16 May – Why Felipe Massa Has To Go (And The Sooner The Better)

I know what you must be thinking, “How insensitive can this guy, this American be?”  I can assure you that I am not being insensitive, (I never write anything that could ever be interpreted as such) and I will attempt to explain my reason for such a bold statement, and besides I used up most of my insensitivity for Rubens, Heidfeld and Trulli in an earlier post.  -ha ha-

Before I make my case, I just want to say that I have a huge amount of respect for Massa. He is a race winner, and despite the fact that someone wins every other Sunday, not many drivers can claim the distinction of winning even one race, on only one weekend, let alone 11. In addition to his 11 wins, Massa has 15 pole positions, and 33 podiums. He has amassed 584 points, and 14 fast laps. He is an incredibly skilled driver in a sport that has no time for anything but being the best at what you do.

Massa came within a cat’s whisker of winning the championship in 2008. Had he not had an engine expire on the last lap of the European GP at Valencia, or a pit stop that went terribly wrong via the refueling rig in Singapore, he would have been champion in 2008 even before the last race. However the championship went down to the last race in Massa’s home GP in Brazil — a contest so gripping I almost put my foot through the floor as I watched the last lap unfold, in which Hamilton passed Timo Glock on the last lap on the last turn to take 5th position which yielded Hamilton the exact number of points needed to secure the championship. Incidentally, Massa, who needed to win the race to keep his championship hopes alive, did just that.

Everyone still remembers how for a brief moment Massa was champion when he crossed the finish line first; we also remember how gracious and sportsmanlike he was in that next moment of defeat when Hamilton pulled ahead of Glock and took that championship away. It’s especially poignant considering that it now appears as though that is as close as Massa might ever get to the big prize. We also remember the horrible accident that could have easily taken his life when an errant spring found a way to jettison itself from his countryman’s car at the 2009 Hungarian GP. We remember what great courage Massa had as he got back in the car the following year and continued to race.

For all of these and many more reasons Felipe Massa is a class act. Period.

Now for the slightly insensitive part. For several reasons that I am about to make clear his time at Ferrari is now passed.

#1. From purely a tenure standpoint Massa needs to go. Lets take a look at some of Ferrari’s other drivers, many legendary figures in the sport, and compare the amount of time that they got to wear the red overalls.

– Eddie Irvine – he raced for the Scuderia for four years
– Rubens Barrichello was at Ferrari from 2000 to 2006 – 6 years
– Jean Alesi raced for Ferrari for 5 years
– Gerhard Berger had two stints each for 3 years
– Nigel Mansell, he had only 2 years as a driver for the fabled constructor
– Alain Prost, only 2 years as well.  (And he is a four-time world champion)
– Mr. Ferrari himself, M. Schumacher, his tenure at 11 years is the longest, but when you’re racking up championships (5 in all), and making a shitload of money, it must be kind of difficult get fired or quit.

This will be Massa’s 7th year in a red car and I think there might even be one more as a test driver when that was still allowed in F1. Anyway I think you get the picture. As you can clearly see it would not be anything out of the Scuderia’s normal modus operandi to can, (oops some insensitive just snuck itself in), I mean part ways with Massa seven years in with no championships. But that’s not even the only reason.

#2. This one is obvious, and that is the issue of constructor points and the Constructors’ Championship at the end of each Formula 1 season. (Editor’s Note: For you rookie fans, every Constructor (team) has two drivers that drive essentially identical cars, and their total points are what is counted towards winning the Constructors’ Championship. Of course every team wants their driver to be a champion, but to win the Constructor’s Championship is their true goal because it proves their technology was the best.) Massa has not added a great deal to Ferrari’s totals in the last three years. Lets hypothesize about what could have been, maybe should have been, shall we?

You might think that I am going to compare Massa to Alonso, but you would be incorrect on that one. But don’t worry, we will get to Alonso later on and maybe a tiny bit of not-so-sensitive blogging. Back to the point, lets compare Massa’s numbers to some other drivers. In 2010, for McLaren, Button had 214 and Hamilton had 240. For Red Bull, same year, Vettel had 256, and Webber finished the year with 242. Are you starting to see a pattern? In the two other top teams both drivers are consistently contributing similar numbers to the teams’ overall points tally. The average amount of points that Button, Hamilton, Vettel and Webber each secured for their teams in 2010 is 238. Now I know that this is all speculation but if Massa was as consistent a Ferrari contributor as the other top drivers were for McLaren and Red Bull, the new total for the team championship for Ferrari for 2010 could have been 490, only 9 points behind Red Bull for second instead of third, and ahead of McLaren which had a total of 454. And this does not even take into account Massa taking points off those other drivers and pushing the other teams’ totals down, which likely would have happened if Massa was performing on a comparable level. So you can see how its possible that Ferrari, despite losing the drivers’ part of the championship could have at least won the Constructors’ Championship if Massa was driving up to par. I am not going to bore you with the numbers from 2011, as it will be redundant (and due to the fact that the BR7 in Vettel’s hands just destroyed the competition) and I don’t want to beat this point to death, and of course I don’t want to be insensitive.

So let’s just skip to a three-year comparison of Alonso and Massa, season-to-date. In 2010, 2011, 2012, Alonso scored respectively 67, 51, and now 61 points as of the first five races. MASSA HAS SCORED 49, 24 (ouch), AND (GET READY FOR THIS ONE) A WHOPPING 2 <pause> points. AND NO I DID NOT FORGET TO TYPE THE OTHER NUMERAL. That ain’t being insensitive folks (folks is an American term, similar to mates) that is just the cold hard truth. Ouch babe, my eye…

#3. This one, I’m not going to lie, is a little closer to my heart. And that is the issue of Alonso and his campaign to become world champion for Ferrari and to enter into the special group of 3x world champions. Simply put, when Massa underperforms Alonso is not able to enjoy the same benefit that the other four protagonists enjoy. Which is to say that Massa is not taking points away from Button, Ham, Vettel, and Webber. So as my favorite blogger James Allen would say, lets delve deeper into this issue, of insensitivity, I mean, of points and the lack of them and see how at least in 2010 Massa could have helped Alonso.

Lets take the very first race, Bahrain, to begin. This is a good one to illustrate how important it is to have both cars in the same grouping to yield the most points. In this race Alonso finished first with 25 points and Massa second with 18 points. In this case Massa’s performance was a benefit — Ferrari and ultimately Alonso benefitted because Massa was able to push Vettel further down the order and thus Vettel gathered only 12 points on that day for fourth place instead of 15 for third. That’s 3 points less for Vettel right there. Keep that in mind when we get to the season-ending totals.

Now lets look at Red Bull and McLaren and see how they were able to maximize points not necessarily by design, but by both drivers racing very well and finishing close to each other. In all these races, teammates finished 1st & 2nd, getting 25 points for first and 18 points for second. In Malaysia Vettel 25 Webber 18, in China Button 25 Hamilton 18, in Spain Vettel 25 and Webber 18, in Monaco Webber 25 Vettel 18, in Turkey Ham 25 Button 18, and in Canada Ham 25 and Button 18. It’s logical, right? Identical cars, different but closely matched drivers, one is going to come out on top but the other should not be far behind.

If we look at the last part of the season where Alonso and Ferrari really started to put it all together, in two crucial races that Alonso won, Massa was nowhere near keeping pace with him. Now it is true that Massa did pull over for Alonso in Hungary and that was a massive boost, so kudos to him. But that’s about all he did to help that year.

Remember Alonso lost the 2010 championship by 5 points and let me be very clear about this part, because I am an equal opportunity insensitive blogger even though Fernando is my main man. Alonso jumped the start in China, resulting in a drive-through penalty. He crashed out so badly in the final practice at Monaco, that the whole chassis had to be rebuilt, which resulted in him not qualifying and having to start the GP from the pit lane (which is behind last place, FYI), thus ruining any chance of a decent result although he miraculously did manage to finish 5th for 8 points. Finally, he made a very poor decision in the way he passed Kubica in England that also resulted in a drive-through penalty. Remove any one of one of these lame mistakes and the championship is his. And as Alonso said himself, “the championship was not lost at the last race.” and definitely not because a team member on the pit wall made an error, or his team member in the other car didn’t help him out. In the end you have only yourself to rely on in F1. However, its nice if you have a teammate that can back you up if you falter a little. Definition of teammate, no? That being said, lets look at the points tally for the Ferrari boys from that season.

Alonso-252 points, Massa-144 points. Now it is right about here that you should know I don’t care how insensitive I sound, but are you kidding me, a 108 point difference between drivers in the same car? Aargggggghh and %$#*&+_!@^{+;%$ !!!

How about we look at the other drivers that were in the hunt for the championship that year?
Vettel 256, Webber 242 – 14 points difference
Hamilton 240, Button 214 – 26 points difference

I just can’t get it out of my insensitive “you’re only as good as your last race” head that if Massa could have just taken 5 points over the course of the season off of the other contenders, and by now you should know them by name, Vettel, Webber, Hamilton, and Button, Alonso would have won the championship. (As it actually went down, the fact that Alonso came within 5 points of winning the championship basically with no help from his teammate just really points out why he is my guy.) Ferrari is investing nearly 39 million dollars per year on Alonso’s salary, wouldn’t they want to make sure he has every opportunity to succeed by getting him a good teammate?

We all know that Formula One is a cruel sport and many drivers have been fired or let go for far less in regards to performance. We are talking about 5 points. 5 points was the difference that would have given Ferrari its 16th Drivers’ Championship, and Alonso his 3rd world championship. When I think about it, it just gets me all wound up, and I have to go and dig a hole in the back yard to get my mind off what was and what could have been.

Look, it is not my fault that Formula One has become such an intense and insanely scrutinized sport by everyone from the pundits to the people like my lame ass. It is not my fault that the amount of pressure that is heaped on these teams and drivers is bone crushing and can ruin a person of the highest resolve and constitution. This is just the way it is and it is this way in all sports, especially at the highest level of each sport. This is what makes sport so great to watch, so rewarding, so fun and also at times so very painful.

There is a term that I hear the Europeans (mostly the Brits) say all the time. The term is “gutted”; I don’t think there is an equivalent purely American term that we use when our teams lose. Gutted is how I felt after that last race in Abu Dhabi at the end of the 2010 season, and because I am so emotionally invested in this great sport of Formula One and Ferrari, and Fernando Alonso, I don’t care how insensitive this sounds: Are you listening, Ferrari? It is time for a change. The change must happen soon or we will have 2010 déjà vu. It must be done properly, and with the utmost respect, but done it must be. Bitches.

4 Comments on “16 May – Why Felipe Massa Has To Go (And The Sooner The Better)

  1. well,….you state your case quite succinctly, and yes, I think he’s worn out his welcome, (can’t produce), what is that term? “an albatross around your neck”. 6years is enough.
    big e
    p.s. very well written.

  2. I especially liked the “utmost respect” followed up by “Bitches”. You are one in many millions JP, and I love your writing.

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