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Championship contenders: Felipe Massa // The Ferrari driver is in with a shot at the 2008 F1 title

Published by Mr. C

Massa had possibly the worst start to a season that a championship contender could have, retiring in both Australia and Malaysia. However, it was definitely a case of third time lucky, as Massa went from zero to 10 points in Bahrain. Since then, his fortunes have improved drastically, but has he made the most of his opportunities?

Felipe Massa

Everyone knows that Massa has a reputation for being fast but reckless, and this year seems to be the first time he's really managed to tame his racing style enough to concentrate on the long game. I’m pinning it down to Monaco, where he spent all week telling us how the circuit didn’t suit him, how he didn’t enjoy it and wasn’t expecting to do well. Then, he nailed the lap, and pole position was his. Granted, the race didn’t work out, but since then, we’ve seen some of the spark that makes a champion.

Of course, we’ve also seen the other side of Massa. Silverstone was possibly the most embarrassing race drive I have ever seen. Any time you can lose count of the number of spins one man achieves in a race, that is a bad afternoon’s work.

Nevertheless, Massa has won five times so far this season, which is more than anyone else. He had Hungary in the bag too, before suffering a cruel mechanical failure. Things have often happened to Massa that were beyond his control. The engine retirement. The pit lane traffic lights. The traffic light system again, and again. Through it all, Massa has demonstrated a level head, and taken it on the chin. He’s defended anyone who makes a mistake, including himself, because he knows it’s a team game. Whilst the driver is out there on the limit, if it all goes wrong in the pits, as it often has at Ferrari, then it’s game over.

So, he’s won more races than any other driver, he’s matured, improved, and tamed his wild style, and has worked with his team to make it happen. Surely this makes him the worthy champion? Well, I’m not sure. You can’t forget those little errors that creep in, and his driving in Fuji frequently crossed the line between being on the edge and being reckless.

Massa is just five points behind the leader, which means it’s entirely possible for him to sneak through and take the championship title. But will it be a tainted title? The all too regular penalties that fall in Massa's favour I have deliberately ignored, because while they may be biased in favour of Ferrari, they don't specifically appear biased in favour of Massa.




  • He’s defended anyone who makes a mistake, including himself, because he knows it’s a team game.

    of the three contenders, i think massa is doing the best in this area.

    kubica is giving the team grief for not supporting him enough and having all manner of disagreements with management, whilst lewis regularly falls into the mclaren trap of blaming no-one, ever. even when the buck clearly stops somewhere.

  • It's certainly one of the most competative seasons for a few years. Sadly it is due to brain fades from both drivers and teams rather than being genuinly even.

    7 different winners from 5 different teams this year so far. 3 of them are first time winners too.

    A quick rumble through my memory shows that we only need one more unusual result and we'll be equal to 2003's 8 different winners from 5 different teams. *lets look at teams where only 1 driver has won - Heidfeld? Bourdais? Maybe even Piquet? ;) *

    I'm still finding it hard to say that any one driver deserves the championship more than the others as they've all had moments of mediocrity this year.

    I'm also half expecting the stewards to get involved over the next 2 races with one or more of the title condenders and effect the outcome of the races. More than likely at great outcry to the F1 watching public.

  • A quick rumble through my memory shows that we only need one more unusual result and we’ll be equal to 2003’s 8 different winners from 5 different teams. *lets look at teams where only 1 driver has won - Heidfeld? Bourdais? Maybe even Piquet?

    you could be on to something there. as ridiculous as it sounds, if the renault has pace and fernando's faffing around trying to mess with the championship, maybe piquet could sneak in there?

  • I have to agree with many of the points here; he has taken his chances well and has shown the character in many races that I wish Hamilton could have shown a Fuji.

    Given the risk adverse approach all of the teams have to adopt to maintain the levels of sponsorship which so they favour not messing up over exciting battles, the best f1 driver is the driver who shows these capabilities, and Massa and Kubica should be there or their about. Winning from pole is about as good as it can get (The majority of Massa’s wins), your main problem is running into back markers. So he should be celebrated for driving the modern f1 style

    But do I want to watch risk adverse drivers playing the percentage game? Not really. The one move I can remember from this whole season was Hamilton’s overtaking move at Spa, which he then got penalised for. So the most exciting part of the season for me was although not dangerous (in that case) was considered unfair and too aggressive.

    I'm sure I'm in the minority; you only have to look at the anti-Hamilton sentiment of the live commenting board for Fuji qualifying to see that people don't like his driving style. After that I didn't bother with live commenting with the race. (Although this is a complete switch to the races in the early part of the season, when everyone was calling for Massa’s blood and I didn’t complain then)

    One solution I've though up whilst writing this post is to have 3 competitions within the series: A yellow helmet for the traditional drivers points, A green helmet for the overtaking points, and a polka dotted helmet for wins in wet conditions.

    I'll be following the racer boys for the green helmets: Hamiltons, Villeneuves and Ivines.

    (Or perhaps I should just go and watch stock car racing or something like that and stop grumbling)

  • But do I want to watch risk adverse drivers playing the percentage game? Not really.

    hmmm, alonso did that a lot a couple of years back and i didn't feel like we were being short-changed by the guy.

    I’m sure I’m in the minority; you only have to look at the anti-Hamilton sentiment of the live commenting board for Fuji qualifying to see that people don’t like his driving style. After that I didn’t bother with live commenting with the race.

    surely if there was any unjust sentiment, it would have been easy to rebuke such criticism?

    however, i can quite imagine that with the press turning against the guy, fellow drivers turning against the guy and even james allen levelling criticism in his direction, it could quite conceivably feel like the whole world is against the man right now.

    all the more reason for you to stand up and applaud the guy if you ask me.

  • Nevertheless, Massa has won five times so far this season, which is more than anyone else.

    I feel there should be a 'but' in there somewhere.

    Which is part of Massa's problem, because if he wins the title by six points the story of how he won it will forever be tainted by the appalling decision taken at Spa to hand him Lewis Hamilton's victory.

    That would be a shame, because I can't think of many other drivers who have vexed their detractors in quite the way Massa has this year (and I've certainly had my doubts about him). He has improved enormously in almost every measure: his wet weather skills and race craft have even progressed (though not quite to Alonso/Hamilton levels).

    All the same, I think Massa as champion this year would probably reflect badly on F1 after the Spa debacle. Unless he annihilates the opposition in the last two races, and forces me to re-appraise my opinion of him yet again...

  • I feel there should be a ‘but’ in there somewhere.

    Take your point. I deliberately don't want to bring the penalties into it because for the most part, they're not a reflection on the drivers themselves. (Which is ridiculous).

    If you take Massa's inherited win at Spa off his tally, then surely we should add on Hungary, simply for the spirited drive?

  • Which is part of Massa’s problem, because if he wins the title by six points the story of how he won it will forever be tainted by the appalling decision taken at Spa to hand him Lewis Hamilton’s victory.

    was (and is) that massa's fault though?

    what exactly did felipe do wrong that day in spa? short of signing a ferrari contract in the first place, the guy was almost completely blameless.

    why should a stewards decision, of which massa played no part in, forever tarnish his achievements?

  • I’m sure I’m in the minority; you only have to look at the anti-Hamilton sentiment of the live commenting board for Fuji qualifying to see that people don’t like his driving style.

    You are not his dad are you? Just had to ask. You may be in the minority but you are not alone and I am gobby enough to make up for us being outnumbered. I think he was right to make the move at the first corner and it came so close to working. People always overreact when a driver goes off by claiming it was preesure or some other bull. He braked a metre or two too late and locked up while trying to put a little too much pressure on the pedal. He regularly has a little smoke coming off his tyres because he is closer to locking his tyres than anyone else on the grid. All that happened here is he braked a little too late and then a little too hard. Most people don't appreciate that braking in a high tech racing car is exactly the opposite of braking in their road car. In a road car the further into you braking you get the more tyre grip you have so the more you can increase the pressure on the pedal before you lock up. In an F1 car as you brake the downforce drops so the tyre grip decreases with braking so the driver is having to ease off the pedal as he brakes. Imagine trying to squeeze maximum braking performance while having to reduce the pressure at the same time. If you are the driver who can stay closer to the critical point where the wheel locks than any other on the grid can it possibly be surprising that you go slightly over it occasionally?

    There will always be critics of drivers like Lewis and the extraordinary things he does are missed because people are too busy shouting about minor errors. He did something absolutely incredible at the start and no-one noticed. What he did as far as I can remember is totally unique in modern F1 history but he braked a little too late so it doesn't count. When was the last time a driver in pole position lost the lead and got it back before the first corner? That is what Lewis came very close to doing. I can't remember someone dropping back behind a car that started behind until there was more than a car length of clear daylight between them and getting the position back at the first corner. Had Lewis braked a metre or two earlier he would have done that.

  • That is what Lewis came very close to doing. I can’t remember someone dropping back behind a car that started behind until there was more than a car length of clear daylight between them and getting the position back at the first corner. Had Lewis braked a metre or two earlier he would have done that.

    cannot argue with that sentiment at all.

    also, kovi deserves just as much criticism for his driving in fuji as lewis has come in for. his attempt at the first corner was beyond hopeless and verging on embarrassing. pretty much like his 2008 season in fact.

    i understand why mclaren don't need another number one driver, but they must need more than a number three?

  • also, kovi deserves just as much criticism for his driving in fuji as lewis has come in for. his attempt at the first corner was beyond hopeless and verging on embarrassing. pretty much like his 2008 season in fact.

    The one piece of sympathy I have for the stewards at any race is that you can't watch all the cars. There were incidents all through the grid as there are at most race start in any category of racing anywhere in the world. It is clear from the video that Kovi did more harm to Kimi's race than Lewis and I am baffled as to how the stewards can watch that video and not ask how the guy at the front is reponsible for all the other cars that went off. Some of those drivers if not all of them must have done something that contributed to them going off.

    i understand why mclaren don’t need another number one driver, but they must need more than a number three?

    I think Kovi is a good driver and certainly a good number two. Hopefully next year's regs will be more suitable to a range of driving styles because we need all the teams to have both of their drivers comfortable in the cars and the more different driving styles at the ront the better. I like that we have all out aggressive drivers as well as the smooth drivers. I like that we have understeer and oversteer drivers as well as the classicists. We need technical regulations which allow all of them to shine at the majority of tracks. At some tracks one type of driver will be favoured. Lewis's style suits Monaco and always will and Massa's style suits Turkey and always will but we need to get cars that everyone can show their full capability.

    As to Kovi's potential replacement. Have I mentioned anywhere that I think Paul di Resta is the man for the job? :)

    Then in three or so years time watch out for Wayne Boyd. Not necessarily in a McLaren but hopefully in F1.

  • The one piece of sympathy I have for the stewards at any race is that you can’t watch all the cars. There were incidents all through the grid as there are at most race start in any category of racing anywhere in the world.

    given that admission though, would you not say that if they have to focus on a limited set of cars, it should be the ones fighting for the championship?

    As to Kovi’s potential replacement. Have I mentioned anywhere that I think Paul di Resta is the man for the job

    you might have, and if what you say about him is true. i might also agree :)

    Then in three or so years time watch out for Wayne Boyd. Not necessarily in a McLaren but hopefully in F1.

    who?

  • surely if there was any unjust sentiment, it would have been easy to rebuke such criticism?

    ...

    all the more reason for you to stand up and applaud the guy if you ask me.

    Fair point - I'll try and be more gobby this weekend. :-)

    You are not his dad are you?

    No, I come from Williams country not stevange. :-)

    I actually didn't mean to come across so pro-hamilton, more cynical about the type risk adverse teams & drivers the modern championship is turns out, which is why I think Massa is a worthy contender, he's learnt to play the F1 game over the course of this season.

  • Fair point - I’ll try and be more gobby this weekend

    i look forward to it ;)

    which is why I think Massa is a worthy contender, he’s learnt to play the F1 game over the course of this season

    he has hasn't he? people (like me) vastly underestimating him has helped at lot too. if you're already the designated number two, the only way is up.

  • There will always be critics of drivers like Lewis and the extraordinary things he does are missed because people are too busy shouting about minor errors. He did something absolutely incredible at the start and no-one noticed. What he did as far as I can remember is totally unique in modern F1 history but he braked a little too late so it doesn’t count. When was the last time a driver in pole position lost the lead and got it back before the first corner? That is what Lewis came very close to doing. I can’t remember someone dropping back behind a car that started behind until there was more than a car length of clear daylight between them and getting the position back at the first corner. Had Lewis braked a metre or two earlier he would have done that.

    The trick here is that you have to dig deep into F1 record books to find these instantances. I am quite sure that James Hunt, Jody Scheckter and Didier Pironi all did the same feat as Hamilton but the difference being is that in Hamilton's case, the person on the outside (KimI) noticed at the last second what Hamilton was doing and also went straight.

    In the cases of Hunt, Scheckter and Pironi the man on the outisde turned into the corner followed by most of the field. The red was red flag and after many hours of cleanup a new race started with a diminshed field. That is why it is so hard to notice this incident occuring unless you wonder why there was less than the usual number of cars on the starting grid....

    Now kudos to Kimi for allowing this so called "Hamilton achivement" to occur instead of what historical usually happens in this case....

  • October 16th, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    Anthony said:

    But do I want to watch risk adverse drivers playing the percentage game? Not really. The one move I can remember from this whole season was Hamilton’s overtaking move at Spa, which he then got penalised for. So the most exciting part of the season for me was although not dangerous (in that case) was considered unfair and too aggressive.

    But Anthony, you are missing the whole point of playing the Risk-Adverse game. It depends on front-loading a massive advantage of points at the start of the season. Hamilton gained the maximim advanatge at Ausatralia but only got 5th in Malaya. 14 points to 0. Massa needs to beat Hamilton in the next 7 races by two or more points to catch up. Taht's already half the season gone and the score is tried, just for Massa crashing out in both races.

    Now if Hamilton Won both races, the points being 20-0, Hamilton could be easily leading into the 12th race of the season.

    Look what we from a 14 point gap, Massa has closed it down to 5 points, there is two races to go, so it is safer to play the risk-adverse plan now more than ever. In the final race, well to be honest, Hamilton's plan neds to be based on if Kubica still has a chance of winning the title.

    There is no sence of ramming Massa if Kubica can win the title by being gift-wrapped a a Brazilian GP win, is there? Although, I do not really think Hamilton is tactically smart and always thinks of "win or crash."

    Hamilton does not have to win this title. He needs to make Massa and Kubica loss theirs.

  • given that admission though, would you not say that if they have to focus on a limited set of cars, it should be the ones fighting for the championship?

    Sorry but I am not having that. One of the things that annoys me about F1 is how championship contenders are treated differently at the end of a season. You often hear people saying that such and such a driver should not get involved with them. You have to have the same rules all season otherwise something that is legal at the start is not legal at the end. For example Kubica could have done something at the first corner of one of the early races while battling for 8th place at the first corner and it is OK. Massa then does exactly the same thing now while in second or third place and it gets highlighted because it affects the championship. There should be one set of rules for all drivers at all races.

  • Then in three or so years time watch out for Wayne Boyd. Not necessarily in a McLaren but hopefully in F1.

    who?

    He has just won the British Formula Ford championship and is the first driver since McNish in 1987 that I have tipped for success after seeing him race once in person amd I did that way back in April having never heard of him before that. I made a point of going public at the time just so I have evidence when I get told I am jumping on the bandwagon.

  • I tried to post a link to that last comment but it wouldn't work.

    http://www.gpwizard.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=5545.0 Now it does. I blame Vista.

  • You have to have the same rules all season otherwise something that is legal at the start is not legal at the end.

    agreed. but you earlier admitted that stewards can't watch all of the cars?

    so what's the solution? fastidiously studying footage post-race is one option, but then the guys get into trouble for stating "incident will be looked at after the race".

    also, given the things alonso has been saying this week, wouldn't it be remiss of the stewards not to keep an especially close eye him?

  • I made a point of going public at the time just so I have evidence when I get told I am jumping on the bandwagon.

    as if ;)

    I tried to post a link to that last comment but it wouldn’t work.

    www.gpwizard.co.u….php?topic=5545.0 Now it does. I blame Vista.

    ooh, okay. ferrari need to sign you up to head their new driver development program :)

  • so what’s the solution? fastidiously studying footage post-race is one option, but then the guys get into trouble for stating “incident will be looked at after the race”.

    I prefer the more common sense approach. First corner incidents happen. They are inevitable so unless someone does something really obvious or something dangerous the stewards should not get involved. Lewis got penalised for taking Kimi off the road on Sunda but what he did was not remotely unusual while the penalty was. Alonso at Spa last season pushed Lewis of in a more questionable way but was not penalised.

    I have no problem with someone watching all availble footage of the start until the pack sorts itself out after the first few corners. After that it is far easier to spot any incidents worth investigation.

    In most racing and I assume in F1 there are observers at each corner who report anything that requires further investigation back through the line to the steards of the meeting. I am not sure whether F1 dispenses with observers due to everything being televised. But there are very many of these highly trained highly experienced people available to the FIA who could do the initial sort of what is relevant and what is racing so that the stewards would not have to be woken to assess it all themselves. I am not sure whether Max and Donnelly would be happy with trained people making those kinds of decisions though/

  • ooh, okay. ferrari need to sign you up to head their new driver development program

    It is a year or two too early for that but he should be on the verge of someone's young driver program. Red Bull and the like throw tons of money around looking for talent and this kid has bucket loads and a brain as well.

  • I prefer the more common sense approach. First corner incidents happen. They are inevitable so unless someone does something really obvious or something dangerous the stewards should not get involved. Lewis got penalised for taking Kimi off the road on Sunda but what he did was not remotely unusual while the penalty was. Alonso at Spa last season pushed Lewis of in a more questionable way but was not penalised.

    I see, so the trick for Hamilton is to dive down the inside of Massa and lock up the front tyres. and spear into Massa. Hey, incidents happen between title contenders all the time. Senna on Prost, Prost on Senna, Schumacher on Hill, Schumacher on Villeneuve but what is strange to me is why is it always the guy leading the championship that starts the incident?

  • I see, so the trick for Hamilton is to dive down the inside of Massa and lock up the front tyres. and spear into Massa. Hey, incidents happen between title contenders all the time. Senna on Prost, Prost on Senna, Schumacher on Hill, Schumacher on Villeneuve but what is strange to me is why is it always the guy leading the championship that starts the incident?

    Co-incidence?

  • i'm a Ferrari guy so this might be biased, i don't know...there's a video on formula1.com that shows all the incedints of Fuji. what interested me was the on board of massa because when he was off track, he was steering to the left (hamilton was on the right) and he wasn't throttling

    i think the guy just lost control for a sec. IMHO i don't think that it was deliberate the guy simply can't be that persice, to hit hamilton in a way that won't damage his car

    while on the 1st corner hamilton drove as if he was driveing an arcade racer...."i'm gonna out break the guy in front then bounce off the wall (run off in this case)"....i can't really judge the penalties, although the penalties seem to be biased towards the reds, they actually benefited mclaren alot more...massa would've made P4 if it wasn't for the drive through (assuming it took about 20 seconds, the gain in time would've made him not to collide with bourdais, another 5 seconds atleast).

  • while on the 1st corner hamilton drove as if he was driveing an arcade racer…”i’m gonna out break the guy in front then bounce off the wall (run off in this case)”

    ahh, good memories :)

  • With Massa I always seem to be defending what really is not my favourite driver. Like on Sunday, everyone seems to think Massa was driving so badly. True he had an incident with Lewis which arose from getting to deep into the corner, Lewis closing the door and literally no where for Massa to go (the video shows him throttling off and steering to the left as Sam has mentioned). At the start Massa made no mistake but nevertheless was force off by two out of control Macca drivers.

    The incident with Bourdais, here I start to get speachless - in no way can that event be blamed on Massa. Firstly physics will tell you that the only way for Bourdais to tip Massa into a spin is for him to be behind Massa. What is Massa supposed to do move off line and brake for a car while on the main straight? In any event that could be dangerous. The incident with Mark Webber - Mark made three blocking manouvers on the straight (you are allowed one) and was trying to squeeze Massa so he could not be overtaken (if the other were penalty this should have been one). Again this is unfair criticism - Massa is paid to drive and take chances (as are the other 19 drivers).

    What was impressive is that Massa did not give up following the penalty, whereas in the past he has. One frequently levelled criticism of Massa is he cannot drive from the back through the field the way Schumacher senior could do (and Lewis if he does not crash into people). Massa got the fastest lap and was on a real charge during most of the race. Massa is starting to show that there is more fight in him. Sure he is not a classy driver the way Heidfeld and Rosberg are but he is fairly effective.

    Who deserve the championship? There are three contenders, first each has a very different opportunity to win races. Since their maiden win the BMW Sauber is honestly little better than a Toyota so Robert's feat of mathematically being in contention is amazing. Sadly such achievement is at the cost of him becoming a moaning git and expecting number one status immediately. If he won the championship it might go to his head. Further during press interviews after being on the podium he seems more interested in the state (or lack of) his nails - disinterested would be an understatement.

    Both on the track and general comments to the press is an up and down affair for the little Brazilian. Following the pitstop fracas at Singapore I thought Felipe showed real class in saying it is a team sport and everyone makes mistakes despite the huge disappointment. Robert would be blaming his team and everyone around him. I am sure Lewis would not be as bad (China last year springs to mind - a joint mistake), but I also do not think he would have been as supportive of the pit crew in their mistakes (quite vocal about some strategies that nearly did not pay off). The other, overlooked aspect is Massa has always been considered the number-two driver, to have come through to be in contention for the Driver's Championship is an achievement.

    Finally we come to Lewis, no doubt hugely gifted and his Silverstone drive sets a benchmark on how to win a race. The problem with Lewis are the frequent and reckless races. The issue that other drivers publicly complain about his disregard for them on the track. He is unbelievable arrogant, but the reality is this year he was probably in the best overall package (sure not all the time) and had the clear number one status as a further advantage (not even the world champion had such obvious preference within his team). So he had the best circumstances to win. He has had a fair amount of luck and the most reliable car on the grid. However, he has incurred the wrath of the race stewards with the most number of penalties. While there has been huge public outcry of these in the British Press (every one crying foul), you will note the rest of the GP drivers have said he deserved much of this.

    To conclude I will go back to my school classroom days, we have the school kid from a wealthy background, never had to really struggle (proverbial silver spoon). When this chap succeeds everyone else is jealous, but his natural disregard of everyone else also makes him the least popular person in class. Next we have the kid that comes to school with a hand-me down school blazer and broken shoes and carries a huge chip on his shoulder. Sure he performs amazing given the domestic strife he calls home but he also thinks he should be given more advantage than anyone else. Finally we have the plodding chap, no one really think he will come to much, but is fairly solid in much of what he does. He is often asked to sacrifice so the team can do better, but actually discovers in himself there is more talent which surprises people around since he is not expected to be a winner or leader. Just possibly I would like this sort of person to be World Champion.

  • while on the 1st corner hamilton drove as if he was driveing an arcade racer

    It looked that way but Steven Roy is right a fairly small error of judgement of braking could result in a hugely dangerous incident that looked this spectacular. While I can see justice in all the penalties, my instinct is also to say they were all also "racing incidents". Realistically no one event by any driver was DELIBERATE.

  • Well, I guess Ferrari has taken many Massa's points. Blowing enginges, disastrous pit stops and so on.

    Probably somebody will want to punch me with this, but in my opinion most of the many of his spins in Silverstone was cause by a wrong tyres choice, so one of the several Ferrari mistakes this year.

  • Probably somebody will want to punch me with this, but in my opinion most of the many of his spins in Silverstone was cause by a wrong tyres choice, so one of the several Ferrari mistakes this year.

    i think it was partly tyres and partly an ambitious setup on their part.

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