What Felipe Massa has to do this weekend
Scuderia Ferrari
What Felipe Massa has to do this weekend
Posted By: James Allen  |  26 May 2010   |  2:46 pm GMT  |  74 comments

This weekend at the Turkish Grand Prix a lot of attention is likely to fall on Felipe Massa.

A three times winner of the Istanbul race, this is a weekend when he needs to show that he still has it in him to take Ferrari to the winner’s circle and to run his team mate Fernando Alonso close. If Red Bull still has a big margin over the rest, as is expected, then Massa’s minimum task is to beat Alonso.

Massa: The heat is on in Turkey (Darren Heath)

He should have great confidence he can achieve this on a track which he “owns” and where he even had the edge on then team mate Michael Schumacher in 2006. Massa has always been outstanding on the Tilke designed anti clockwise track and this weekend will be a vital opportunity to restore confidence, especially as there is contract renewal talk in the air.

“I hope everything will work well, the tyres especially, ” said Massa on the Ferrari.com website. “If everything works perfectly I think we can have a competitive car. It’s a track which I love to race on, I enjoy driving this track and I won three times in five races.”

Massa’s recent performances have been rather tentative. He was given a new chassis, but in Spain he never found the sweet spot and was off the pace.

Whatever anybody says to the contrary, the arrival of Alonso has certainly changed his world and it appears that Massa is struggling to breathe in the team when Alonso is skilled at consuming much of the air.

As well as the psychological side, there is also a technical reason for his mini-slump; he does seem to have a problem with the 2010 specification Bridgestone tyres, particularly the harder compounds. His competitiveness dropped off sharply in Spain once he fitted the harder tyre at the pit stop. Alonso seems to get more from the tyre.

In Istanbul this weekend the tyre allocation is the same as Spain, namely the soft and hard compounds, the hardest in the range. This is due to the demands of the notorious multi apex Turn 8, which puts a huge load in the tyre, particularly the front right. Massa’s long runs on the tyre will be scrutinised carefully to see if he and the team have found a set up solution.

Massa’s job in Spain was also made harder by the way he had to move his left hand away from the wheel to control the switch for the F Duct rear wing. According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Massa has his steering wheel more advanced than Alonso and so his hand had to travel further to operate the switch.

This weekend Ferrari will have a revised version of its drag reducing rear wing. The team has modified the driver management system so that instead of the driver activating the switch to cut drag by closing a valve using the outside of his hand, he now uses his knee, like the McLaren drivers.

But there is also additional modification to make sure that the wing still works to its maximum potential when it is switched “off”. In Spain the team found that, while improving straight line speed, it also harmed the overall downforce of the car in medium and high speed corners. Like the KERS system the team had last year, a system which was supposed to improve competitiveness actually made the car more difficult to drive.

Nicolas Todt, Massa’s manager said that he is optimistic that his man will renew his deal at Ferrari, for which he receives a retainer of around €12 million per season. But it is known that Ferrari is studying Robert Kubica’s form, the Pole is a favourite of FIAT boss Sergio Marchionne. There has been talk of Mark Webber being under examination as well, but recently it seems that he is moving closer to a renewal with Red Bull.

Massa is known to have taken soundings with Red Bull and Renault about a seat for 2011 should his contract not be renewed.

Todt also underlined that the team is working to resolve Massa’s issue with the tyres and that people shouldn’t rush to judgement on him just yet,
“We’ve seen that in races with supersoft tyres Felipe has been level with Alonso, like in Monaco and Bahrain,” said Todt in Autosprint magazine.

“The truth is that he has problems with hard tyres, because the car doesn’t have enough load for his driving style and he struggles more to control the car compared with Alonso.”

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I’m backing Massa to finish 3rd this weekend behind the two Red Bulls. By driving conservatively this season, he is only 17 points off the lead and statistically, still has a fair shot at the Drivers’ World Championship. He has a few banker tracks under his built, and Istanbul is one of them. Granted he didn’t do well here last year, but the Ferrari is in far better shape this season. In my view, worse case scenario, he’ll get 15 points this weekend and cement his position at Ferrari for this season at least.


A McLaren could spoil the party given its performance on these type of circuits this year. Button mainly because of his fabled love affair with tires is a likely threat to the Red Bulls and the Ferraris.


Has anyone noticed that F1 drivers *always* blame their tyres when they are struggling for pace?

“A bad workman blames his tools”, right?

Maybe there’s some truth in it, or maybe the drivers have all discovered it’s a nice trick for explaining away your own inconsistency.

Wouldn’t a truly great driver work out how to adapt his driving to the tyres?

Nevertheless, I don’t know why there is so much pressure on Massa, as for all his troubles he has outscored Alonso in 3/6 races.


“A bad workman blames his tools”, right?

Should the guys in HRT, Lotus and Virgin not blame their cars? or even those in Williams and Force India?


The meaning of the proverb is that if someone always has an excuse whenever their performance is questioned, it might be because they are dodging responsibility for their own mistakes.

I don’t think this really applies to the slower teams, because everyone can see that the drivers are trying their best with poor equipment.

Romeo ( MEX in USA)

3 races ? 1. OZ – Alonso did not try to pass him after Massa was slower and close the door on him, 2. Malaysia – No gears and 3. Monaco – starting from the pit lane. Better to say Alonso is 3rd in the championship points even with severe problems.


Alonso’s “severe problem” in Monaco was his inability to keep his own car out of the barriers.

In Australia, his “severe problem” was ending up behind Massa and being unable to pass him.

Romeo ( MEX in USA)

LOL. That’s all you got. Don’t take me wrong I like Massa. I am sorry for him loosing the championship when Glock sell himself to McLaren. Worst than Piquet, He should have been banned for life, I am just glad he is vanished to Virgin. That is my feelings because I have always supported Massa.

Alonso is a better and faster driver. A better developer and has done more for Ferrari, better than Schumi did. It is not my opinion alone. Alonso was nice enough to not start a war early in the championship, but in China he was not going to seat behing the slow car. about your comment on Monaco. Alonso did not have any tires after racing in one set. Massa in the same situation would have not been able to pass Alguersari or Trulli.

Also about your 3 out of 6 the other side of the coin is even more dramatic.


Hear me out, but I don’t know if Massa has been any, or at least much, worse compared to Alonso as Button has been to Hamilton.

Button made some great tyre calls that won him two races, but in Bahrain, Spain and Monaco, he never looked like threatening Hamilton, really, just as Massa didn’t look paticularly close to Alonso in China and Spain.


I would guess Lewis is in a worse situation than Massa – he has no team to go to if Button wallops him this season a matter on which to be sincere the jury in still out. If a gap opened at Renault, it would be filled by Massa; if it opened up at Red Bull it would again be filled by Massa. The pressure is phenomenally higher on Lewis than on Massa and at the moment he is not handling it well. Apparently he has a bit of a reputation to keep of having never been beaten by a team mate … but there is a first time for everything and 2010 looks scary.


I sort of doubt McLaren would kick out Lewis.


I prefer Lewis but you said it yourself there. Lewis has no races and Button has won two. End of story.


In my opinion, the Massa-bashing is already a bit out of control. Yes, he was in the same pace with Alonso in the first race and then he lost the sweet spot for the tyres. But from there to say that he needs to go home is a loooong shot. Massa has proved his value to Ferrari having teammates as Schumacher and Raikonen, and still brought 11 wins to the team. It’s not that he is being slower than a rookie, as happened to Alonso at McLaren. Alonso destroyed one car entirely and two engines this season and is a genius. So please, let’s get a bit real here.

I have been reading a report of a long conversation from Massa with brazilian reporters. One of them was Livio Oricchio, whom I guess James knows from the press centers around the world.

According the Livio’s report, in that chat Massa said three very important things (and I will translate from portuguese).

1) “There isn’t a driver that, with the same car, is regularly half a second or six tenth faster than me. The day that happens it will be the moment for me to go home”. This shows his confidence is still sharp. He admitted that Alonso was able to do better with the same tyres but the he is nor ready to throw the towel.

2) “I was 110% happy with the car during tests. Was 100% happy with the car in Bahrein. Today I am 10% happy”. Acording to him, for some reason he suddenly found himself unable to reach the right temperature of his tyres, while Alonso does it. “There is something in the way I drive and I need to discover. Maybe Fernando’s way of driving, scratching the tyres more on the track, is more efficient with this tyres”. I remember a Ferrari team member saying the same about Massa and Kimi, but then it was Kimi who was unable to reach the right temperature. According to that source, Massa set his car to ‘attack’ the corner more aggresively and Kimi was more concentrated in reaching good speed at the exit. They were able to work the diferential but there was a price to pay interms of tyre use.

3) “I am not worried, at all, about the renewal of my contract with Ferrari”. Given that his manager is called Todt, maybe there is some truth in that.

In any case, it is very rare to read someone saying that Button is better in the championshiop that Hamilton, and that proves that Lewis is rubbish, that he need to go home. Or that Rosberg has been faster than Schumacher so Michel is a loser that needs to retire. But this scenario applies to Massa, a driver who has nothing to prove on the track. I truly do not understand that.

I don’t expect a miracle from Massa in Turkey. That kind of expectation (oh, now he needs to win to prove something) is unrealistic. Also, he doesn’t need to go wild to be faster that Alonso.


well, what i have seen of Massa is that he warms up to the game rather slowly – but when he does, he is a very robust driver. In his first season with Ferrari, Kimi took the WDC but by 2008, Massa had caught up and on top of his game.

Traditionally his start to the season has not been so good so much so that this is being rated as his best start ever. I would therefore be cautious throwing mud at him. However not to take anything away from Alonso – if Massa does not pull up his socks, it will be put down that it is because he was intimidated by Alonso rather than the traditional reasons that have seen him underperform at this time of the season in the past. Turkey, his circuit is also his best opportunity to reverse the tide of critism and avoid the looming shadow of Alonso. Of course he could do it later, but there is less damage to manage now than then.


You try to defend Massa from exaggerated criticism, but then throw this statement:

“It’s not that he is being slower than a rookie, as happened to Alonso at McLaren.”

Fact is Massa is slower than Alonso. I guess the “six tenths” joke is not funny anymore.


Massa is not 6 tenths slower than Alonso. He is struggling to set the car up to cope with both types of tyres. When Bridgestone bring the softer compound like in Bahrain and Monaco he is every bit as fast as Alonso.

I’m not saying this as an excuse, but an explanation.

The only fact is that if he does not solve this, his championship and Ferrari career are in trouble.

Romeo ( MEX in USA)

Felipe better think before he speaks. He is 6/10 slower than Fernando just look at Q and race times.


Alonso is among the top-3 fastest drivers in F1 this season. Vettel and Lewis are the other two. Kimi would be tops again, had he stayed in F1. Massa may not be as much as 6 tenths slower than Alonso, but he is definitely slower, new tires or not. And as far as overall driving skill is concerned, the difference is very substantial.


Horacio! That comment was amazing, thankyou. I am so sick of Massa not getting the respect he deserves. I think amongst the actual racers he does, but for some reason so many fans don’t rate him like they should. You don’t win the same race three years in a row if you aren’t something special. I hope this brings out the aggressive side of Felipe, as his half a second comment revealed. Just 6 races in and the silly season has begun, but I have high hopes Massa will pull out a win, or two or three! I’m beginning to think getting rid of Kimi was a bad idea, he was just as fast as Alonso, yet didn’t feel the need to dominate the team with his ego or pull any ridiculous stunts, he just quietly went about and did his job, a consummate professional, much in the way Massa is. His dignity at Interlagos in 08 showcased that. Let all the hot head drivers like Schumacher and Alonso drive for someone else, the Scuderia deserves better.


Massa had the edge on schumacher in 2006 – did he?

schumacher was faster by a big margin in Q2, and had superior race pace. He couldn’t get the lead back due to a safety car which meant he had to queue up behind Massa in the pits.


Massa needed worry about anyone other than Alonso. However, it will not be easy pickin’s. Alonso knows he’s on the verge of running the team and he’ll be doing everything he can to beat Massa. Massa has to answer up.

Forget about Red Bull .. they’ll be way out in front and embarrassing the entire field like they did in Spain.


I personally don’t see how Felipe, or Alonso for that matter, is going to win this race. As James said, the best Felipe can hope for is best of the rest.

If Red Bull don’t have any reliability problems it will be another 1, 2 for them. They are definitely in a sweet spot right now with their car.




Fingers crossed for Massa!


I’m sure Ferrari is re-evaluating their decision on dumping Raikkonen. Not that it matter much now!

Nice article as always!


Another option may be for Massa to do a JV and join NicolasTodt’s ART F1 team if they do make it into F1 next year.


interesting, but I don’t think he can afford to spend a few years at the back of the field, especially if he doesn’t assert himself this year and come out shining. If he has a bad year, he may never get a drive with a front running team again, and will be stuck with a new and developing team (like jaques was)


Interesting find!

If that’s true, that means that McLaren tried to get Raikkonen, Massa, Barrichello and maybe even Heidfeld before Button…


It is!!

Whats makes it bad for Massa is that he was just about to renew with Ferrari after Hungary. Shame, as he lost out to more than we all realised.

Forza Massa


I am happy that the whole F-duct stuff will not be allowed next year. I admit that McLaren engineers have done a good job. But it is a loophole anyway. FIA did not forbid moveable aerodynamic devices with intention to encourage teams to try reaching the same effect in this way. I believe that drivers should not do this kind of gymnastics when they are in their cars. The fact that Massa had problems to adjust his driving style just confirms my doubts.

Of course, F1 is all about innovations and new technologies but I believe that these should be in areas like development of engines, front wings, tyres etc.


With all the dials and buttons on a modern F1 steering wheel do you really think that this was a big problem? I’d have thought that changing the brake balance heading into each corner was a much more tricky thing.


I fail to see how this is any different to when Schumacher was there. Same challenge. He should be well able to beat Alonso this weekend judging by his previous form at Turkey.


The difference is that when MS was there he was the undisputed #1, as far as anyone can tell. With Alonso new in the team, Massa had/has a chance of asserting himself, if he can do it.


Ferrari seem to have fallen into this habit of making someone a fallguy in recent years, be it either of the drivers, management or the technical staff. I guess someone should get the blame when a championship is lost.


james do u think the back straights offer anychance to ferrari and mclaren this weekend or will the fact redbull will be going so much faster through turn 8 mean they escape them on the first lap anyway. any early tips for the weekend ahead


Excellent point. Dominating the other corners at the expense of the straights seems to have worked for them elsewhere.

Beyond that, sometimes you can be quicker down a straight if you have more downforce, for the simple fact that you exited the previous corner that much faster.

Red Bull might get out of the last corner before the straight 10 mph faster, and then have that advantage most of the way down the straight.


(10 mph is optimistic… I just used a big, round number as an example)


I don’t have the data, but corner speeds can vary a lot. If I remember Spain correctly, Martin Brundle was suggesting that in turn 9 on the back straight, the Red Bulls were a gear higher than the rest of the field (not equal revs). So your 16 km/h could be close to the mark.


I think maybe that the Red Bulls will own the track this weekend!


I meant to say Felipe needs to talk to the great champions of F1


yeah, but then you went on to include Nelson Piquet???


Felipe has a handful for this weekend.. I pray and hope that the weather is going to be warm and Ferrari find a set-up solution to produce more downforce and consequently more heat for his tyres. That is for the short term stuff..

For the long run I would talk to the great champions of formula one. He needs to the Nelson Piquets of the world for that extra edge off the track (politics, car set-up and car development), Emerson Fittipaldi (persistence and smoothness in driving)and Jackie Stewart (for overall driving technique). Maybe then he will be able to get a little extra edge over Alonso…


Hi James

I agree that Massa is almost unbeatable in Turkey but that he had the edge over Schumacher in 2006????? Schumacher was 8 laps heavier than he was and fuel corrected, I doubt that he had an edge.


Exactly, I was just about to make the same point myself.

The only reason Massa outqualified Schumacher in 2006 is that Schumacher was so confident of beating Massa that he loaded the car with extra fuel and then made a mistake on his qualifying lap.

Prof Bolshaviks

Didn’t Schumacher finish behind due to an unfortunate safety car pit lane stacking incident?


This weekend will definitely be a big test for Massa. Considering how good/quick he’s been at this track in the past, if he doesn’t manage to beat or even match Alonso’s speed, his contract may definitely be in trouble. Although it’s good for Ferrari and Alonso to have a clear #1 and #2 driver ala Schumacher era, i believe that the #2 should be able to match his teammate in order to push him to excel.



I believe the good journalists are supposed present objectivity. I recon you are good journo however it seems to me it is worth to start making notes about your controversial opinions regarding the drivers. What srikes me with that article is: “struggling to breathe in the team when Alonso is skilled at consuming much of the air.” I find this as a negative opinion on Alonso. I’m not fan of Alonso but I would like to read more neutral commentaries that are not intended to trigger negative emotions. Best Rgrd.


Pawel, that’s B/S! James’ metaphoric description is excelent, IMO, and it gives us readers a chance to interprate as we wish, but I think most of us would reach a similar conclusion. Also you could see it as building up Alonso’s skills at getting the team to lean in his direction, hardly negative!

You remind me of a woman I know, if there is two ways to see something she always sees the worst.



Journalists are supposed to get at the truth.


Alonso is more skilled at grouping the team around him and directing it. Once he has the focus of the main effort this leaves less for Massa.

James was merely giving a picture of the way things are, he used no adverbs against Alonso.

Elsewhere it has been written that Massa is in a safe Ferrari seat for next year.


Hi Pawel,

On this particular site James is not a journalist but a blogger. The main purpose of this website is to give us insights and opinions not found elsewhere. Take these as editorial pieces, if you’d like, on the world of Formula 1.

Keep up the great work James.



Midnight Toper

I for one felt it was wonderfully put, Bravo Mr Allen. Negative? what nonsene, it portrays the psychological impact that one competitor can have over another, by presence alone. A reader with a winning mentality would reflect positively on Alonso for his ability to shape and mould the team around himself.

Out of interest, do you really expect a respected and successful journalist to change his or her magical writing formula in order to cater for your taste? If so, have you spared a thought for the rest of us loyal readers who enjoy the blog as it is. Dammned impertinent of you if you asked me.

It’s a free market, if you don’t like what you read may I suggest you look elsewhere, the Guardian springs to mind.

Allen, take no notice of the man. Business as usual please.

Zobra Wambleska

Seems to me that this is a sport driven by passion not pablum and James certainly is entitled to his passion, that is why we like his coverage.


Yes — and with total respect for your efforts.


A negative opinion is not necessarily bias. I think even the most rabid of Alonso fans would be at pains to deny that Alonso has had the run of most teams he has been in, with a highly notable exception of McLaren.


The reason why I come here is for James’ opinion. I go to Autosport for news, and I come here for insight.

This is an editorial blog, therefore you should expect to see more than news. James is a well-versed, well-known and well-connected member of the paddock, and has a good insight on what goes on. If you disagree with his insight or opinion, that’s what the comment section is for. If you disagree with him writing his opinions on his editorial blog, then perhaps you should stick to more traditional news outfits, such as Autosport (but for heaven’s sake, avoid their editorial columns, as more opinions will be found!).


More than breathing, Massa needs to learn to use the hard tires and quickly. To blame performance on tires is unacceptable when your teammate is doing just fine. Hell would be braking loose on Alonso for saying something like that if the situation was reversed.

Stephen Kellett

A negative opinion of Alonso? You’re kidding, what James wrote indicates that he thinks Alonso does a better job of moulding the team around him than Massa does. How is that a negative about Alonso? He is showing how well Alonso operates!


I think they did the wrong thing booting out Raikkonen. Massa should of gone not him. Raikkonen and Alonso would of been the strongest line up ever.


i would guess that when this proposal was put to Kimi he flatly told Ferrari “its either me or Alonso” – hence the boot


hey guys. don´t you think all this chit chat about alonso can´t take fast drivers as team mates, blah blah blah, has gone a bit too far? For sure, the year at McLaren was a disgrace, but you could put as much responsibility on Dennis and Hamilton himself, not because Hamilton wasn´t supposed to drive like a demon which he did, but rather because he chose to play the politics game to lure the team to his side. Alonso lost there and he should´ve managed the situation better, but so should have the team as a whole.

But your arguments are always the same: “alonso can´t take fast drivers, Massa will give him a run for his money, and he´ll end up throwing the toys out of the pram…”. Well? I´m still waiting… ok, it turns out now that Massa was always a substandard driver… aaaawright what next? Webber? Kubica? he won´t handle them you say, wait and see I say, maybe yes maybe no, but you guys have been proven wrong loads of time already. The most funny thing is you deny the fact that Alonso as any other ordinary person might learn from his own mistakes and tame his instincts, but conversely you support Kimi who never had any interest in improving his flaws: mainly lack of interest, ambition, involvement… oh well, it might make sense to you, but not to me.


i would agree with you – if Ferrari keep Massa then lets wait and see. Things took their time in McLaren in 2007 so i am guessing there is still time to wait. However if Ferrari do not renew Massa then my guess would be that is a pretty good sign the relationships are strained as most suspected in which case Alonso would have managed to kick out Kimi and Massa in a space of one year just by sheer presence – which would be admirable in its own right.

But one wonders, is the relationship at Ferrari as cordial as the ones at McLaren or Red Bull for example? Unfortunately the sneaky pit pass at Shanghai did not help so its likely the stereotype will stay for a bit longer. Let us wait and see that Alonso actually learnt from 2007 and if so, what he learnt. It may be that there was nothing to learn.


Alonso only likes team mates he can beat from day one. Kimi was a shadow of his former self and he wont be back to F1. Alonso would have fired Kimi up with his arrogance and they would have ended up just like Alonso and Hamilton.

Mark would have to be on drugs to team mate Alonso, they are mates now but that wouldn’t last long after Mark started out qualifying him.


Kimi wouldn’t have been ruffled by Alonso at all. He’s the last person to be aggravated by a team-mate. It would have been an interesting pairing.


The other way. Alonso would self destruct because Kimi was driving well.


clearly Alonso is going to restrict Ferrari’s options on the number two driver in the team. Their most acceptable second driver for Alonso’s ego is either a rookie or a new-team driver from Lotus, HRT or Virgin ie guys who will take a Ferrari drive on their CV as a good sign for the future or a good way to go.


Rubbish! Raikkonen cost a lot more than Massa and produced little more, and often significantly less, in terms of results. There was also a lot of discussion about him giving less to the team, doing less testing and contributing less to development.


Yeah, maybe if Raikkonen gave a shit about F1. Massa was doing laps around Raikkonen at the time. Sure, Kimi got a ton of “fastest laps” so he was still fast – but it never produced results.


Aside from a WDC in 2007, yes no results.


Raikkonen became unstable and emotional as soon as he found out that his seat had been sold to Alonso – which happen a long time ago. You can see it early on in his body language with the Ferrari team, esp on the podium etc.

They showed no loyalty to Kimmi, and he spent ~18 months cruising around circuits and waving to the crowd. I am no Kimmi fan, but he was treated unfairly by Ferrari who tore through everything to get Alonso and to uphold their promises to Massa


Which if I wanted to be picky I could point out was lost by Lewis with a dishonourable mention going to McLaren who let him down, nevermind the competition from Alonso.

Jose Arellano



no chance of that happening, alons would go crazy cos kimi would beat him almost at will


Like he did Massa.

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