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Massa: Don’t expect fireworks with Alonso
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Massa: Don’t expect fireworks with Alonso
Posted By: James Allen  |  15 Jan 2010   |  6:28 pm GMT  |  94 comments

After Fernando Alonso and Stefano Domenicali, it was Felipe Massa’s turn to speak today at the Ferrari event in Madonna di Campiglio. He talked of various things, but I was interested in what he said about his relationship with new team mate Fernando Alonso, the support he got from Ferrari and about fatherhood.

Picture 8
Although Alonso has been the headline act this week, with Domenicali speaking of his arrival at Ferrari as possibly heralding a “new era”, Massa is newsworthy too. His return from a potentially career ending injury is one of the great human interest stories of the 2010 season.

So far in his media statements since Alonso’s arrival he has been careful to be strong without appearing hostile to his new team mate. Massa has had his feet under the table at Ferrari for four years now and has built some strong relationships. He had outperformed Kimi Raikkonen in 2008 and again last year in a difficult Ferrari car. He was still improving as a driver when he had his accident at Budapest.

He is a tough little character – as he showed when he said last Autumn that Alonso must have been in on the Renault crash plot – and he is used to fighting hard to get what he wants. So while welcoming a Latin team mate who is clearly more similar to him than Raikkonen, he is also right to be wary of the relationship and what it might hold for him.

With Raikkonen there wasn’t much rapport, but neither were there any politics. Domenicali and Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo have been at pains to state on several occasions that both drivers are there to drive for Ferrari and there are to be no self-destructive acts, of the kind which made Alonso’s partnership with Lewis Hamilton at McLaren so painful in 2007. After a tough 2009 season, Ferrari needs the pair to work together to develop a competitive car and according to Massa, they are already well on their way with that,

“Things have started extremely well,” Massa said. “I’ve spoken more to Fernando now than in three years with Kimi. Perhaps this was not difficult because Kimi of course did not like to speak much, but I also worked extremely well with Kimi, even without speaking. So it was fine. I think we can have a very good relationship and we can work extremely well together.

“I think we need to work well together otherwise it will not be positive for either of us or for the team. We are in a very important team, we know what we have to do, and we know if we work well together on the professional side we can have a better car on the track. I really don’t think there will be a fire, and we can work well together. We can develop a great car.”

The fact that this is even being talked about by management and both drivers indicates that all sides realise that there are potential flash points here. Alonso has a history of “not taking well to not winning”, as Patrick Head once said of Nigel Mansell. Alonso likes it even less if his team mate beats him.

The problem for Alonso is that once again he is dealing with an unknown quantity. It was worse for him with Hamilton in 2007, about whom he had zero racing knowledge. He has raced Massa before and they have even had a flare up in Germany in 2007, when Massa though Alonso drove incorrectly in squeezing past him on a slippery track. They’ve buried the hatchet on that episode, they both say. But Massa is still hard to quantify because he keeps exceeding expectations and, according to his engineer Rob Smedley, he is still likely to improve some more.

“As for the problems, we have discussed it,” he said. “You’ve all seen what happened in 2007 when we spoke in Germany. I gave my compliments to him for the race and he said I had done something not honest, but it was not true so I just talked to him about it and then he said he was sorry, and that was it. Personally I have no problems, there are no strange feelings or opinions about Fernando.”

Alonso said yesterday that he will need three races to get up to speed with Ferrari. Massa too will need some time to get back into the swing after a long lay-off.

Ferrari have shown a lot of faith in Massa, they could easily have dropped him after the accident and made their life a lot more simple. He has done only one small test since and it is yet to be proven that he is as good as before. Massa acknowledged the extraordinary humanity of the way Ferrari handled his situation,
“I always had lots of support from Ferrari, since when I started racing for this team,” he said, “But the strength and the availability they showed after my accident was really incredible: I knew that I could count on them, but what they gave me was really exceptional.”

The big change in Massa’s life, apart from his second chance in F1, is the birth of his son last November. In the days when death was never at a comfortable distance for a racing driver, it used to slow the more sensitive ones down. In this era of almost unbreakable cars, it doesn’t seem to make much difference any more,
“When I sit behind the wheel I don’t think about my family, only when I come back to the garage I remember that I’m a dad now,” he said. “They say that you loose one second per lap for every child? A champion like Schumacher has won a lot and he has two children….”

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1

Its difficult to predict what is going to happen after 3 or 5 races, but I really can’t see Massa and Alonso hating each other. Massa is just… too nice.

Still, I do think Alonso is the better driver and will win more points.

2

To reply to earlier comments on this blog, anyone who claims Alonso is a fraud is well wide of the mark. Question his ethics, or lack of them depending on what side of the fence you sit, but nobody can doubt the man’s ability in a racing car.

As for Massa, I am confident that he will improve and show his true worth in 2010. It is worth remembering that not only is he liked and respected within Ferrari, he has a very close working relationship with Rob Smedley his engineer.

That is a very important factor to consider, especially following last summer’s horrific crash in Budapest. It is said, by some, that following Mika Hakkinen’s near fatal shunt in Adelaide in 1995, his relationship with the McLaren team strengthened no end. In many ways, to a certain extend, I can see that happening with Massa.

The big difference is that Hakkinen was very close with then McLaren chief Ron Dennis, and one cannot say that without doubt concerning Massa and his bosses. Obviously, by putting Raikkonen to pasture they have gone for the best possible replacement in Alonso. They obviously felt that Fernando offered them the best way forward, not Kimi or even the recently unretired Michael Schumacher.

The challenge for Alonso is that he is starting from scratch, with engineers that don’t know him and he does not know. There will be very little time for him to get into the swing of things, hence last week’s comments about it taking him ‘three grands prix’ to find his level of performance.

Its not as if Massa lacked the incentive to right past wrongs in 2009, following his heartbreaking loss to Hamilton in Brazil. He will be doubly focused on proving that he is every bit the driver, and them some, despite being hit on the head at 160mph by a large suspension spring.

What I found interesting about Alonso’s ‘three race’ comments is that what will happen if it is Felipe Massa who comes flying out of the blocks in Bahrain? What if Massa has a winning streak simular to Jenson Button’s last year in the first few races? Its not an impossible scenario, and has to be on the minds of Massa and Smedley too.

For me, that is Felipe’s time to try a gain an advantage. Once Fernando beds down, and gets used to his new surroundings and machinery, the heat will be really on!

3

I agree completely with Ken – although there’s probably a greater chance of it all going wrong at Ferrari than many think.

Alonso will need to feel completely dominant to feel comfortable and with Massa in the other car engineered by Ron Smedley that’s unlikely to happen.

4

I think Massa is focusing every fiber of his being on one single thing… beating Alonso. Its going to be good to watch as Alonso HAS to beat Massa!

5

Even Alonso’s strongest critic will be forced to admit the man isn’t stupid.

His original beef with McLaren was not that he was being treated unfairly but that he wasn’t being treated as number 1. On that he was quite clear at the time although the message has become blurred (deliberately?) over the months since.

Given this was the source of all his problems at the time I can’t see the man ignoring the lessons that caused him so much heartache, aggravation and – let’s not forget – money. And that’s not to mention his job.

He had plenty of time, when swanning about mid-field in the reportedly underpowered Renault, to come up with some plans for the future. And I bet these did not include wishy washy contracts.

Put yourself in the man’s place. Given the history, would you sign on the dotted without some clear and express promise of primacy? He knows how good Massa is – he saw off an ex WDC. Alonso must wonder if he could do it again.

Ferrari, at least without Todt/Brawn to limit their say in such matters, have been notoriously fickle with which of their drivers they support.

With this in mind there’s got to be something set in stone in his contract which gives him an edge. He’s used to having a talented and aggressive teammate (although not at Renault) so knows the danger Massa will pose.

Now here is a forecast that is not a wild stab in the dark. Unless the accident has cost Massa some speed, I’d suggest that there will be ‘tensions’ in the pitlane at Ferrari.

Whilst it might be purer to have the excitement of on-track competition between drivers in different teams, the history of F1 shows us that battles between teammates can be riveting.

We have a number of apparently closely matched pairs promised for 2010. I think that is where the excitement will be.

We have lost the anchor of Mosley. That alone would be sufficient reason to get excited by the possibilities of the new season. But given the line up I’ve got to say that his going has become a minor matter.

I’m getting quite excited.

6
Opposite Lock (Ken)

Massa and Alonso will not be on good terms after Alonso starts to withhold information and settings from Massa. That will start when Filipe wins a race or two. That being said, much as I hate to say it, I think Alonso is one of the best setup/development drivers (equal to Schumi) today. He understands how to dial a car in and extract the most from it. A real short comming for Massa and previously Kimi. In some ways, I understand why Alonso might jealously guard the setting information from his teammate. Especially if he is being beaten by said teammate. In other ways, it is a team sport…

7

“when Massa though Alonso drove incorrectly in squeezing past him on a slippery track.”

James this is a very strange sentence, is this what Massa says? Have you ever seen the footage directly from above? It clearly shows where Massa was on the track and that Alonso came round on the outside with loads of room and that Massa clearly knew he was there. In fact the contact came only after a full 1/3rd of Alonso’s McLaren was past Massa, so Massa could clearly SEE Alonso, then Massa moves right across the track and hits the McLaren with enough force to break the carbon fiber! Ever tried to break carbon fiber? Clearly Massa made contact with force and clearly he WELL saw Alonso and knew EXACTLY where he was. I don’t see how it could have been Alonso’s fauly and neither do I see how Massa did not make contact deliberately.

Take a look from above, what do you think?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8S_9urzUrcY

8

Simple racing accident. the cars were running on wet track and were clearly erratical.

failing to see that from the footage linked above, mean being blind.

9

If the track was so wet that coming off a corner Massa had so little control that he was helpless to prevent his car from skidding right a across the track into another car, then the whole race would have been carnage and called off. No I can’t see that this was a skid, Massa had control, he could see Alonso, this was a ram.

10

It is a little harsh to suggest that Massa drove into him. The track was wet and the cars would be a little more nervous than usual and I’d say at best Massa squeezed him. To me it was firm but fair. Alonso was only angry after the race because he was so fired up. But it was great to watch, reminds me of Montoya moves on Schumacher and no-one complained about them. Great racing and I hope to see this in abundance in 2010.

11

I don’t see how what happened was a ‘squeeze’. Massa moved from the very edge of the left side of the track right over to Alonso on the very right hand side of the track, a distance of MORE than 3m, all the while having clear sight of the McLaren. look at the footage, Massa’s Ferrari is not unstable in any way, he has complete control of it, this was a deliberate move.

12

Looks like a typical racing contact to me, nothing more…

If these two fight over such a non-event, I can only imagine how they will over react come 2010… bring it on…

13

Are you RON Dennis from McLaren? You seem to be hell bent upon posting delusional comments against Alonso….

14

I completely agree with Peter here….

the issue here is that whole issue with the thing is that massa tried to bump into alonso …accusation seems genuine after seeing the video …. but no one heard of alonso “squeezing past” massa?? …. james you seem to be starting new controversy altogether 😉 …. but its kinda sad that issue is being made of whole thing forgetting the great drive by Alonso 🙁

15

Great article James!
I personally believe we’ll see a repeat of ’07, only with MORE fireworks this time :P. There’s no way we’re going to get through this season without atleast one of the ‘big three pairs’ falling out, Massa NEEDS a WDC to keep his career alive.

16

Big 3 pairs ❓ I see only 2, Ferrari and McLaren ❓

Webber’s not equal to Vettel and Rosberg is hardly a Schumacher is he ❓

I think there are 6 drivers who have a chance of being F1 champ this tear, 2 at McLaren (though my money’s on Hamilton). 2 at Ferrari, 1 at RedBull and 1 at Brawn

17

Both drivers are saying what the PR folks are advising them to say, that’s obvious and it makes senses. Who wants to be the first one to throw a hissy-fit and rock the boat … all eyes, blame and pressure would be on the one who shoots first… one that Jay Jacob is right.

I’m no Ferrari fan but I’d really love Massa to be the next champion.

Rob

18

massa? number 2, alonso number1

19

Drivers are always paid what they’re worth and does anyone here believe Alonso is being paid the same as Massa or Button the same as Hamilton ❓ 😕

20

Well apparently Ferrari has declared 2010 is going to be the Summer of Love all over again! Long hair, beads and tie dye shirts…

Peace, man!

Yeah, right.

21

Heavy man, let the dudes may hay when the sun shines 8)

22

I agree with James and other comments that the ‘warmth & love’ between Mass & Alonso is likely to be largely orchestrated. Alonso has been either involved or association with so many dubious incidents in the past but has escaped virtually unscathed almost every time. I believe he’s shown prepared to stoop lower than his competitors so my bet is that if Massa outperforms him at the start we may well see pyrotechnics on and off track!

23

Can we really believe what the drivers said in press conference like this …?

24

Can we really believe what the drivers said in a press conference like this … ?

25

History needs Massa to win against Alonso. Why? To show the world that consistent and hard work will pay off at the end. He is not as talented as Kimi, but he is a better driver today and I wish Massa all the best because he is a better person and nicer character than Alonso.

26

If Felipe outperforms Alonso after coming back from that terrible accident, it would be the “feel-good” story of 2010.

27

Wah!! Kimi did not speak to me… sob…sob..

stop crying

28

Guys check out vipf1 dot com they are giving away paddock club passes to the abu dhabi F1 2010 Grand Prix.

James, Hampshire

29

James, I have read on quite a few forums that if Massa gets beaten by Alonso, it might be curtains to his career with Ferrari. Robert Kubica might replace him. How much of water does that story hold James?

30

Forums…. outsiders.

31

If the car will be up to the task, I say Felipe for 2010 title.

That would be poetic justice for 2008…. and 2009.

32

Man, this is going to be great to watch. These guys are both throwbacks from the Wayback Machine – they would have been right at home in the days of Rindt, Stewart, Cevert, Fitipaldi and all the early ’70s greats.

Actually, the whole grid has that feeling. OooohAhhhh.

33

I think Ferrari still has to make it clear how Alonso and Massa will compete with each other in Sunday race.

With no refeuling, the race in the qualification would be easier to sort out,but for the benefit of the team, a firece fight like 2007 in Germany should be avoided.

Alonso has said, 2010, the qualification would be decisive. Maybe that mean the Ferrari’s clear rule in 2010 would be: who win qualification, who would gain more support from the team on Sunday.

That would make it easy to find a balance between two drivers.

34

You mean, Ferrari should it make it clear for you?

I bet, they did make it clear among themselves already.

Outsider should not expects teams divulge their inside strategies.

35

It’s just a kind of comment, not requirement,

I would never have such requirement; it is none of my business.

You can see it shows what I think would be fair for two competent drivers, because the reality is: no driver would race under the same situation as his teammate; the team has to make a decision at some point to make their race even better.

In 2007, I had thought it would be fair to decide who would carry less fuel to have better chance for pole on the last laps by referring to their lap time at the end of the second stage of the qualifying, but it did turn out that McLaren have their own strategies.

Fortunately, at least I have read from Domenicali that the rules between their drivers had already been set clearly.

36

You gotta admire Felipe’s honest comments. He really is a very improved, genuine and honest grand prix driver. He certainly proved me wrong since he joined Ferrari. When I saw him crashing his Ferrari like an armature in Albert Park, Australian grand prix I was thinking, ‘what a waste of a good car!!!!’ Now as the years gone by this guy really is a contender for the world championship in my book. His outspoken character makes him even more likeable. I really hope Alonso & Massa work well together.

Off the topic James, I was reading Ted Kravitz’s fantastic column on the BBC website. He touched some extremely crucial issues about the new regulations. With no refuelling what happens when some cars start leaking oil during the race? Do they get any chance to refuel to make up the loss of fuel or it’s just bad luck? Oh there are so many things I wanna ask James. What about the wet tire rules? Has it changed at all this year? One last thing is about Bernie’s comment about the shortcut to F1 to improve overtaking. That’s outrages!!!!! What was that all about?

37

I think Filipe *thinks* he is a lot more amiable than he actually is.

I think it’s fairly well established that he has a bit of a mouth on him.

38

James, I thought it was Alonso who took issue to Massa’s driving at Nurburgring 2007 not vice-versa?

I dig both these drivers, I hope they both flourish this season and one of them captures the title.

39

James

I don’t mean this in a bad way but we all read the press releases and news stories. I think what would be interesting if you could give us you insight as to why you think there will be fireworks at the team this year as you stated previously. Or who you believe out of the two will come on top and why.

To make it fair, I simply think that ferarri being who they are count on alonso to outclass massa with as a result fm playing second fiddle just as Rubens was forced to. I think the problem may be as I think you will agree, ferarri might not be on rbr pace in 2010.

Besides all this I would love to see you views or anyone elses on the predicament of young mr. Rosberg. I actually think that if he is smart ( and I hear he is unlike many f1 drivers) he sees this as a massive opportunity. All he needs to do is work like mad, ignore the press totaly till after race 1 and try to beat MS while MS is trying to find the grove.

40

I think he’ll just have to put his head down and consider it this way: I’ve got a 7 time world champion sitting in the other car – there must be a lot I can learn from this guy…

41

Nico could do far, far worse than being a second Massa to Schumacher, just look at how much improved Felipe has been since his Sauber days.

Getting hit in the head by a spring during qualifying though, is strictly not recommended…

It all depends on how much pride Rosberg (both younger and older) are willing to swallow…

42

I think if I was Nico would of been over the moon with being signed by the world championship team. Getting paired with a 7 times champion would be causing me some discomfort right now. winning the mind game while he is getting back up to speed I think is the way forward.

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