Felipe Massa’s Time Has Come And Gone. Time To Move On

Please note I wrote this post about a year ago — yet sadly it is still extremely relevant since Massa is STILL HERE! Recently there is some serious talk about his replacement, at least I hope its serious! -JP-

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 lol) 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 a much earlier post.  -Ha ha-

Before I make my case, I just want to say, I have a huge amount of respect for Felipe 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 one weekend, let alone eleven. In addition to his eleven wins, Massa has fifteen pole positions and thirty-six podiums. He has amassed 765 points, and fourteen 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 his engine not expired on the last lap of the European GP at Valencia, or the Singapore pit stop not gone terribly wrong via the refueling rig, he would have been champion in 2008 even before the last race. However the championship did go 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.

Felipe Massa is in his eight season as a Ferrari driver, it was all going fairly well, then Fernando showed up.

Felipe Massa is in his eight season as a Ferrari driver, it was all going fairly well, then Fernando showed up.

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. But that did eventually happen.

A very emotional Massa. Brazil 2008 - He was World Champion for all of 38.9 seconds then the dream was all over.

A very emotional Massa. Brazil 2008 – He was World Champion for all of 38.9 seconds then the dream was all over.

This will be Massa’s eighth 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 eight 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. Of course every team wants their driver/s 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, and this year after a good start it looks like more of the same. 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, not just yet. 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.

Hungary and Massa was seriously injured from a errant spring. Yet the Brazilian made it back into the cockpit. Some say he was never the same.

Hungary when Massa was seriously injured from an errant spring. Yet the Brazilian made it back into the cockpit. Some say he was never the same.

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 could have 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, and pick the first quarter of the season in regards to the point standing. In 2010, 2011, and 2012, Alonso scored respectively 67, 51, and 61 points as of those first five races. MASSA HAS SCORED 49, 24 (ouch), AND (GET READY FOR THIS ONE) A WHOPPING 2 
 points for the same five races. 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.

Taking the last full year 2012, here were the final total: Massa 122, Alonso 278. Does it get any more lopsided than that? How is Ferrari ever to genuinely compete for the constructors title with numbers like this?

#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 Massa is not taking points away from Button, Ham, Vettel, Webber and for the last two years Raikkonen.

So as my favorite pundit, James Allen might 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 benefited 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.

This picture says it all - Massa and Alonso on the podium in Germany. Can you say "Fernando is faster that you" without felling for bad for the Brazilian?

This picture says it all – Massa and Alonso on the podium in Germany. Can you say “Fernando is faster that you” without feeling bad for the Brazilian?

Now lets look at Red Bull and McLaren and see how they were able to maximize points by both drivers racing very well and finishing close to each other. In all these races, these 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. This was just never the case for Alonso and Massa.

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 written off, 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 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 2010 season.

Here is Massa finding the armco this year in Monaco. it would not be the last time that weekend. I'm sure Ferrari was not impressed.

Here is Massa finding the armco this year in Monaco. it would not be the last time that weekend. I’m sure Ferrari was not impressed.

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 6 points over the course of the season off of the other contenders, and by now you should know them by name, Vettel, Webber, Hamilton, Button, Alonso would have won the championship. (As it actually went down, the fact that Alonso came within 6 points of winning the championship basically with no help from his teammate not to mention having a crappy car just really points out why he is such a great driver.)

Ferrari is investing 30 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?

As I mentioned earlier on, 2011 was a Red Bull shellacking so this year does not support my thesis. However, 2012 does and you only have to go back and look at the numbers to again see that Massa did not have the same impact as Webber did throughout the year in taking points of Alonso and by default helping his teammate Vettel.

Here is a quick update on the current year; Alonso 133 to Massa’s 61. That’s more than double and again the same old story.
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 six points. Six points was the difference that would have given Ferrari its 16th Drivers’ Championship, and Alonso his 3rd world championship.

Massa says he does not want to drive for a lesser team. He would rather leave F1 then drive around in the mid field. But that seems to be what he has been doing for the last three years anyway.

Massa says he does not want to drive for a lesser team. He would rather leave F1 then drive around in the mid field. But that seems to be what he has been doing for the last three years anyway.

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 strong resolve and constitution. This is just the way it is and it is this way in all sports, especially at the highest level of a particular 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”; Crushed would be the American equivalent we use when our teams lose here in the states when the stakes are so high such as a championship game or series.

Gutted and crushed is how I felt after that last race in Abu Dhabi at the end of 2010 and after Brazil last year in 2012. 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 and 2012 déjà vu. This truthfully must be Massa’s last year. It must be done properly, and with the utmost respect, but done it must be.

-jp- (and no hard feelings Felipe, really)

5 Comments on “Felipe Massa’s Time Has Come And Gone. Time To Move On

  1. Agree with most of the things JP.

    Massa is a very likable guy, one of the very few who still holds a “good guy” image in the paddock. It is very sad really that he hasn’t been his former self after the accident, especially as it (the accident) wasn’t his fault at all.

    But even before that, I considered him to be a very fast driver who, only on his day, was great. I wouldn’t put the Massa of 2006-2008 in the group of current elite drivers such as Kimi(motivated version 😉 )/Vettel/Alonso/Hamilton. I think he lacked the consistency shown by the likes of the above-mentioned drivers. But definitely he deserved a seat in a top team at that time.

    But, sadly I have to agree with you. I think the 2nd red car is wasted in the hands of Massa. I didn’t really think that he would regain his seat for this year after his performances earlier last year. He can still be very fast if the car is fast (as we have witnessed towards the end of 2012). But that, unfortunately, is not enough.

    The only point I would like to argue is that Alonso being hampered by Massa’s poor performances. I agree 100% that Massa’s inability to take points away from other championship contenders hurts Alonso in the long run. But I think it goes both ways. I think in some scenarios Alonso has benefited from having an obedient “number 2 driver”. Ferrari have benefited too as Massa never moaned and just got on with it. Having Massa in the 2nd seat made it easier for Alonso to emerge as a genuine team leader too. And I can remember Alonso backing Massa last year even after his dismal performances and questioning if there are better options for the 2nd seat (which gave me the impression that Alonso preferred Massa). But I’ve got to agree that the negatives outweigh the positives.

    Anyway, now it’s becoming clear that with Massa in a race seat, Ferrari are never going to win the WCC. And Alonso is good enough to have a better driver in the other car and still be the number one. So, unfortunately, the only logical option seems to be replacing Mr nice guy.

    • Tom
      great point about the benefit that alonso and ferrari enjoyed that i missed. but as you said it does not balance out. i wish it was the the other way around. i am of the belief that a faster teammate will make alonso faster. i don’t even care if he looses out to massa for a couple of races throughout the year, similar to the way webber will take a win from vettel on occasion. so it is time for a change…

  2. Yes, I think you may have hit the nail on the head. There is no room for a Mr. nice guy
    in the highest form of racing we have, particularly in a sport where sometimes a 0.6 sec.
    separates 3 or 4 drivers.

  3. I do think it’s time to go, but I also think the numbers speak for themselves in a much different light. Best of luck FM.

    Ferrari: Grand prix

    1 Michael Schumacher, 179

    2 Felipe Massa, 132

    3 Rubens Barrichello, 102

    4 Gerhard Berger, 96

    5 Michele Alboreto, 80

    6 Jean Alesi, 79

    Ferrari: Wins

    1 Michael Schumacher, 72

    2 Niki Lauda, 15

    3 Alberto Ascari, 13

    4 Felipe Massa, 11

    5 Fernando Alonso, 11

    6 Rubens Barrichello/Kimi Raikkonen, 9

    Ferrari: Poles

    1 Michael Schumacher, 58

    2 Niki Lauda, 23

    3 Felipe Massa, 15

    4 Alberto Ascari, 13

    5 Jacky Ickx, 11

    6 Rubens Barrichello, 11

    • hello ASP

      thanks for your feedback. Your point is well taken when you present the numbers in this light and there is a case to be made for FM. However in the context of the last four years FM has not contributed in the same way as when he was driving alongside Michael or Kimi. i believe the last race he won was back in 2008 and has gone longer than any other ferrari driver without a win. 70+ races, although i will admit that he should have won in hungary back in 2010 when he pulled over for Alonso.

      as un fair as it is, as soon as it might looks as though you are not fast or contributing to a team f1 spits you out. look at what happened to Heikki, or Wurz, Davidson, Truli and Barrichello, all good drivers but all forced to leave.

      FM want to still be in F1, and there may be a seat available to him. i hope he takes it and has some success.

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