s also a challenge for us, as we have to bring something else to the table. We must have the fundamentals and then bring something else to the table to beat someone who will likely still be bigger than us.”

The Frenchman explains that turning around a team and aiming for long-term success is a different endeavour from the daily and present management of a structure, but the two collaborate: “These are two extremes. One looks at the long term and tries to build stronger foundations, while at the same time, you have the reality of Grand Prix races every two weeks.”

“The fight has already begun. There are many short-term and medium-term gains to be achieved. We have injected a lot of skills and experience into the team by recruiting many seniors, and we are trying to drive these two streams in parallel to see where it leads us.”

“We must be disciplined and patient to achieve this. If we are not aware that there are significant gaps between our current situation and our goal, if we do not accept losing a bit in the short term to achieve it, it means we will have no chance of reaching our goal.”

When asked what he aims for in long-term success, Mekies remains cautious but assures that the glass ceiling he sets does not depend on RB F1 being the sister team of Red Bull Racing: “The glass ceiling does not come from Red Bull Racing.”

“I would be happy if it did, as it would mean we had resolved a number of our performance limitations. I think it means P6, maybe P5 if you start having the ability to beat some manufacturers. That’s what long-term success means to me.”

Laurent Mekies' Honourable Leap to RB F1

Laurent Mekies’ Honourable Leap to RB F1 Laurent Mekies’ Honourable Leap to RB F1

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