Frédéric Vasseur has been one of the leading team principals in single seater racing for over a decade. With the highly successful ART Grand Prix, Vasseur has played a key role in elevating the careers of many current Formula 1 drivers such as Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Nico Rosberg.
ART took Nico Rosberg to the GP2 Series title in 2005, with Lewis Hamilton maintaining the run of trophies in the following season. In GP3, Esteban Gutierrez became the inaugural champion for ART and Valtteri Bottas followed his crown in 2011.
Under the ART identity and its ASM predecessor, Vasseur’s squad won 51 of 80 contested F3 Euro Series races between 2004 and 2009, taking the title with Jamie Green in 2004, Lewis Hamilton in 2005, Paul di Resta in 2006, Romain Grosjean in 2007, Nico Hülkenberg in 2008 and Jules Bianchi in 2009.
There’s a lot of transition to be undertaken in a short time; how do you manage this?
We know the road map and we have to deliver in the next three or so seasons. The first is to build up the team as one organisation and be sure that everyone works together well. Our first priority is to ensure everything goes smoothly. I don’t want to focus only on the process, I know we have to build to success too and we’ll have to deliver quickly. There’s plenty to do.
What do you think of the component elements of the operation?
Renault has been committed to Formula 1 for over 40 years, and they have a real culture of racing and we see that every day at Viry-Châtillon. Enstone is exactly the same and we can be very proud of that. My first trip to Enstone showed me there was a real attachment to Renault, some of the people here worked for Renault when they were Constructors’ champions and Fernando Alonso was winning Drivers’ titles. We have a strong basis to build for future success.
This will be your first role in Formula 1, how are you looking forward to this?
It’s correct that this is my first role in Formula 1 but I have worked a long apprenticeship in the junior categories and I’m eager to translate everything I’ve learnt over many years of competing elsewhere into the challenge of Formula 1. This is a new experience for me, but racing is racing and the target is always the same! The approach you need to win is the same no matter what the category.
What attracted the team to select Kevin for driving duties?
Kevin has a good mix of experience and youth. He had a strong race season at McLaren two years ago and showed his ability in the junior categories such as Formula Renault 3.5. He can target winning races and championships as he has the talent. The fact he had a lack of mileage last year will motivate him and he’ll be chomping at the bit to get back into it all. It’s important for us because we all know 2016 won’t be an easy season. We know where we are starting from and we need motivated characters like Kevin to keep pushing hard.
It’s a big challenge for Jolyon in his rookie season?
Jolyon goes from being the Third Driver for a private team to becoming the Race Driver for a manufacturer team and the driver with the most experience with the team. He has a very mature head on his shoulders and we know from his 2014 GP2 Series title that he can deliver against the very best on track. It’s a rookie year for Jolyon, but we’ve seen that rookies can deliver so we are happy with the line-up we have behind the wheel.
We have one of France’s top young drivers in Esteban. How exciting is it to have him as part of the line-up?
Esteban is the GP3 champion and he beat Max Verstappen to the European Formula 3 title in 2014. He’s probably one of the most successful young drivers over the last few years. He will have a fantastic year ahead of him with his role as Third and Reserve Driver for us, as well as further programmes with Mercedes. It’s a great opportunity for him and we thank Mercedes-Benz for their support here. Esteban raced for my teams with Mercedes and Genii support and I know his talent and ability.