Ferrari are not a team to tolerate poor quality. No matter what loyalties are involved, if you can’t keep up with the requirements, you’re out, however long you have left on your contract. Yet when it comes to Felipe Massa the Prancing Horse seem to have had a change of heart. But is this really the case? Has the accident in Hungary really cost Massa his ability, or is something else going on?
Most fans, from what I can tell, believe that Massa’s poor form comes from his accident. However, if we look at his results upon his return to F1, we can see that this is not the case. The 2010 Ferrari was an excellent car, scoring podiums almost all season. Designed around Alonso, the car was always bound to favour the Spaniard, but Massa showed the world in Bahrain that he hadn’t lost his ability.
He took second in qualifying, just a tenth behind Vettel, and in the race he finished second. He came third in the next race, beating Alonso by two seconds. Now, he was second in the WDC, Alonso in the lead. After Malaysia, an engine failure for Alonso put Massa at the top of the championship. He continued to score points up to the Turkish Grand Prix, before three tough races for the Brazilian that would then be followed by the scandal at Hockenheim.
Canada, Valencia and Britain saw Massa score 0 points, but nobody was calling for his retirement. When he led the race in Hockenheim, everyone hoped for a Massa victory. When Ferrari refused to let him fight for position against Alonso, we were angry. We knew Massa was just as good as he had been before, and deserved a fair chance at victory.
Despite this, Massa did well for the next few races. At Hungary, Belgium and Italy he performed on a par with Alonso, including third place at Monza. After Monza, however, things seemed to go downhill. It is interesting that this should happen after the Scuderia’s home race. He picked up third at Korea – an extraordinary wet race – and this would be his most recent podium.
Ferrari knew that Robert Kubica had one year left at Renault, and though Massa’s performance was dropping as the team struggled to make such a great car, they kept him on. Surely the intention was to bring Kubica in for 2012. But as we all know, this never happened. Massa picked up points regularly, and seemed to end up clashing with Hamilton far too often. Alonso, always able to make the best of a tricky car, shone and got many podiums including the win at Silverstone. Silverstone in fact was Massa’s best race of the season, and he was closing fast on Hamilton by the end of the race. He almost got the lead into the final corner, but the Briton fought well. Still, it was a great example of how Massa can still drive brilliantly when Ferrari are at their best.
This year hasn’t been so good for Massa. It is clear he needs to be in a good car to shine, but when you’re in Formula One you can’t always get the best car. With Perez set to stay at Sauber (which is a better car than the Ferrari at the moment), I cannot think that any other driver would be brought in to replace the Brazilian. If future updates work, I think Massa will shine again. Having watched his kart race, the Desafio das Estrelas, at the end of 2011, it is apparent that he is a brilliant driver. In fact, 5 live commentator Jaime Alguersuari was the one who won that event. He also has experience with Ferrari engines. But would Ferrari take that chance?
Massa seems destined to end his career after 2012, despite his ability. Bruno Senna’s short career may also be over too soon, leaving F1 without any Brazilians. It will be up to Luiz Razia and Felipe Nasr in GP2 to prove themselves to the F1 teams, and so far they have done a great job with a win and a third place respectively.
I will be sad to see Felipe Massa disappear from F1. He’s provided some extraordinary moments over the years. But there are still 18 races left in the season. Come on Felipe!