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Why would Massa help Alonso?
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Why would Massa help Alonso?
Posted By: James Allen  |  19 Oct 2010   |  4:11 pm GMT  |  186 comments

There is a lot of attention on Felipe Massa at the moment, despite the fact that he is not a contender for the World Championship.

He has been the subject of speculation about whether he will retain his drive next year, while recently he has received encouraging words from Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, which is a mixed blessing, like a chairman’s “vote of confidence” in a football manager.

The Ferrari website has identified his “key role” in the next three races and he himself has said that “the best thing I can do to help Ferrari’s and Fernando’s aspirations.”


Ferrari are 92 points behind Red Bull with 129 points available. So if Red Bull score an average of 13 points in each of the final races Ferrari cannot win the title. This is highly likely given that Red Bull has comfortably averaged 26 points a race this season.

So Massa is driving now for Alonso’s championship. It’s not a racing driver’s normal objective and it must be hard to find the motivation to put it all on the line for a team mate who’s made your life difficult all year.

If he can take points away from Alonso’s rivals, particularly the Red Bulls, then it gives Alonso more of a chance of winning the title.

Korea is a bit of an unknown, but it looks like it could be good for Ferrari. If that were the case then Massa’s role would be important, a 1-2 finish would really shake things up. Brazil will favour the Red Bulls, but Massa is normally outstanding around Interlagos and can clearly play a role.

I’m in the process of pulling together the text for my end of season book and it’s fascinating to look at the arc of Massa’s season from his emotional return from injury, to his cautious words about Alonso at the Ferrari pre season event in Madonna di Campiglio, to his feelings after outqualifying Alonso in Bahrain then after being beaten by him in the race. He was then subjected to Alonso’ aggressive pass in the pit lane in China and then we had the infamous team order to hand the win in Germany to the Spaniard.

Massa is a confidence driver, as good an example of one as you will find in Grand Prix racing. When his confidence is up, as it was in 2008, he’s amazing and can perform incredible feats. His race engineer, Rob Smedley, must take a lot of credit for that as he is not only a superb engineer, but he’s also like a motivational coach in his driver’s ear. He’s lifted Massa’s spirit to many of his great achievements.

All drivers are affected by confidence to a degree, but the hard ones, like Alonso and Schumacher back in his day, seem to perform whatever is going on around them, of course they make mistakes, but their performance doesn’t fluctuate due to confidence.

It’s been clear for most of Massa’s season that Alonso has simply “done his head in”, as the saying goes in F1. Obviously the final straw was Hockenheim, but he’d had his head down before then. As with Schumacher’s form this year, the blame is being laid on the tyres, in Massa’s case his struggles to deal with the harder compounds, but his real problem starts not with a “T” but with an “A”.

It will be interesting to see the response he gets in Sao Paolo as Brazilian colleagues tell me the Brazilian fans were very disappointed in him for moving over in Germany and he will be well aware of that, having spent a lot of time over there since then. They loved him for his fighting spirit in 2006 and 2008, but they were angry that he capitulated in Hockenheim.

He’s operating in a tough environment; in team mate match-ups among the leading drivers, Massa’s defecit to Alonso in qualifying is one of the largest. Most of the time Alonso has had two or three tenths on him, sometimes more. Although they start again from zero next season, it’s hard to see why 2011 will turn out any different from 2010.

Ferrari has stated clearly that Massa is to be retained next season, he signed a new two year deal in the summer, although Italian sources insist that it’s 2011 with an option on Ferrari’s side for 2012.

He’s a driver who looks like he needs a change of air to me, but there isn’t anywhere else for him to go and you don’t leave Ferrari out of choice.

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1

Poor Filipe. Nice guy and all that, but when your team-mate DOMINATES you in the way Alonso has this year, what can he do about it? Probably not a lot. Time to move on I reckon.

2

Fernando Alonso seems to be a gift that keeps on giving for Ferrari fans.

“In terms of happiness, motivation, driving, the team itself, it’s my best season,” Alonso has just told the media. “It would be nice to become champion this year but if we cannot do it I will still have great memories of 2010.”

I cannot tell you what a difference this guy’s declared enjoyment of the team and its ethos makes after the silent Raikkonnen years — or the Schumacher years, when Michael construed to make it appear the team owed “him” for every win.

That is why Massa has lost his mojo a bit. As long as the Finn was at Ferrari, Felipe could be the “nice guy”.

Now he just comes across as somewhat of a thankless whinger who does not credit the Scuderia for keeping his seat warm while he recovered from his crash — something very few other teams would have done.

3

I Dont think Alonso is unable to work with another great driver. Massa simply drive like a no2 driver this year, Simple as that.

All this judgment on Alonos is going by the season he spent with Lewis, when it was Lewis who was the one who ignored in team rules and stole Alonos qualifying lap and would not give it back when the team asked him to… this is what started that one off.

This season it was Ferrari that asked Alonso to move at that time, Alonso was only annoyed early in the race when Massa was slow and holding Alonso up while Vettel was closing in.

When Massa let him pass later in the race the first thing Alonso said on the radio at thew end of the race was “Is Massa ok?” and he did not celebrate on the podium. that does not sound like a driver who is happy to oppress another drivers race.

And the truth is every team would have done it, though maybe with a little more style admittedly.

4

Compare to many ex-f1 drivers including Juan-Pablo Montaya, Massa have already out-achieved his talent due to many reasons. I believe he has been relatively lucky in his F1 career apart from the terrible accident last year.

I don’t know what exactly in his mind coming into season 2010. I wish he will learn something from what Nico Rosberg has been doing this season. Somewhere I heard him saying he wants to challenge Alonso again next season. I hope he did his careful analysis with Rob before making that statement. I personally doesn’t believe that’s a smart stratgy to start with. You don’t want to set a goal that you have little chance to achieve.

5

massa has to take alonso out of the equation, mentally, and just focus on winning the 3 remaining races. if, in the process, he finds that alonso is behind him in 2nd, then, bad luck, but he has to let him through. if, in the process, he finds alonso NOT in 2nd, then he is more than welcome to take the win. he would still be helping alonso by depriving a rival of the win and the 7 points which that represents. plus he would be bolstering his reputation and prooving his speed.

6

Tristan, you hit the nail right on top of it.

7

Massa is a clear #2 to Alonso. If he stays on in 2011, he will be a clear #2 to Alonso again. He is a bit better than mediocre, but just a bit. Oh, and it would help if he could somehow drive in the rain.

8

Whether or not people like the concept of a number one driver, it is a status that is earned. Alonso earned it this year, Kimi earned it in 2007, Massa himself earned it in 2008 and Schumacher, of course, was point man of the entire Ferrari-resurgence. Going back further: Senna earned it and then contractually enforced it by demanding the power to veto any prospect for the car next to him.

If Massa is a number two driver next year, it will be because he couldn’t beat Alonso earlier in the season. If any team order shenanigans rear their (admittedly very ugly) head, it will be when he has already fallen behind.

Massa is a nice guy and a quick driver who can do great things ‘on his day’. Alonso is surly, ruthless and a bit of a pantomime villain but technically more than worthy of all the praise the other drivers and the engineers lavish on him. That makes it doubly fun when he is beaten or at least overtaken by a sympathetic guy like Felipe or a promising rookie.

Unfortunately for Felipe, I think there are only two- at most three, drivers on the grid that have a chance of equalling (let alone beating) him in the same car and the likeable Brazilian is not one of them.

9

Here’s the thing: the fact that Ferrari hired Raikkonen when Schumacher retired, and then Alonso when the Finn called it a day speaks volumes. If Massa was capable of leading the Scuderia, then they wouldn’t have found the need to hire the other two, would they? Having watched over Massa for his entire career (since even before Sauber in ’02), perhaps Ferrari has seen for quite some time that he truly doesn’t have what it takes to be a champion.

A lot of people like to say he proved his ability to fight for the title in ’08 and that he was just unlucky. I don’t think so… Rather, 2008 flattered to deceive: Raikkonen’s motivation was on the slide, Hamilton was still going through a steep learning curve, and Alonso was in an uncompetitive car. So in fact 2008 was Massa’s lucky year, yet he still failed to deliver. If you look at it from another point of view, what 2008 said about Massa was despite having a very competitive car all season, despite battling a relative rookie, and despite being favored by the FIA at critical times (Belgian GP), he still couldn’t get the job done. Yes, he was unlucky in Singapore and Hungary, but he also blew it for himself a lot of times: colliding in Oz, spinning in Malaysia, giving up on catching Piquet for 2nd in Hockenheim, spinning countless times in Britain, losing his head in Fuji, etc.

If he’s pinning his hopes on the reset button in 2011 (with regards to the Pirelli tires) then he’s dreaming. Remember, back in ’07 most of the Michelin runners struggled with the Bridgestones – none more so than Alonso and to some extent, Raikkonen. Yet despite this, Alonso was still a constant title contender and would have in fact outqualified Hamilton 9-8 (rather than vice versa), and would have also perhaps won the title, had the FIA not intervened in what was an intra-team conflict in Hungary. Also, Massa had the upper hand on Kimi for most of mid-season, yet by the end of it he still ended up being beaten by the Finn to the championship. In fact, he (Massa) was nowhere near the championship! Ferrari and McLaren dominated 2007, and those top 3 guys all finished within a point of each other. Yet Massa – in the other Ferrari – was a distant fourth…..

10

I wouldn’t say that Kimi “called it a day”. When Ferrari brought Alonso’s entrance forward they had to choose which one of their established drivers to sack. The fact that they choose to retain Massa may have been partially due to his accident (as in, they didn’t want to seem too callous) but suggests at least some confidence in him.

Though I do like Massa, I have to admit that I agree 2008 was a hugely lucky year for him. He had absolutely everything going for him: the car, the stewards (on several occasions, not just Spa), Kimi moving over for him (devious Ferrari!) after being uncharacteristically uncompetitive, Hamilton’s inexperience and he just didn’t do it.

As much as I think he comes across as a nice guy in interviews and such, the selectiveness of his and his fans’ memories of 2008 really annoys me. I suppose slight lapses in his own memory can be excused (Hohoho!) his apologists (for lack of a better word) were apparently not watching the same races as the rest of us (though Hamilton-hate is often a factor as well).

The fact that Massa was himself beneficiary of “team orders” in ’08 makes it all the more galling that people are so furious on his behalf about the Hockenheim episode. Sure it was barely past the halfway mark of the season instead of at the end but it was clear Massa was not going to be a contender this year whereas Alonso was juuuust within reach but needed (and still needs) every point he could get. I’m not saying McLaren and Red Bull fans haven’t got a legitimate gripe, just that Massa fans should be quiet about it, like he is.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that if Massa has another terribly lucky year (particularly at the start) and he gets the better of Alonso, Ferrari would, in similar circumstances, probably give him the “more equal than others” status (again!). Of course, it’s a pretty big IF. Beating Alonso on merit is difficult for even the best drivers on the grid and this year was Massa’s best opportunity (with Alonso coming into HIS team, a known vulnerability). And he once again didn’t make the most of it… not even nearly.

Finally, getting the most out of a car that is sub-par or that you are simply not comfortable with, is what separates the truly great drivers from the merely fast ones. The gap between Alonso and Felipe this season (minus seven points perhaps) represents that difference.

11

Well hopefully Ferrari/Alonso will return the favour if Massa gets in the same position in the future, and I’m sure that’s one of the reasons why Massa is doing this.

Of course its ironic that Alonso expects Felipe to help him when Alonso could have given the 2007 championship to Lewis only by slowing down on the last lap.

12

Ur sooo wrong. It wouldn’t have mattered what alonso done on the last lap. Lewis needed 2 places not one

13

Indeed I am, thanks for correcting me.

14

This, by way of comparison, is the same rate of superiority that Kubica has had over Petrov. Enough said!

15

Some statistics (we love them). Alonso and Massa have now taken part in 84 pre-race sessions together. Alonso has been quicker in 73 (87%) of them. That breaksdown as follows:

Practice 1 = 12-3 Alonso (80%)

Practice 2 = 15-1 Alonso (94%)

Practice 3 = 13-1 Alonso (93%)

Q1 = 14-1 Alonso (93%)

Q2 = 10-3 Alonso (77%)

Q3 = 9-2 Alonso (82%)

Alonso has destroyed Massa this year. Alonso doesn’t need any help from Felipe to win the Championship. He proved that in Singapore.

VAI ALONSO!

16

Great stats mate!

17

Anyway, I do not think Webber is faster than Felipe even at his current low form.

18

Webber’s low form or FM….:)

19

It all depends if Mark Webber can ski.

If he cannot ski Ferrari will not take him to Madonna di Campiglio opening.

20

A bit off topic, but someone has to say it – this week’s banner is epic James, good job!

21

Thanks very much. I love it too! It’s one of the best we’ve had

22

Who else might replace Massa apart from Kubica?

23

I really don’t think their is anyone out there that wants to leave their current ride….IMO

24

Anyone, I guess.

25

James the average gap between Alonso and Massa in qualifying is 0.334.

The average gap between the two – as people -is about a mile.

Felipe should leave Ferrari for his own peace of mind and self respect.

26

Interesting article James but not sure if I agree with your closing remarks.Quite possibly my memory is getting a bit hazy! but I had the impression Rubens had a Ferrari contract for 2006, that the team were happy with his performances, but he simply got fed up of Schumi and asked to be released early?

From a Ferrari perspective I would like to keep Felipe as I can’t see quality drivers lining up to be Alonso’s dogsbody.But from Felipe’s perspective he would possibly be better off and almost certainly happier somewhere else.

27

The sole reason Massa has the number 7 car is to help Alonso till the end of 2010 season. That’s after he lost his chance to win the championship. We should not be sentimental, he has no obligation to outperform Alonso from now on.. Unless you want Ferrari to crumble, you should not suggest that…

Unfortunately, he is not even up to that that task. He should be stealing points from the Redbulls and McLarens for every single point counts now….

28

If i had my own racing team, i would expect the driver with no chance of the WDC (massa)to support my other driver.

I supply the car (team), you and your team mate go racing for the WDC, win me the constructors championship.

But if things dont work out for you, you WILL support my other driver! or your out!

Any team that lets the drivers do what they want, should be shot.

I own the team, i own the cars. I pay the team, I pay the drivers. Who is the boss?

this is business, like it or not!

29

The team bosses are telling him : help Alonso become champion, or you are out of the game. Or at least that’s the way I see it. Massa knows he’s second driver, and he can’t get out of that spell, unless he outperforms all of the leading five.

30

To begin with, a very clear story on Massa’s mental state. If it is indeedd as you say, then Alonso has done himself a huge disfavour by his behaviour towards his teammate earlier this season, especially China and Hockenheim. Because he now needs Massa to gain the title. However, the only way in which Massa has enough confidence to be able to help him if is allowed to win a race, which then automatically would be at the cost of Alonso. Had Alonso stayed behind Massa at Hockenheim, how different the story would have been. Alonso would still be number one at Ferrari, but then with a confident nr 2 who knows he can (and is allowed to) win the occasional race (just like Barrichello and Irvine with Schumacher) and in doing so can keep his confidence in himself and the team. Right now Massa is damned regardless of what he does. Beat Alonso? Ferrari won’t be happy.

Lose to Alonso? His fans and personal sponsors will not be happy.

It’s a typical catch-22, which can only be resolved by Alonso.

31

If Massa’s only problem was being number 2 driver at Ferrari, then he would come 3th in the driver’s standings. Massa is not having his year.

I think Massa is a great driver and I like very much his fighting spirit, but for whatever reason he is under performing.

Wouldn’t be Mercedes a good team for him? he could be Schumacher’s no 2 (as he used to) for one or two seasons, and then no 1.

My best wishes to him anyway.

32

So many people have said that they feel sorry for Massa, but I don’t get it. What right do we have to feel sorry for him, really? He gets to do what he loves and earns a shitload of cash, has a happy family, and is just generally more successful than most. He doesn’t need any pity.

Then again, I guess I kinda get it, in a way. It’s a good feeling, being sorry for others, isn’t it? It makes you feel better about yourselves.

I have never been a Massa fan, and I doubt I ever will. From the moment he said he would gladly be helping MS to get the championship, EVEN BEFORE ever stepping into a Ferrari car (in 2006), I knew that he would never be a WC. He doesn’t lack the talent, he just doesn’t have the right mindset.

33

Looks like Massa’s not in a good position. If he helps Alonso, he will surely receive endless slugging especially from his fellow countrymen.

But if Massa does not help Alonso Ferrari will be disappointed with him, hence his seat will be reconsidered even though they signed him for 2011 and 2012.

What happens if he make mistakes? Can’t rule that out.

Look at what happened in Suzuka.

With his paycheck of 12 million a year, which team can match the hefty salary? The ball is in Massa’s court or Ferrari?

Those who dislike Alonso claim Massa can be faster or is faster. Not in my opinion though.

Go Mark Webber…oops.

34

It would interesting to speculate how much those 7 points gifted to Alonso by Massa in Germany really cost Ferrari. Ferrari thoroughly discouraged an obvious ‘motivational’ driver who they now need to work miracles to help their favored man win the F1 championship (given he has a least two drivers to beat). Maybe $1m each I’d say. They would be happy to pay that much to reverse that decision in Germany. And perhaps it is a lesson to others who might want to play the team game on how it should not be done – not that I necessarily have an issue with team orders as long as it is all transparent.

35

Why would MAssa help Alonso if required? Because he is a Ferrari driver and as he has no chance of winning the WDC while his teammate has, he is obligated to do so.

Of course if Massa wants to be seen as someone that is disloyal to his team and wreck his repuation, he will be obstructive and it will end him being fired from Ferrari.

If Massa ever believed he could beat Alonso, or thought the Spaniard would be like Raikonnen, then he ought to be considered delusional.

Welcome to the real world Felipe. You are teammate to the best driver in f1 today and gives no quarter.

It also reflects just how superb Hamilton’s first year was alongside Alonso. Good man is Lewis – and so nice his fans too.

NB: I am not a Lewis supporter by the way.

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