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Alonso’s “save” highlights Massa’s plight
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Posted By: James Allen  |  19 Mar 2012   |  7:39 am GMT  |  524 comments

Race day did not match expectations for the Ferrari team in Australia – it exceeded them. Fernando Alonso’s fifth place finish – essentially the position his Ferrari was in for much of last season in qualifying – was a very strong result from 12th on the grid. It is fair to say that the lowly grid slot was due to Alonso spinning off the track in Part 2 of Qualifying and he would probably have been more like seventh or eighth on the grid in a clean session.

But Alonso’s result also put the spotlight on his team mate’s difficulties this weekend. Felipe Massa had a nightmare weekend of uncompetitiveness, retiring from 13th place after a collision with Bruno Senna. “It couldn’t have gone any worse,” he told the Italian media after the race.

Massa looked uncomfortable on Friday and in qualifying was never on the pace. When Alonso spun off in Q2 he was lying 5th with a 1m 26.494s lap, while Massa at the time was on 1m 27.603. Massa had another run after his team mate’s withdrawal and was still 1.003s slower, qualifying 16th. He got a great start, up to 10th by taking advantage of the chaos in the first turn as Senna and Ricciardo collided, but his race pace was well short of Alonso’s in the opening stint. The Spaniard was into the low 1m 34s by lap three, while Massa took until lap 6 to get to 1m 34.6s. His fastest race lap – 1m 31.940 – was 1.7 seconds slower than Alonso’s (although it was set six laps earlier, so fuel corrected was 1.2 seconds slower).

The discussion throughout the pit lane all weekend was of how Ferrari have stood by their driver despite the results of the last two years. Now again that patience and loyalty is being tested. “We need to stay close to Felipe because it’s clear that he’s under pressure,” said team boss Stefano Domenicali. “I’ve asked his engineers to analyse the data on the car, also to reassure him.”

The Ferrari is a difficult car to drive with a narrow operating window at present. Alonso can deal with this better than Massa, although Alonso had a number of “moments” during the weekend, of which the spin in qualifying was the worst.

Massa is also still struggling to get the tyres to work and in the race was suffering worse tyre degradation than his team mate, which is a sign of not having the car well balanced. This is despite the hiring of Mr Hamashima, formerly technical boss of Bridgestone.

Where does the situation go from here? Massa must quickly regroup and get on top of his problems, clearly. Last year he was able to get away with being over half a second slower than Alonso because the gap back to the next fastest team – Mercedes – was greater than that. This year that part of the grid is much more competitive. Mercedes and Lotus, even Williams and Sauber look to have the pace to vie for the top ten slots, so the difference between the two Ferrari drivers may result in grid slots with a large – and obvious – disparity.

The pressure which Domenicali referred to in Melbourne and which was highlighted pre-season by Ferrari president Montezemolo, is significant. But there is no obvious driver with whom Ferrari might replace him.

Sergio Perez is the closest thing, but he has a Sauber contract and in any case has less than 20 Grands Prix under his belt and that is not Ferrari’s style to go for an inexperienced driver. Mark Webber is the obvious choice for 2013, should Ferrari feel they need to move on.

Nobody wants to see a driver who was so combative in 2008 and so dignified in defeat at the end of that season, suffering like this.

It’s a headache for driver and team management alike.

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1
ROBERTO MARQUEZ

How very easy is to talk about Formula 1 drivers.To start in any given moment there migth be only 5 or 6 top performers ,in my humble opinion at this moment they are ( the order does not mean anything ) Hamilton. Button,Alonso,Checo Perez, Vettel and ?. Second the rules are making more and more difficult to judge the driver by his own abilities rather than those of the pit crew, the marshalls biased decisions,the tire strategy etc.The tires deserve a particulat chapter :do you think people like Fangio, Jack Braham, the late Ayrton Senna would agree to race on tires that come apart in 15 laps ? Do you honestly think that all tyres in a race have exactly the same properties, as an engineer we must assum there are variations that could be more important that somebody that drives agressively ? With the the abundance of pit stops it seems is not that important to make pole ? So to create a better show we castrate the better drivers. What will be the next idea ,cows in the middle of the track ?

3

James, It is quite clear that Massa is currenly being used as a ‘test driver’ for Alonso and being given the inferior car and conditions. I am disappointed that it has taken a Brazilian journalist to speak out?

4

Mmmmm. Not sure about that..

5

Time for Massa to exit. He’s had plenty of time to rediscover his form. To me it seems clear it’s just not there anymore. His raison d’etre seems to be to crash into whoever he finds himself sharing the track with.

6

I’ve been hearing some rumors since Australia that Trulli could be drafted in to replace Massa in the very near future!

James, you’re always a man with his ear to the ground – any substance to those rumors?

7

No. I don’t think so. Ferrari’s main priority now is to sort the car out. Maybe if Massa is still way off Alonso after Bahrain then they might look at putting someone else in the car for the Mugello test in May, but it’s not really their style

8

I wonder what Enzo Ferrari would have done by now.

From everything I have read, not the most patient of men, and maybe he would have been too politically incorrect these days.

Quote after Pironi crash in 1982, “Addio Campionato” Goodbye to the championship.

If he had made the mistake of hiring Massa in the first place, I couldn’t see him giving him a chance for the 2010 season anyway, he’d have kept Kimi and brought in Alonso.

9

Hi James,

Can you please comment why Massa always has another chassis not the same like Alonso (I already pointed to this above). See official info:

Massa had chassis in Australia : 293, but Alonso had 295.

Link: http://www.ferrari.com/English/Formula1/News/Headlines/Pages/120317-f1-australian-gp-alonso-and-massa-out-in-Q2-an-inauspicious-start-in-melbourne.aspx

Now they say that Massa will have another chassisin Malaysia: 294 but not 295 like Alonso, why ???!!!

10

Chassis number 294. He had 293 before and Alonso has 295. Car is the same

11

James what about your opinion on this…Now that Ferrari are actually bringing him a new chassis in this limited time frame, should Alonso destroy him again, will the Massa whiners with their conspiracy theories be satisfied? Or will the…injustice….continue?

12

Its really amazing how so many people have been so quick to write off various F1 drivers through the years based on often misunderstood and very complex situations. A situation exasperated in the new media age of instant messaging.

I recall during Jenson Buttons wilderness years 06/07/08 that he was completely written off, yet out of no where won the championship in 2009 and then moved to McLaren. Where once again according to all the high stool experts he would be savaged by Lewis Hamilton, this hasn’t happened so far… and so it goes.

I ve no doubt Massa is under pressure, intense pressure even, but drivers at this level are a very special breed and I’ve no doubt are, all fragile in their own way. Alonso’s tantrums at McLaren showed his all too human flaws and insecurity just as Hamiltons mood on the podium last Sunday allowed the world to read him as an open book – angry and frustrated.

I don’t accept Massa can’t drive a less than perfect car, his string of pre Hungary podiums in 2009 bear this fact as do certain sector times against Alonso even last year. But for sure he has problems in some areas and he is clearly a more percise or sensitive driver. Tyres seem to be a huge issue, look at Schumacher in 09/10 for example and his tyre struggles. But perhaps the Ferrari setup in the Alonso age has no room for a driver like Massa and if so his future lies with another team, William perhaps…

He is however, even on a poor day a vastly more capable and competent driver and complete team member than some of the alternatives mentioned elsewhere here and with 1 down and 19 to go, lets see how the season pans out.

A new chassis for Sunday appears an interesting step in the right direction.

Best of luck to Felipe and all the other 23 drivers on Sunday, who through their participation and sacrifice, provide us the fans, with such joy and entertainment and allow us mere mortals to participate in our own way on the fringes of truly awesome experience.

Thanks JA too for a great site.

13

Australia-Ret, Malaysia-9, China-Ret, Bahrain-14, Spain-6, Monaco-4, Turkey-6, Britain-4, Germany-3

Is this obscure? Sorry, these are Massa’s finishing positions in the 2009 WDC. As you may notice, there is no string of podiums.

Also, and being pedantic I know, but Schumacher had no tyre issues in 09, he was “retired”

14

Alonso is the best driver on the grid. No doubt about that. Massa was always going to struggle against him, coming from competing against a completely disinterested Raikkonen.

With regard to some of the comments about Lewis at the moment, well, he’s probably reaping what he sowed last year. He openly admitted he spent time partying with celebs and generally not putting in the required effort. In this time, Jenson has brought the team onside, remained completely professional and McLaren have clearly built a car around him.

The over the top sulky behaviour from Lewis in Australia was ridiculous, and would have done him no favours either. He was comprehensively hosed off by Jenson in equal equipment.

15

Go Massa go Massa you are a good boy.

16

I truly feel sorry for Massa, but in the F1 world when it’s time to go the drivers will be the first to know and feel it.

Filipe has never been the same after the Hungary incident. His decline is even worse now with the ‘hard to understand’ F2012.

Look at Stefano and Fry immediate flight back to HQ after Albert park.

Now who’s gonna be Nando’s team mate. Tough one.

17

James, I have just read that Ferrari are supplying Felipe with a new chassis for Malaysia.

Quote – In a statement on their website Ferrari said: “Work has already begun in the Sepang pits to prepare chassis number 294, which replaces the number 293 and will be used by the Brazilian in the second race of the season.

“This choice was taken to clear up any doubts about the unusual performance of his car during the weekend at Albert Park.”

So either ferrari are fully behind felipe or they are on the process of illimination ie of there no fault with the car then…

Be interesting to hear Rob Smedleys take on Australia, any chance you can raise the question to him in Malaysia?

Thanks for your exceelent R5 commentary.

18

Great Article…..

19

Why shouldn’t they wait for Kubica? He might be ready for the end of the season… maybe

20

Kubica is out imho. He has been out for too long, there are still question marks over his hand, nobody know his level. Kimi and Michael both kept up with some form of racing, Kubica has done nothing of the sort while recovering.

21

Schumacher raced in low level motorbike racing and injured himself in 2009.

Kimi rallied on the WRC stage, at the top level.

22

Schumacher raced in the IDM, Internationale Deutsche Motorradmeisterschaft, essentially a German National Bike racing series, certainly not World Level racing like MotoGP and WSK.

IIRC, he finished one race in second place, but to Schumi it was just a hobby, not a career.

Kimi, competed against the very best in that sport and on occasion was quick, but it was never a hobby, it was always a serious assault on the championship

23

Or you mean he was trying to keep up with drivers who are at the top level!

24

Coming to the discussion late but as regards Massa I think Ferrari are hanging on for Kubica as there is no-one really available that could step into a difficult car and perform better than Massa IMHO

And just going back to Hamilton he has a massive talent but until he learns to stop sulking and acting like his world is ended at the first race he is never going to have the mental strength to win a WDC again. Button is consistent knows he will get beaten regularly but is in for the long haul getting the most he can from every weekend.

Classic tortoise and the hare situation really.

25

With Ferrari unlikely to win anything this year and the fact that there is no Italian driver in F1 this year, it’s the perfect time to blood a young Italian driver in the second Ferrari.

Mirko Bortolotti is the perfect choice he recently turned 22 years old, was the Italian formula 3 Champion in 2008 and the FIA Formula 2 Champion in 2011.

He has alway’s been quick in his previous F1 test’s with Ferrari, Toro Rosso and Williams and the first time he ever tested an F1 car (A Ferrari at Fiorano in November 2008) he was quicker than Massa (and remember Massa was at his prime then) and Bortolotti was only 18 years old at the time.

26

You are kidding right?

Spa 2011. Eau Rouge. Webber v Alonso.

Compare last years percentage of points v team mates. Massa was completely outclassed. Webber didn’t do well by his own admission, but still performed much better than Alonso v Massa

27

Red Bull vs Ferrari. Most aerodynamically perfect car vs complete pig, in the place of the track where aero is everything. That’s the key. Not to take anything from Webber in terms of cojones, but there is no way he’d have done that trick in the Ferrari.

Statistics shows that didn’t perform against Vettel any better than Massa against Alonso. Considering the fact that most people here believe Alonso is the most complete driver, that leaves Webber no chance against Alonso, none at all.

28

I can’t believe the amount of bad rap Massa is taking here, I wonder how much of it is due to his collisions with Hamilton last year (like how GP2 champion Maldonado after clashing egos with LH suddenly became the worst driver of all times).

Last year Massa was outclassed by Alonso in absolutely the same manner that Webber was outclassed by Vettel. Points differences: 134 – Vettel vs Webber, 139 – Alonso vs Massa. Qualifying: 16:3 Vettel vs Webber, 15:4 Alonso vs Massa. Get real, people! Webber can’t drive around the car’s problems any better than Massa can. Webber can’t even sort out his starts for over a year now, unbelievable! Nevermind him and Alonso being friends, Webber would be destroyed in the second Ferrari.

No driver mentioned above would do much better than Massa at the moment. As was said, this car has such a narrow performance window, that it takes a miracle to hit it. Heidfeld, Trulli, Sutil – are you kidding??? Nick couldn’t get the tyres to work in his BMW for the whole season and couldn’t help it. Trulli and his power steering, should I say more? Sutil only shone last year against average DiResta, who was beaten in this year’s first qualifying by his teammate by almost 0.8 sec.

No, the last thing Ferrari should do is to continue to look for a scapegoat. They did enough of that already in post-Schumi time (Dyer, Kimi, Costa). Rather than threatening their driver, they should get behind the problem with the car eating up its tyres.

29

I guess an Italian young driver would be the best option for Ferrari if someone considers they are about to replace Massa. At the end of the day an Italian prodigy would certainly match or even overpass struggling Massa’s times… plus many other benefits such as “bad karma” (one reason less for excuses), future prospects, gain some good publicity in Italian media (they are desperate for that), budget related factors (they don’t need but hey…), etc. Above all Massa certainly lacks any good psychology; Alonso’s performance just kills the guy, some how he has to get a grip with everything, starting with the car. I don’t think they are going for a replacement, there was a nurturing call for Massa from Domenicaly. As for next year, they will have to find a fast and obedient “second driver”, that’s hard, isn’t it!?!

30

“it was like being hit over the head with a cricket bat every weekend” Irvine speaking about his time against Schumacher

I’d do it

Live the life of Irvine, professional playboy, paid millions to back up the leader, drive for the most famous team on earth and smile for the cameras.

Isn’t it funny that the most vociferous drivers at Ferrari in the last 20 years have been Brazilians. They have almost Italian levels of pressure from their home crowd because the Brazilians are looking for their next Senna.

31

Webber at Ferrari in 2013, would like to see that happem too.

32

Good god, not Webber! His head-to-head stats vs his teammate are worse than Massa’s. Since Webber had his chance to win the WDC, with 6 races left in the 2010 season, he’s been comprehensively beaten by his teammate. In the past, drivers like Webber and Massa, beaten that badly would have been dropped in half a season. I guess having a compliant #2 is more important than having two drivers who can push one another. Recommending Webber, who is well past his sell date is just ludicrous. If he can’t challenge Vettel on a regular basis, how is he to challenge Alonso?

33

Ferrari is not looking for a driver to take on Alonso consistently, they are looking for a driver that can pick up from Alonso if he hits trouble, and contribute to the Constructors championship.

Alonso, last year finished on the podium 10 times.

If in any of those races he had had a problem, the next driver would not have been Massa because Massa finished 5th once

If Massa had supported Alonso better in races in 2010, rather than just the German GP (!) Alonso would have won the championship despite the strategy cock-up.

I’m fascinated to watch what happens at Mclaren this season if Button keeps beating Lewis, it’s been ok up to now, but if they can fight for the WDC, trust me, it will get nasty.

34

He probably wouldn’t be a consistent threat to Alonso but he would certainly oush him harder than Massa is doing which is not at all. Webber has proven to be a reliable performer who gathers good points. That’s what Ferrari want. Alonso can do the rest.

35

So, in the last 26 races, Webber has been beaten by Vettel 23 times, and you consider him a good replacement for Massa? Is he a reliable point collector? In those 23 races he finished behind his teammate, how many times was he only one position behind? 6. Webber’s record going back to the last 6 races of 2010 when he was in the driver’s seat to win the WDC, he’s been an abject failure, as bad as Massa. How either have jobs is amazing. And, Massa has finished behind Alonso 23 times of the same last 26 races. Equally bad relative to their teammate.

36

No matter how you slice the stats there is no getting around the fact that Webber is far closer to Vettel every weekend than Massa is to Alonso. There is no doubt that on current form that Webber would be a step up for Ferrari.

Personally I’d rather see a fresh face at Ferrari come through the ranks. Webber may get one more season with Red Bull if he has a good year this year and then should retire.

37

‘Fernando is faster than you. Do you understand the message, Mark?’

Webber switches off the radio.

Expect fireworks.

38

Haha. Somehow I just can’t see Webber taking kindly to that!

39

Darren, I don’t think you can count on Webber as a rear gunner. He’s simply not that kind of driver, and that’s good for F1.

40

Yep, there could be occasions. It would depend on Alonso. If he is confident he would be in front of Webber consistently enough to not cause to many problems he would give the go ahead for Webber to join.

On the upside being closer to Alonso would make Webber a good rear gunner, like he has been for Vettel quite often.

41

lol ! awesome !

42

What ever car Massa was running in australia was very diffrent from Alonso’ car

43

I can’t believe I read that…

There won’t be any difference in performance because of a new car.

Problem is, if in Malaysia, Alonso can’t perform miracles with the car because of the circuit, and finshed 8th for eg, and Massa lucks into 9th but 3/4 lap behind, will that be vindication for the new chassis?

44

Jaimie would surely be a good option to slip straight in.

45

Mark Webber to Ferrari in 2012? By this you are presuming that he does not get offered a new contract for next year from RB. And for this to happen, he would need to perform worse than he did last year or one of the TR boys exceeds expectations. If he gets dumped by Red Bull, why would Ferrari want him. To go from a number 2 driver who can’t win a race to another? The other option is that Mark left RB, but why would he leave a race winning car to go to a struggling car? He has already said he would not do that. Surely Ferrari have other options in the pipeline…. I personally don’t think we have seen the last of Kubica. Is there a chance they could replace Massa with Kubica before the end of the season?

46
Tornillo Amarillo

If I was Ferrari I would replace Massa with just an average driver like… BUEMI, or BARRICHELLO, or TRULLI. At least, just for a couple of races for thinking a definitive name, why not?

By the way, somebody can also replace Senna, please?

47

There are so many drivers who is more committed and better skilled than Massa right now. I just don’t get it why is Ferrari loving Felipe baby so much? It is like a father having an unconditional love for his spoiled son.

48

🙂 And it was once said by Peter Sauber that all Massa needs is a hug.

49

I read someone say the same about Mansell, yet there was doubt Mansell could wring the neck of the car no matter what state he was in emotionally. The 80’s proper men racing, not these bum-fluffed kids

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