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Ferrari in the horns of a dilemma
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Posted By: James Allen  |  15 May 2012   |  2:37 pm GMT  |  316 comments

[Updated] Everyone who follows F1 knows that Ferrari have shown extraordinary level of support to Felipe Massa in the last two and a half years. The little Brazilian almost won the world title for them in 2008 and would have done if they hadn’t lost him a win in the Singapore GP by leaving the fuel hose attached at a pit stop.

After his accident in Hungary 2009 they again stood by him, helping him back into the car for 2010. But now, with such a tight field at the front in F1, the signs are that their patience is running out, highlighting the “drop off” in his performances.

In the 43 races since his ‘comeback’ in 2010 Massa has scored an average of six points per race and has been on the podium five times. There were no wins, but he did move over, on team orders, to let Alonso through in Germany in 2010, a race which he would otherwise probably have won.

In that same 43 race period Alonso has scored an average of 13.2 points per race. With seven wins.

On Sunday Massa came home 15th. Like Sebastian Vettel with whom he was fighting, he had to serve a drive through penalty for using DRS in a yellow flag zone, but Vettel (who also had to have a front wing change) finished 7th while Massa did not recover.

Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali called this “unlucky” but also commented, “We expect Felipe to react and fight back..we absolutely need his points to also fight for the constructors’ championship.” Ferrari lie fourth in the constructors’ points table at the moment having finished a distant third in 2010 and 2011.

On the Ferrari website today they look at it like this. “As for an analysis of the Scuderia’s performance and its two drivers, Fernando has always maintained a very high level (67 points and second place in 2010, 51 and fifth place last year) while Felipe’s drop off has made itself felt. The Brazilian had picked up 49 points two years ago and 24 the following year, while so far this season he has just 2. In Montmelo, Felipe was very unlucky, both in the race and in qualifying, but everyone, he more than anyone, is expecting a change of gear starting right away with the Monaco Grand Prix, his second home race, given that he lives just a few hundred metres from what, as from next Sunday, will be transformed into the paddock for the sixth round of the 2012 championship.”

Ferrari are in a difficult situation. If a ready made replacement for Massa was clear, they might already have made a switch. The fact that there isn’t one keeps him there.

To improve its chances, it will need an established driver but it will be hard to get an established driver to move mid-season. Test driver Jules Bianchi is far from ready for a move like that and even Sergio Perez is too inexperienced to cope. It could ruin his career to make a move too soon.

What is making the situation all the more painful is that Lotus are scoring a lot of points and Mercedes have the potential to outscore Ferrari too. They could end up fighting for the drivers’ title with Alonso but finish up fifth in the Constructors’

Time to act, or time to support and try to turn it around for Massa, before replacing him with Webber or Perez or Di Resta or whoever next season?

Read the Ferrari team statement HERE

Listen to Jaime Alguersuari’s analysis of Massa’s problems on the 5 Live Chequered Flag Podcast HERE

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1

It would be good for Massa to go back to a smaller team and rebuild his confident, just like Heiki Kovaleinen did with Caterham. I think a swap between Massa and Heiki would be a very good deal for both teams.

2

hi james

I did a statistical analysis of all alonso’s championship results versus his teamate.

(I left out the early seasons as i considered that to be his apprenticeship years.)

The interesting result is that alonso generally scores double the points of his teamate. One year that went against the trend was 2007 when alonso and hamilton were about even and alonso famously spat the dummy.

Maybe one has to consider the possibility that Alonso destroys teamates and it will be hard for Ferrari to ever win a constructors championship with alonso as number 1. I don’t think that alonso can deal with another driver his equal in the same team. This is what i call ‘the alonso diilemna.’

btw Massa has historically done very well in comparison to his teamates ie schui and kimmi.

Alonso’s prescence at ferrari has destroyed Massa – there’s no easy way to say it. Germany 2010 was just the straw that broke the camels back.

A lot of people are blind to Alonso’s shortcomings. He should have won the last race but was beaten fair and square by a relative newcomer. He lacked the patience to wait until the last few laps and to use his fresher tyres to to make a move on maldonado.

3

A very thoughtful post, Chris – I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said.

I’m no fan of Alonso but he does get at least 110% out of any car he drives – 2007 must have been a real shock when he found out the hard way just how good Hamilton really is !

Lewis has also shown himself to be one of the only other drivers on the current grid that can produce good results from a difficult car.

James : I’m certain you are right that Ferrari would have done better to keep Kimi alongside Alonso but surely even Ferrari would have struggled to find the second year’s budget to retain Kimi and recruit Alonso ?

4

Evo2 are you serious? Do you really think Ferrari is short of cash? The real problem is that until Montezemolo gives up his job fans will have to survive with a number 1 pilot & number 2 pilot. I would very much like to see 2 pilots with eaqual chances at Ferrari. McLaren style. Not the stupid Williams style with Piquet free to kill Mansell.

5

It is very hard to be his team mate, clearly. And that needs to be born in mind by Ferrari when they select their drivers for 2013.

Arguably retaining Kimi and dropping Massa would have worked out better for team points, but Massa was performing better in 2009/9

6

Hamilton at Ferrari would be very interesting. Personally id love to see it!

7

Same here! From watching Fernando & Lewis these days it really looks like a good, if bold for Ferrari, idea! Come on Luca & Stefano, turn the page and move on. Forget about your medieval idea of nr. 2 pilot! McLaren shows it can be done!

8

Ferrari needs an experienced driver am Rubens would appear to be free. Do the maths…..

9

Sht, don’t you think that Rubens has shown a lot of ingratitude since he left Ferrari? Every now + then he finds an occasion to say how badly he was treated as nr. 2 in the team. He accepted to sign a nr. 2 pilot contract. They let him win a dozen GPs. And then he went on to make the Austrian scandal in 2002 and even continued to drive with Schumi the following year! And now he’s too old anyway!

10

All valid points. But given both have what the other needs (Rubens has the experience and Ferrari the drive), things be easily forgiven – even if it’s just for half a season.

11

It seems like Ferrari has no plan B or accountability at all. As a result, they have to keep Massa. I’m glad I’m not a Ferrari supporter after Kimi left.

12

Ferrari don’t like cold logic.

They like drivers who blend in socially, drivers who know the words to all the favourite team songs, drivers who speak italian good…

I would definitely say Sutil be given a trial.

Also, may sound way too unlikely, but JUAN MONTOYA’s been doing well in Nascar.

Ok he’s not a Kimi or Alonso or Vettel but speedy enough and would bring in the points. Can he be lured back?

13

I think Montoya is a speedy driver worthy of an F1 seat. But I feel that he remembered well the bitter experience he had with F1. It will be difficult.

14

They could, of course put Giancarlo Fisichella in the car; or a test driver?

Ah yes………..

They will most probably bite the bullet and do their best to support FM. I doubt a change to any of the sensibly available pilots would make significant difference.

15

There is a risk that whoever driver they replace Massa fares even worse! It could just be that the current Ferrari is so bad that Alonso is performing miracles with it and its true pace is reflected in Massa’s results.

Put Sutil, Heidfeld, Kovaleinen, Perez, etc. in that seat and if they do no better or even worse than Felipe, and you have evidence that it’s all about the car. Not a nice prospect given that Ferrari is a true road car manufacturer.

16

As this article alludes to, Ferrari have not been supporting Massa…more like they have no option but to keep him…either for contractual reason or lack of alternatives. I like Massa, and I think a move would be what he needs. He is doing himself no favours with this year’s performance, and therefore reducing his appeal for a decent midfield drive next year, which I think he is capable of and could see him return to some form. Unless they can poach someone, Ferrari are unlikely to get an experienced driver for next year, so they should cut their losses and get someone in the car now, so they are more prepared for next year…my suggestion would be be Bianchi.

17

Hi James,

Why isn’t Ferrari looking at Heikki?

He is fast, organised, and intelligent; also, he has worked with Alonso in the past at Renault.

Should be a good fit according to me.

Regards,

Amritraj

18

Fast? Reliable? Was this the same driver that was out-classed by Hamilton and couldn’t even play the role of support driver in 2008? He wouldn’t be any better than Massa.

19
James Clayton

*past performance is not a guarantee of future failures. Driver’s abilities can increase as well ad decrease.

20

I think they’ll go through to the end of the season with Massa, then change

21

Hi James

Other teams use a third driver in their FP1 do you think Ferrari should be looking to use this session for Jules Bianchi to provide a comparison? Ferrari are very poor when it comes to bringing up new talent & they have made it clear that their second car is their number 2 car which is hardly an encouraging calling card for any prospective driver to fulfil. Is it time for them to start thinking about a youth policy like most of the other top teams follow?

22

Sadly, and speaking as a long term Massa supporter, I too feel it is time for the Scuderia to make a switch. I think he came back from the accident soon, and with the birth of his first child around the time of his comeback he clearly has taken a more ‘fatalistic’ view of his racing – he just doesn’t look like he wants to be in the thick of it any more. This is to take nothing away from him as a human being; every new father has to contend with a mixture of feelings about the birth of a child, but not many are at the time recovering from a near-fatal accident, and do a job which requires the putting aside of all feelings of risk in order to succeed. Ferrari have shown him great loyalty, and that is the least he deserved, but I can’t see him improving drastically from here, and as we all know, results are everything in this sport. If il Commendatore was still at the helm I think this question would be moot – he would have gone a long time ago…

23

Some of the comments belie a total ignorance of the actual sport of racing and what a racing driver is.

The short version of why Massa is being treated like a #2 is because he is a #2. The individual who made the session vs session season analysis did a very nice piece of work. Individual incidents can be overlooked but when viewed over a season; or two; the evidence is damning.

Try it this way – when was the last time you remember any of the following:

– Massa looks quicker than Fernando this weekend (P1/P2/P3/Q1/Q2/Q3/Race)

– Fernando doesn’t seem to have the pace of his Brazilian teamate

Hardly any. For those who say Massa was “broken” by being told to move over in 2010 – you don’t know racing or racing drivers. Quick is quick and if Massa had the pace of Alonso it would actually SHOW UP as an argument. Instead its all about “Fernando is #1”, “Massa is not supported”, “Fernando will not allow Felipe to be quicker than him” “Felipe is depressed”. Not one word about Felipe being quicker.

Whereas Webber Vs Vettel, Hamilton vs Button, Vettel vs Bourdais, Alonso vs Hamilton, Massa vs Raikonnen, Massa vs MSC, (examples off the top of my head) it always comes down to pure pace first and platitudes later.

With Alonso vs Massa its platitudes throughout.

24

Why do so many people say Sergio Perez is not experienced enough? Come on guys! Hamilton was also lacking experience when he debuted at McLaren and he nearly won the championship in his 1st year! Poor Felipe is not delivering anymore, the numbers are there to prove it! Barring the big guns there are still enough pilots who could have done better than 2 points this season. Sergio has enough talent to be given that chance! And then, as everybody is pointing out, there is really not much of a choice. I am sure Peter Sauber would immediately fill Sergio’s seat in the best possible way with Ferrari’s cash.

25
James Clayton

Why do so many people say Sergio Perez is not experienced enough?

Because Ferrari have said that Sergio is not experienced enough…

26

no they haven’t

27
James Clayton

Sorry, my bad. I was remembering the Mark Webber article from here and thought it included a quote from Ferrari to that effect. It didn’t.

28

Yes but Hamilton had McLaren’s full support since a young kid and had full access to the teams equipments and stuff to be fully prepared before his first season in F1.

29

Agree with you 100% this is not Massa’s problem anymore. James, is it true teams are financially rewarded with their point standing?

30

Ferrari should hire Sutil. I’ll bet he will take the offer and deliver coz he needs to prove he can earn a 2013 seat. Remember 2011 when he got better when his seat was under treat.

Go on Ferrari, pull a wild horse out of that old bag!!! Some Game theory is what Ferrari need. Stefano needs to do something to save his job too, he is starting to look bad. Dare I say it!!!!!! He needs to make a Flavio-esque call or worse still Marko-esque call.

31

Maybe slightly off-topic but team orders are being discussed here.

Does anyone recall Vettel being told ‘Mark is quicker than you’ or similar? I have it in my head that this was said over the teams radio. I recall Vettel was closing in on Mark when he was given the ‘information’. After the race young Seb was confused as to how Mark could be quicker when he was catching him up at the time. If it was ever said, it was probably ’09. Either that or old age is effecting my memories….

If they both made the podium that race (and I have no idea), maybe James would remember the post-race interview where Seb was confused.

32

Silverstone’11

33

Silverstone’11 was “You have to maintain the distance Mark!”

34

“Maintain the gap”.

35

I recall something like that, but was not “Mark was quicker”, I think it’s about save fuel. Was in 2010 if I recall correct.

36

It was Turkey 09, something came up in the interview, but I don’t think it was as you remember it.

Unfortunately, F1.com doesn’t have the recorded interviews available that I could find.

Vettel won the next race.

37

Heidfeld could still win the WDC with a string of 2nd places.

38

Can’t see anything negative in the Ferrari PR messages. They think Massa was unlucky in Barcelona and naturally expect him to perform better in the next race.

I think Filipe (and Schumi) are overdriving due to the increasing weight of expectation on them (their own, team, fans, sponsors). Ironically they are both on 2 pts.

Changing drivers mid-season or driver swap might backfire if the replacement doesn’t perform any better (e.g. Fisi and Badoer).

If Filipe’s results are still the same by British GP, it’s not impossible to think tthat Filipe may get “injured” or “rested” and a current driver loaned to the team for a few races for more immediate results, maybe one of the Sauber boys (but returned before their home GPs in Japan or US) or an experienced hand in the backmarker teams (Timo Glock, Pedro).

39

Nothing against Massa, but like I’ve always said….

FERRARI SHOULD HAVE KEPT RAIKKONEN IN 2010 INSTEAD OF MASSA!!!

Big big big mistake in their decision.

40

Kay – please can we not do the “my driver is better than your driver” comments so much,

Most readers find them annoying and we need to keep the level high here – Thanks -Mod]

41

Sorry!!

Just I do believe Kimi is better than Massa that’s all. Like I said there is nothing against Massa, and in my posts on your previous articles I did say I feel sorry for him in fighting for survival. My point was that Ferrari made a bad decision in 2009 and thus led them to the situation they have now.

42

One thing that we all do forget is that to us it is a sport that we are all passionate about, but to them it’s not only a sport, this is also business.

And in any big business you either sink or swim and if you don’t swim then you’re out . . it doesn’t matter what personal or professional setbacks you have had in your life, once you become a liability i.e. Massa’s current performance then they will look elsewhere.

So what if he nearly won the championship. . that’s not today, that’s not now, I have been a Massa fan through and through but there is a point in any team where you need to take a “suck it up princess” approach and just get on with the job, which going by Alonso’s results, Massa doesn’t seem to be doing with the car.

And in regards to a replacement . . we can speculate all we like but Ferrari have probably had their “plan B” regarding Massa since the end of last year . . and well contracts are never water tight and money (and Ferrari prestige) speaks louder than loyalty. Cause at the end of the day this is still a Business . . and they want results!

43
Donferraridilemma

It’s time for Luca Cordero di Montezemolo to step in and replace Felipe. Personally I really like Felipe, but this is business, and Ferrari has been losing a lot waiting for this driver to bring back his skills up to standard. Sadly Felipe has being racing in a pathetic way, I’m still surprised he hasn’t been replaced long time ago.

But which option do you have? I really believe is not going to take long before my compatriote Sergio Perez will take over that spot. Experience some of you might talk about now… what better experience than grow up, improving your skills and learning from Alonso! Fernando is the most complete driver out there.

Honestly all drivers have bad races, but Massa seems has lost his confidence behind the steering wheel of that Ferrari at all.

I’m a huge Mclaren fan, not a Ferrari one.

44

As others have siad, I think Sutil, Buemi or Algersuari are the only obvious candidates for a mid-season change (assuming all current race drivers are locked in). All are experienced and all are hungry. Out of the three, I’d probably go with Sutil on experience, with Jaime a close second on the back of his recent Pirelli work…

45

What about Hamilton to Ferrari? 1 He’d get a team that can do a decent pitstop. 2 He’d stop tripping over Massa round the circuit. And 3 Wouldn’t it be nice to see how he and Alonso cope?

46
James Clayton

1 – Alonso wouldn’t have it, he’s said as much

2 – Santander, who came to McLaren for Alonso but stayed for Hamilton, already sponsor Ferrari as well.

47

+1

48

I got the impression (and I think James has written as much) that the team have been confident that Massa still has the same level of ability that he had in 2008, and just needs the car to work in the right way.

Perhaps they’ve now decided/realised that with the current rules and tyres, the car isn’t likely to suit him in the forseeable future.

49

I ve been a Ferrari fan for decades and rarely has the gap between team mates been so great. Drivers like Massa just don’t lose it to this extent, he’s one of the best starters still, but then he looses pace, stays out too long on old tyres so Alonso can pit at will. I saw this pattern through 2010 and 2011, but for some reason this year it seems to be wrecking Massa’s chances even more. It’s a one car team for sure and only a team solution will solve this problem. One other possible reason for Felipe’s lack of sustained speed, might be that he is unwell. I hope he catches a break soon, he’s been on pole in Monaco before so maybe Q3 is possible, but it’s a big ask on a very hard track.

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