Felipe Massa has insisted he was right to ignore a team order to let team-mate Valtteri Bottas past him to take seventh place in the closing stages of the Malaysian Grand Prix, despite concerns on the Williams pit wall about the state of the Brazilian’s power unit.
In an uncanny replay of the Ferrari command at the 2010 German Grand Prix in which Massa was told “Fernando is quicker than you”, Massa was informed that Bottas in eighth was running faster than him and that he should let the Finn through. He ignored the request and went on to claim seventh place and six points.
Afterwards, the former Ferrari driver insisted he was right to do so.
“What I did was correct. I am trying to do my best for the team and that’s the most important thing,” he said. “I’m sure the result would not have changed even if I had let him by, so it’s the same.
“The team respects me 100 per cent and they showed they respect me after the race, so I have no problem at all. What’s happened today was maybe not what I expected, but what I did was correct.”
According to Williams’ chief test and support engineer Rod Nelson the request was given to Massa as the team felt that Bottas could catch sixth-placed Jenson Button, and because Massa’s engine was running hot.
“He [Massa] did not do what we would have preferred him to do,” said Nelson. “Felipe was running fairly high temperatures on his engine and we were a little bit concerned about it, and Valtteri had much fresher tyres than Jenson did. We thought that it would be good to give Valtteri a go at getting past Jenson.”
However, he added that had Bottas failed to reel in and pass the McLaren driver, the request would have been reversed and Massa would have been free to retake seventh.
“If he [Bottas] hadn’t achieved it within two or three laps, we would have swapped our drivers over again and everyone would have been happy,” he said. “It’s not a big deal, every team does it. It’s not team orders, it’s a strategic decision based on the relative performance of both cars.”
Bottas, meanwhile, skirted the issue when asked to clarify his position after the race.
“We have still not had a proper chat, we are going to later and analyse this situation,” he said. “We are going to talk through it with the team and analyse what happened and what do we need to do next time in similar situations just so everything is clear with what the rules are and what we do better next time. Maybe it will allow us to get more points in the future.”
The team-mates had clashed earlier in the race with Massa critical of Bottas’ driving as they raced for position. “Did you see what he did?” Massa asked of the pit wall. Bottas, meanwhile, insisted over the radio that “I have more pace than him”.
Nelson concluded by saying that the team would discuss the events with its drivers.
“There’s nothing else going on in the background, we don’t want to put one driver down and one driver up, we don’t have team orders in that respect,” he said. “We will go through everything with the drivers tonight, discuss the situation and what we expect.”