Posts Tagged ‘Felipe Massa’

Ferrari announced that Felipe Massa will be driving chassis number 294 in Sepang, as opposed to 293 that he used in Melbourne. This, by itself, is not major news. Teams do tend to go through a couple of chassis throughout the year. What’s interesting however is the wording that Ferrari used to justify this decision. They said: “This choice was taken to clear up any doubts about the unusual performance of his car during the weekend at Albert Park”.

This statement striked me, because there have been no suggestions whatsoever anywhere in the press (printed or online) that Massa’s Australian predicament was down to a defect chassis, there was therefore no need for Ferrari to go public with that. Ferrari’s decision to use the words “clear up any doubts” implies that, to them, it’s not an issue and that this has been an internal confrontation, apparently between Massa’s side and Ferrari management. Ferrari, though, go a step further and state that: “Felipe knows he can count on the team to do everything, both from the technical and the operational point of view, to put him in a better state to show off his talents – even at the cost of extra work in these few days that separate the Australian race from the one in Malaysia”.

To me, this reads like a disclaimer a lawyer would have written, and definitely not a simple team announcement. I read it like a direct message to Massa: we give you everything, we even respond to unreasonable demands at the cost of extra work, so it’s up to you to deliver. I am not used to Ferrari conducting (thinly veiled) dialogue with their drivers in public, so I am very concerned that the above statement is a prelude to the oncoming Massa’s replacement. It appears Ferrari have had enough, and are willing to go public just to make sure everybody understands it’s not the car’s fault, but Massa’s. If the situation inside the team was harmonious, then I would have expected a very simple and to-the-point statement, such as “Felipe Massa will be driving chassis No294 in Sepang”, and nothing more. The way the statement is written can be useful when terminating a contract, because it puts on records that: (a) the team have gone over and beyond their normal procedures to assist Massa, (b) they have done so at an extra cost in terms of man hours and shipping and (c) Felipe is aware of that.

All this additional seasoning makes me suspicious.

As the dust settles on the 2011 championship and the teams are gearing up for the first February pre-season tests, the drivers are getting back into the rhythm of things, picking up their exercise regimes and preparing themselves psychologically for the next season. This, of course, includes the driver’s favourite pre-season game; the mind type. And, arguably, there are few better at it than Fernando Alonso.

During this year’s WROOOM!! event at Madonna di Campiglio, Fernando was asked if he knew anything about Robert Kubica’s recovery, and took the opportunity to suggest that Kubica is “the best driver” in F1. This little comment seems, at a first glance, to have been voiced for the ears of Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. Surely, however, such minor comments cannot unsettle drivers of Vettel’s or Hamilton’s calibre. And, in reality, Alonso’s much more cunning than that.

Alonso’s main concern, just like every other F1 driver’s on the grid, is first and foremost his team-mate; in that case, Felipe Massa. Alonso knows that his reputation and his chances of winning the championship begin from inside Ferrari, by having a psychologically beaten team-mate and ensuring that Ferrari is working for him, and him only. Which is why when he was (naturally) asked if he would like to be team-mates with Kubica, his reply was “I am happy with Felipe”.

Although at face value this sounds as a very politically correct answer, if I were Felipe I’d be devastated. A condescending answer like that, from a driver who has been dominating Felipe for the past 2 years, is a serious psychological blow. It shows to Felipe that he prefers him in the team, not because he is nicer or prettier or faster (he has already established that Kubica is the best), but apparently because he has the upper hand. If Alonso were to say “yeah, I want to see Kubica in Ferrari”, this could potentially motivate and anger Massa to prove himself in 2012. It would also be the “wrong” answer to give as it could reverberate badly within Ferrari. By being condescending, he was able to register a psychological blow against Felipe, without actually anyone picking up on it.

A master at work; on and off the track.