Imagine the last few laps of Brazil 2008. No one gave Massa any chance in 2008. His team mate, Kimi Raikkonen won the world championship in his first year; everyone expected him to be submitted into a ‘number two’ driver role. Massa did not relent. He crosses the line, wins his home grand prix. He, his team, and his adoring, passionate Brazilian fans thinks he has become world champion in a dramatic title fight where two men gave it their all, rain or shine. As we all know, this was taken away from him in the last few corners and Lewis Hamilton became the 2008 world champion. All the emotion can be summarised in this video, which is highlyrecommend you watch. The greatest moment of that day however, wasn’t the great racing, it was Massa’s professional gratuitousness on the podium. It was the behaviour of a champion. Even now I wonder how F1 would be different had Massa indeed won the championship that day?
Now imagine Hungary 2009. Ferrari have had their worst season in years, the car is horribly out of pace and Massa has the huge psychological impact of last year’s loss to deal with. Massa’s done very well so far, out pacing and out scoring Kimi. He’s just had his first podium the race before in Germany. One instant he’s going for a quick qualifying lap, the next he is waking up from a coma. His first words were “What am I doing here?”. Almost everyone has given up on him being to race again or ever make a full recovery. Massa proves everyone wrong.
Now, yet again imagine, Bahrain 2010. Fernando Alonso has finally quelled the rumours of replacing Massa and joins Ferrari alongside him. Massa goes and out qualifies Alonso after what is quite literally, an unbelievable comeback. Had it not been for him losing the position to Alonso down into the first corner, Massa would have won on his comeback. Imagine what must have gone through his mind. The whole year Massa was a chess piece and Alonso the brutal chess master who would sacrifice the piece to win the game. Alonso gave him no respect in Australia (collided to give a puncture), was brutal in China (overtook going into the pit lane) and in Germany… well… we all know what happened. When I went to Silverstone, I saw a shirt with “Fernando is faster than you” written as a slogan. This is not a criticism of Alonso; it’s just Fernando Alonso being Fernando Alonso.
Just looking at Alonso’s previous team mates such as Jarno Trulli and Giancarlo Fisichella, the pressure and resultant effect of that exerted by Alonso is telling. Massa’s actually done a good job compared to others 1when others usually crumble. Whilst the psychological impact is officially ignored by both Massa and Ferrari, it’s obvious to see it makes quite a difference. Drivers will tell you they perform best when they feel psychologically the best. It’s why Jenson’s currently on a roll against Lewis and Vettel’s dominating Webber. The reason given in the end, was the lack of grip of the 2010 front Bridgestone tyres.
Finally we come to the present, 2011. I can’t think of one race where Massa hasn’t had something unfortunate happen to him. In the first few races of the year, there wasn’t a race where he did not have a bad pit stop. Think of the last three races – Spa, Monza and Singapore. All three races where Massa was running at the front at the start of the race. At Spa, we got mugged by Lewis and Alonso then had a puncture. At Monza, he got hit by Webber. At Singapore, Lewis gave him yet another puncture. Yet he has been remarkably calm over all the incidences, given the monumental amount of pressure that is on him. Already, the press and everyone in the paddock are rooting for his exclusion from Ferrari at the end of next year and these string of unfortunate incidents would normally drive a driver up the wall.
Felipe Massa is one of the most under rated 2, overlooked and humble drivers on the grid. He’s had the hardest of team mates – Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso. – Whenever he’s been given a winning car, he has delivered.3 Massa’s always had to fight and win appreciation instead of demand it, he’s had to swim against the tide; battling team mates, horrendous accidents and the finest crop of racing in the history of Formula One. Whilst I agree he is not in the same league of Schumacher, Alonso4 or Vettel; he’s truly a great driver that came 2 corners close of being world champion, and no one can take that away from him. Above all the driving, Massa is a really nice, open guy, one of the best in Formula One and deserves to drive the scarlet Ferrari as he has done for 6 years.
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- Apart from Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton in 2007 was special. ↩
- Think of Massa as the opposite of Daniel Ricciardo in terms of hype. ↩
- Barring 2010 technically. Germany was Felipe’s. Fact. ↩
- It’s worth noting that Alonso is a fantastic qualifier. One of the best on the grid. Comparing just qualifying times with Alonso is like comparing total race wins with Schumacher in a game of top trumps. ↩
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