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Ferrari rally round Massa as new chassis pressed into service
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Felipe Massa - Shell Motorsport image
Posted By: James Allen  |  21 Mar 2012   |  12:40 pm GMT  |  30 comments

Ferrari is readying a new chassis for Felipe Massa to use in this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix in order to rule out the possibility of anything “unusual” happening with his F2012 in wake of his torrid start to the season in Melbourne.

The Brazilian struggled throughout the three days at Albert Park for grip and balance, qualifying 16th and then suffering from severe tyre degradation in the race which eventually came to a miserable end following a collision with Bruno Senna. In the post-race media briefings Stefano Domenicali said the team would “need to stay close to Felipe because it’s clear that he’s under pressure”, as well as investigating whether anything “strange” affected his car in Melbourne.

While Ferrari hasn’t confirmed whether or not there was a particular issue with that chassis, it seems that for peace of mind if nothing else the team has decided that Massa will now use chassis number 294, instead of 293, at Sepang with the decision “taken to clear up any doubts about the unusual performance of his car during the weekend at Albert Park”.

In light of his Melbourne struggles, team-mate Fernando Alonso’s battling drive to fifth place, while acting as a morale-booster for Ferrari as a whole, only served to increase the media scrutiny on Massa personally – the Brazilian already under the pressure to deliver in the final year of his contract in wake of two underwhelming seasons.

Few believe the Brazilian will stay on into an eighth campaign next year, and while patience with him is likely to be wearing thinner than ever before at the moment, Ferrari has been steadfastly loyal to the 30-year-old since he arrived from Sauber to partner Michael Schumacher to much media scepticism in 2006. The team’s ever forthright editorial on its website pointed out that the current situation was nothing new for the Brazilian and that it would continue to stand by him.

“Felipe has certainly been the target of criticism after the race in Albert Park. But the Brazilian driver is used to this situation and remembers well 2008 when after two races – Australia and Malaysia – he had a zero in the points column and many of the media were calling for him to be fired on the spot. Many of those commentators had to change their minds given that only a few exceptional circumstances – from the piston in Budapest to the pit stop in Singapore to cite the most striking examples – denied him the world championship. Felipe knows he can count on the team to do everything, both from the technical and the operational point of view, to put him in a better state to show off his talents.”

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30 Comments
  1. Rang says:

    James, do you believe that Massa can make a difference. What exactly is the issue with Massa or is it the car? Is it that both drivers are driving different cars or is it that Massa days are over ? I am sure he is a better driver than the results ought to show him currently.

    1. Sebee says:

      Take a look at the other post about the “Save”, the heated discussion and comments are quite good from all the fans. If I may sum up…

      Some feel Massa has lost it.
      Some feel Massa is damaged goods.
      Many feel Massa is not getting the treatment he deserves, and perhaps the hardware.
      Quite a few agree his mental state and sharpness has been dulled by forceful submission to radio transmissions.

      In my discussion with fans, I think I may have cracked this nut – in my view at least. In brief…

      When Schumi was there it was a clear #1 #2 driver scenario. When Schumi was on the way out he was more generous and supportive of Massa. Once Kimi was confirmed and Schumi was on the sidelines but involved in the team perhaps he was advocating more for Massa knowing what #1 driver treatment looks like at Ferrari. This is why Massa was so much more competitive against Kimi – thanks to Ferrari opening up more and not forcing the #1 #2 driver issue so much and again perhaps Schumi advocating for Massa. This may have upset the apple cart with Kimi and constant “look how much Kimi is being paid and is being outdone by Massa” press comments probably made him rebel more. Ferrari saw this new more equal driver status wasn’t working and Kimi wasn’t happy with having Massa nibble at his #1 status. Add to this Schumi cramping Kimi’s style. Kimi did get one in 07, but wasn’t the same after probably becuse he still wasn’t getting teh type of #1 treatment he wanted with Schumi there supporting Massa. So they went back to strict #1 #2 status as of Alonso enforcing it any way you want to imagine it, orders, strategy choice, hardware not being equal, etc. And here we are with Massa back to clear #2 status, demotivated as he has tasted the fruits of success for a while, not as sharp becuse why rip your guts out when you have to switch off the “sharpness/edge” at press of the button. Plus, no more Schumi advocating for him at Ferrari. Massa suddenly has no pull. But it’s my view that from the past experiences – he’s probably the best #2 they have had. We’ve seen what others have done with that Ferrari in recent years.

      I also restate my view that this second Ferrari seat is now a sure carrier killer for any driver that steps in there. 4 years of second fiddle to Alonso? Who want’s that job? Not anyone who wants to be a true fighter and feel like his team will help him make it happen. #2 at Ferrari now until 2016 picks up scraps that fell from the table.

      1. Rang says:

        Well I believe this year if Ferrari fails completely (which looks like it will), they might sack the entire top management and I feel Alonso might even look elsewhere !

      2. HansB says:

        This is nonsense.
        Ferrari was/is very well aware that its car is not good (to say the least).
        So… there is not one argument why they would make Massa a #2 driver with even worse equipment going into the 2012 season.
        Especially now they need every single point they can for the constructors title, they simply can not allow to bet on one horse.
        Giving FM a new chassis after just one race confirms that.

  2. james encore says:

    Felipe’s dignity when he lost the title in Brazil earnt my respect; and it’s hard to find anyone who didn’t want to see him back after his accident. The sad truth is he’s never matched his 2008 form since and his collsions and poor results now look less than dignified.
    This looks like crossing all the excuses off the list before choosing who will take over the number two role.

  3. Stuart says:

    To quote the great man – “its a dead duck. and who wants to see a dead duck? not even its mother, she just swans off, depressed”. Massa is the duck

    1. Sebee says:

      Wow, that’s harsh man. HARSH!

  4. FatherTed says:

    Well he can’t really do any worse than Australia. So assuming he manages to do slightly better in Malaysia, Ferrari will just put his performance down to a ‘defect’ with the chassis.

    But he really has no more excuses left after this.

  5. goferet says:

    If only Ferrari had been this patient with the Iceman, who knows what the future might have held for the Red Dragon.

    I guess I can understand Ferrari’s backing of Massa for he’s the perfect number 2 driver i.e. That driver that never takes points off the lead driver & if there ever came a situation where he was required to help the team e.g. Jump out the way for the team leader or destroy some other driver’s race, then would be their man.

    Plus former team principal Jean Todt’s son is Massa’s manager and as they say, 1 + 1 = 1

    Now unlike 2008, I don’t expect a comeback from the Brazilian for just like Ralf Schumacher after his accident at Indianapolis in 2004, he was never the same driver and as we all know, Hungary 2009 happened after 2008.

    Say, I had forgotten Massa hadn’t scored any points in Australia 2008 & Malaysia 2008, all this and he still came within one point of winning the title —> Incredible.

    Yes without a doubt Ferrari had the best car in 2008, they just didn’t have the drivers to finish the job seeing as the number 2 driver almost did the business.

    1. Sebee says:

      So can I conclude from what you say that Kimi is/was sub par – because they had the best car in 08 but Kimi didn’t close the deal? He was not a driver to finish the job? Was it willful neglect on Kimi’s part or was it just bad luck?

      I have to tell you, his 07 championship somehow doesn’t feel won to me. I know he won the most races, but he was 3rd in the last race on points, and after it ended I felt like luck had more to do with it. I’m not sure I’m describing my feeling correctly – it just didn’t feel right to me. It felt like he lucked into it because of the McLaren situation. It felt like it defaulted to him.

      1. goferet says:

        Sebee

        So can I conclude from what you say that Kimi is/was sub par – because they had the best car in 08 but Kimi didn’t close the deal?
        ————————————————

        Yes you right on the money.

        Kimi was sub par in 2008 so much so that he didn’t show up but the comments I have read from Kimi fans, it seems Ferrari changed their car from around the Spanish Gp in Barcelona by making it suit Massa’s driving style more and that’s why Kimi was off the pace the rest of the season

        I too agree, Kimi lucked into the 2007 title seeing as he only lead the championship after the first race and last race and did this by snatching the title out the hands of a rookie.

  6. Jon williams says:

    Be a man massa & go now, you had your chance now give Perez his.

  7. Chris says:

    Massa needs to go. It’s as simple as that.

  8. Kay says:

    Best of luck to Felipe!

  9. jack withey says:

    I’m a big Massa fan and its painful to watch. Come on Felipe show us what u can do……

  10. Jason C says:

    I wonder if the new chassis will also be a final measure to establish a final decision on dropping him? Ferrari and its top personnel need as many points as possible on the board come the end of the year, and if Massa is going to underperform again this year then from a purely ruthless point of view it would make sense to get rid of him early in the year and get someone else in the other car who will be no worse.

    But who?

    I think there are a few drivers around who would take a deal til the end of the season and if a current driver is chosen then Massa might be a stright swap.

    1. Dave says:

      Sutil would jump at the chance!! – you heard it here first!!

  11. franed says:

    Strange then that Alonso did so well in what appeared to be the same chassis.

    1. David Ryan says:

      They’re the same design, certainly, but not identical. Each chassis is individually assembled from bespoke components – the templates themselves are the same, but the behaviour of the chassis itself will differ from others depending upon the chemical reactions involved in the autoclave and the wider assembly process. Manufacturing problems are rare but not unheard of (see Lotus in pre-season testing for example), and if something had gone slightly awry during chassis 293′s construction that could affect its stiffness, weight distribution and other characteristics. All of those could lend to the erratic behaviour displayed by the car at Melbourne and alluded to in Pat Fry’s press releases.

      Anyway, while the reason given is quite vague and suggestive of process of elimination, I find it somewhat unlikely Ferrari would ship out a complete new chassis to Malaysia (hardly a walk down the road after all) unless they really needed to. I suspect this may be trying to deflect further pressure from a certain Luca di Montezemolo in light of last weekend’s performance. Let’s hope for Felipe’s sake Malaysia brings an improvement, otherwise the pressure really will be on him again…

  12. Tom says:

    Ferrari will stand by him because they know that they’ve handed both drivers a truly dreadful race car – in my mind this stems from the ridiculous pull-rod front suspension; for a minor aerodynamic boost they’ve sacrificed compliance over bumps and terrible braking geometry!
    Their other issue is rear aero, or lack of. Judging by their straight line speed it’s obvious that they’re carrying a lot of drag, I’d guess that there’s a blockage caused by the rearward exhaust plume and general sidepod shape. This would most likely choke the diffuser hence the low rear grip/traction.
    As for driver discrepancy, we know that Alonso likes a front end that washes out thus can drag results out of pretty much anything, Massa on the other hand likes to throw the car into the corners requiring a stable rear – the F2012 cannot be used like that.
    Give Massa a car that he can chuck about and I think that he’ll still be capable of wins but I don’t see that happening at Ferrari (given Alonso’s style), I think he’d be much better off elsewhere now.

    P.S. Whoever it was that decided to stick pull-rod on the front should be sacked immediately because they clearly don’t understand vehicle dynamics, simple as that.

    Quote: “Whilst that’s not great news for Alonso, it’s disastrous for Massa, a driver who needs a stable rear end in order to make use of his late braking style and who is surely already lacking in confidence. Alonso is extremely adept at driving around problems, Massa is not – and the car as currently configured will only exaggerate the natural performance difference between them.” Mark Hughes.

    1. tim says:

      I love people who theorize about a car’s design and what’s wrong with it. If it’s as simple and easy as watching television and then coming to a conclusion about the shape of a sidepod blocking a diffuser, for instance, the teams are wasting a lot of money with all those engineers studying wind-tunnel results and CFD models and other measurements. You should get a hold of them pronto and alert them to this!

      1. Tom says:

        As an engineer that spends a lot of his working life in CFD I know far too well how wildly results can vary between simulation and the real world! Factor in Ferrari’s calibration issues with their wind-tunnel and the fact that they’re behind the likes of McLaren/Red Bull regards their CFD tools (they’ve admitted so) it’s possible that there is a fundamental design flaw! Heck the last minute change of exhaust concept backs this up…
        I digress, of course I don’t know what’s wrong with the car (I stated “guess”) but it’s fun to have a stab at it!

  13. Robert says:

    By giving him a new chassis, they are removing any excuses he may try to use in the future, when he gets word his contract will not be renewed.

    Love it.

  14. Chris C says:

    He’s not been the same driver since his accident in the Hungary Race. Much as I’ve always liked Massa I think it is time for him to move on. I always felt he was slightly on the cautious side when it came to pushing the car right to the edge (I remember Rob Smedley coaxing him to go round corners faster a couple of times) but now he seams to be overly cautious and is making mistakes through that. He deserved a couple of seasons after the accident to try and get back to where he was but I just don’t see him making it.

  15. Iker Gernika says:

    James, you should start a post about who can drive the Ferrari if Massa is fired. It´s just painful to see Massa driving, or trying to, the Ferrari.

    Who is next?

    Alguersuari?
    Perez?
    Kobayashi?
    Kubica?

  16. benny boy says:

    id put Kovalien in the second ferrari!

  17. Ben says:

    The problem with Massa stems from:

    a/ Post Hungary 2009 – I believe the accident diminished his skills and speed at least to a small extent. We’ll never be able to define how much.

    b/ He’s mentally beaten by a naturally more gifted driver in Alonso which accentuates the problem further, i.e vicious circle!

    c/ Less able to drive around problems than Alonso

    d/ Whilst still getting Ferrari support its clear that they expect it to be Alonso pulling in results rather than Massa. That can only hurt Felipe.

    e/ Confidence (see point b)

    f/ A Ferrari without real pace and whose characteristics don’t suit Massa’s style of driving. (see point c)

  18. Ali Adams says:

    Ferrari are using Massa as a test driver during races so the new car will be evaluated first before handing it to Alonso.

    Massa seems happy to agree to a multi-million Ferrari driver #2 for his loyalty.

    Both parties are happy. Just need to dress it up a bit with some drama.

    Hope to see Michael win 6 races this season to take his tally to 97. The next PRIME NUMBER :)

  19. Robert says:

    Time to re-unite the Alonso/Trulli partnership.

    Massa has not been the same since his accident and this weekend should be his final chance.

  20. Schmorbraten says:

    Helmut Marko would have fired Massa 50 times already.

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