Felipe Massa: Can he raise his game?
In a topsy-turvy Formula 1 season, where five races have been won by five different drivers and teams firmly stuck towards the back of the pack last year are now challenging the established order, one of the few remaining constants has been Felipe Massa’s performance.
In both qualifying and racing, Massa trails his Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso by at least half a second every lap. At the Spanish Grand Prix, Massa qualified 16th and finished 15th, prompting his team to Tweet that it was “disappointed with Felipe”. They later revised their message somewhat, telling the Sunday Times, “It was a poor choice of grammar. We are disappointed in the outcome of Felipe but not with Felipe himself.”
The 31-year old Brazilian lies 17th in the standings, while his teammate Alonso is tied for first place. On Monday, Ferrari issued a warning thinly disguised as a statement of support.
“Everyone is expecting a change of gear starting right away with the Monaco Grand Prix.” They did suggest that Massa was, “very unlucky, both in the race and in qualifying.”
Injury and recovery
Massa’s Ferrari career has had its up and downs since his return to Formula 1 after a frightening injury during qualification for the Hungarian GP in 2009. A suspension spring from another car smashed into his helmet causing severe injury. Massa made an astonishing recovery, returning to start the 2010 season. He started and finished second in Bahrain, and came in third in Melbourne. In June of 2010, just weeks before the turning point in his career with Ferrari, he was given a contract extension until the end of 2012.
Controversy and disappointment
Early in the 2010 German GP, Massa took the lead and held it from teammate Alonso until his team ordered him to relinquish the lead in the 49th lap. This cynical manipulation drew a derisory fine from the FIA, and condemnation from fans, especially in Brazil. A by-product of the ban is a healthier betting market for F1 at sites like partypokerbonuscodes.com.
Felipe Massa has not been the same driver since. As Ferrari pointed out in their statement,
“In 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… 49 points two years ago and 24 the following year, while so far this season he has just 2.”
For the moment, Ferrari’s message appears supportive and encouraging.
“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 meters from what, as from next Sunday, will be transformed into the paddock for the sixth round of the 2012 championship.”
If his performance does not improve dramatically in Monaco, Scuderia Ferrari is likely to be even more dissatisfied with Massa than they are now, which could lead to them making changes in the very near future. However, Monaco is one of his favourite circuits, so it is still possible that Massa will be able turn his season around. Three years ago, he came back from a terrible injury; can he now come back from season filled with uncompetitive mediocrity?