Ahead of this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, AlphaTauri confirmed they had signed Ferrari sporting director Mekies to replace Franz Tost as team principal when he steps down at the end of the 2023 season.

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Despite giving a date for 67-year-old Tost’s departure, AlphaTauri did not specific exactly when Mekies would takeover as team principal. 

And Vasseur, who made a winter switch from Alfa Romeo to replace Mattia Binotto as Ferrari boss, stressed that the “details” of Mekies’ exit are yet to be agreed. 

“First of all, I think it’s a mega opportunity for Laurent, considering also that I have a good relationship with him. And I won’t block Laurent, for sure,” Vasseur said on Thursday. 

“Then I think it’s also – if you speak about timeline – I think Toro Rosso [AlphaTauri] was probably a bit aggressive on the press release, and we have a long-term contract with Laurent and we’ll have to discuss about details.”

Vasseur would not be drawn on the exact length of a potential ‘gardening leave’ period that would need to be observed before Mekies could complete his move to AlphaTauri. 

“We have a long-term contract with him and we’ll have to find the best for Ferrari,” he said. 

“And depending on when he will move to Toro Rosso [AlphaTauri], we will decide the end of the collaboration. We’ll do it properly and the relationship is very positive.”

In March, Vasseur strongly denied speculation that Mekies could leave Ferrari. 

When that was put to him, Vasseur responded: “But I think the proposal was not the same! And I can’t perfectly put myself in Laurent’s position.

“But I think it’s quite impossible to refuse, when you are in this business, to become team principal now.”

He added: “I’m there to protect Ferrari’s interests, and it’s Ferrari first and it will always be Ferrari first, it means that I will have to discuss about the conditions of this.”

Mekies is the latest high-profile figure to quit Ferrari amid a lacklustre start to 2023, but Vasseur was keen to downplay the situation. 

“To lose two persons out of 1600, it’s not a drama,” he said.

“You know that the power of the team is always more important, and the power of the group, than the individuals.

“We have to keep this in mind, that the most important is the group. The group is there, we are recruiting massively, we are not communicating that but we are recruiting massively.

“And we will do that step by step because you can’t put an organisation in place in two weeks. You know perfectly the system of the recruitment in F1, it’s quite long and painful.

“But we are working on it. Don’t expect that one day you will have a new organisation. It will be step by step and we are putting something in place.”