The activity in the blog restarts with this superb guest article from Alex Goldschmidt, regarding Felipe Massa and his recent career. You can find Alex on Twitter at @eyeofalex1977 and in his blog at alexgoldie.wordpress.com . I hope you’ll enjoy the read, let us know your toughts!
Well, it’s been an eventful couple of years for the passionate and talented Brazilian, who since Hungary 2009, has suffered a severe drop in form. as a result of his career-threatening injury, when the suspension spring that came loose from Barrichello’s Brawn BGP001, hit Felipe on the left hand side of his crash helmet at approx. 160 miles per hour.
After the nearly victorious campaign in 2008, when he lost out to McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton in the Drivers’ title fight to just a solitary point, and showed true passion and professionalism, even though he’d won the race in his home country. But with the changes made by the FIA to the aero regulations for 2009, and the introduction on the rear blown double diffuser by Brawn, which blew the competition away, especially Ferrari.
And the season didn’t seem to get much better for the Scuderia, with Kimi not as committed as per the last two seasons, especially as he won the title in 2007, but Felipe was number one in 2008, with Ferrari fully behind the Brazilian, who battled with Hamilton until the very end. But in 2009, the Scuderia started in Australia, and it was instantly apparent that the team found it difficult to manage the tyres well during the race with the F60, with the Ferraris suffering exceptionally quick graining of the super soft compound, forcing Felipe into a 3 stop strategy, and then reitred due to a mechanical failure. Malaysia was another race for him to forget, qualifying 16th, due to a team error, and ended up being classified 9th, after a torrential rainstorm, poor light and timing delays stopped proceedings, with Jenson picking up his second straight win, and Kimi Raikkonen showed his lack of patience, by changing out of his race suit and grabbing an ice cream out of the fridge on live TV.
But Felipe’s luck went from bad to worse, as he retired in China, due to electrical issues, and finished in 14th in Bahrain, with a KERS issue and front wing damage hindering his efforts. But in Spain, Ferrari arrived with an upgraded car, and with the new aero parts, Massa qualified 4th, and held 3rd place for the majority of the race, before the computer software forced the Brazilian to conserve fuel for the last 10 laps, which allowed both Vettel and Alonzo to cruise past, meaning that he had enough fuel as analysed after the race. He also had strong finishes in both Monaco, ending up 4th, and at the Nürburgring, finishing 3rd. In Germany, he used his fuel strategy brilliantly, whilst defending from other drivers and looking after his tyres.
But it was in Hungary, that Felipe suffered a possible life-threatening and career-ending injury, when the spring hit his helmet at that horrific speed, with Felipe still able to slow the car down, before his Ferrari F60 ended up hitting the tyre barrier head on. After being airlifted to the AEK hospital in Budapest, having surgery on his left eye and the surrounding area, he was transferred to Brazil, where further tests showed that he required a titanium plate for racing, and had plastic surgery to cover up any scarring as result of the surgery and the accident. And after Michael Schumacher attempted to make a comeback, cut short due to a neck injury, Ferrari test driver Luca Badoer filled Felipe’s seat, who then failed to score any points in the next two races, thereby opening the door for Force India’s Giancarlo Fisichella taking the race seat instead, having signed a deal with Ferrari to be their test driver for 2010.
Felipe, however, was carrying on with his recouperation, attempting to come back to race as soon as humanly possible. In October of that season, he met with the FIA’s medical delegate, who had organised a series of neurological tests for Felipe. As a result of the success of Massa passing the tests, Ferrari announced that the Brazilian would be returning to racing, but firstly, acclimatizing to racing speeds by using the 2007 Ferrari F1 car. He also made an appearance at the Brazilian GP, waving the chequered flag.
Felipe returned back to the racetrack in 2010, starting off in earnest, by qualifying and finishing 2nd behind Alonso at the opening round of the season at Bahrain, even though he had to conserve fuel for the last 22 laps of the race. At Australia, Massa was appointed as a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association. He qualified 5th, and managed to stay away from the chaos that followed from the changeable conditions that hit the Albert Park circuit, and finished 3rd. Afterwards, Felipe said that it was unusual for him to have such a great start to the season, and it has been his best ever finish in Australia. He stormed up the grid from 21st to finish 7th in Malaysia, taking the lead in the Driver’s standings, before losing it at China, by finishing ninth, and ending up in the top 6 in the title fight.
He then qualified and finished 4th in Monaco, and finished 7th at Instanbul, having out-qualified Alonso, as well as beating his Spanish teammate during the race, but at a track, where he was known to excel, he classed the race as “boring”. And in Canada, things to be so disappointing, as Felipe finished 15th and a lap down, as well as after spinning Liuzzi three times. But then Ferrari committed another famous sin of Formula One etiquette, specially as Ferrari had committed the notorious ‘A1-Ring’ team order crime in 2001, with Jean Todt ordering Rubens to move over for Schumacher for the championship fight. The team orders saga at the German Grand Prix was invstigated after Felipe’s race engineer, Rob Smedley said “Fernando is faster than you. Can you confirm you understood that message?”, and on lap 49, Felipe allowed his team mate to overtake, with Smedley apologizing to the Brazilian on the radio, indicating to the race stewards that team orders had been instigated. Ferrari were fined $100,000 for breaking the Sporting Regulations code, and that the matter was referred to the World Motor Sport Council. But nothing further came of it. Felipe secured podiums as Monza and Korea, and finished the season 6th in the Drivers’ Championship, and earlier, in June, he had also signed a contract extension with Ferrari until 2012.
Felipe remained with the Scuderia, and drove the new Ferrari 150° Italia for the first time in January 2011, but he has had a bit of a yo-yo season, performace-wise, with 7th in Australia, 5th in Malaysia, China was a good result, before retiring in Spain & crashing out in Monaco, after colliding with Hamilton. He also finished 6th in Canada, before a string of 5th places in Valencia, Silverstone and Germany. Massa also secured 6th in Hungary, just two years after his accident. This was followed by 8th in Spa, 6th in Italy, as well as suffering a right rear puncture in Singapore, finishing 9th, after colliding with Hamilton, who lost part of his front wing. It seems as though Felipe and Lewis seem to be at each other’s throats this season, with it all coming to a head at the post-race TV interview area, when Felipe patted the McLaren driver, sarcastically saying “Good job, bro!”, which nearly ended in a heated confrontation between the two rivals. He eventually finished 6th again this season, with 26 points less than the previous year.
It didn’t also help Felipe this season, that his team mate Alonzo has consistently pushed the 150 Italia beyond its capabilities, and showed his skills as a great driver, whereas Massa has had problems with the new upgraded front wings, which for the Brazilian, would fail spectacularly, causing the wing to flex so much, it looked like it was to snap off, and damage the tyres and other vital components on the car. Thi shows that just like other teams, Ferrari don’t always get it right.
Felipe has a lot to prove this season, and as long as he stays focused on the task at hand, he may be able to retain his seat at the Scuderia, but if he’s unable to recapture the form that almost gained him the Driver’s title in 2008, there are a couple of drivers that may be in with a possible opportunity of replacing him. Firstly, Sergio Perez, who is part of the Ferrari Drivers Academy, and a current Formula One driver, driving for the Sauber F1 team, whose cars are powered by Ferrari V8s, who is a great talent for the future, who has so much promise, and is always kind to his tyres.
Secondly, on the injured list, former Renault driver Robert Kubica, who has been on the sidelines since early this season, since his crash at the Rally di Andora, which left his right forearm partially severed, and he is still recovering to get back to full fitness. It wouldn’t at all surprise me, as he is fluent in Italian, and has the same capacity as Fernando to push cars beyond their limit. But his rehabilitation is taking longer than anticipated, and his race fitness nowhere near where it should be. But I am sceptical, as to whether Robert will be able to return to F1, especially as his old seat at Lotus GP has been taken up by former Scuderia Ferrari driver and 2007 F1 champion Kimi Raikkonen, who makes his comeback after two years with the WRC.
But all I can say to help this passionate and talented Brazilian is this – FORZA FELIPE! Buona fortuna per la prossima stagione!