Formula 1 Midseason Report: Felipe Massa

 

By 

t) on August 22, 2012

Before the start of the season, I highlighted six drivers who had a lot to prove going into 2012. The article can be found here.

The mid-season break is as good a time as any to revisit those men to see how they're progressing. First, let's take a look at Felipe Massa.

Felipe Massa's Ferrari F10 in the Senna Corner (Montreal) Image by Gregory Moine via Flickr

Background

Massa entered 2012 on very thin ice. He could—and probably should—have been dropped at the end of last year following an extremely disappointing 2011.

The Ferrari was the third-best car, occasionally the second-best, but Felipe's best finishing position in any race was fifth.

The year before hadn't been much better. While teammate Fernando Alonso battled for (and probably should have won) the title, Massa was a distant sixth place overall.

Since returning from the injuries he sustained at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, Massa had started 38 races, won none (though he gifted the 2010 German Grand Prix to Alonso) and scored just five podiums.

His performances were far from good enough.


2012

The Ferrari was a very poor car at the start of the season. While Alonso managed to drag it around the track at a reasonable speed, Massa simply couldn't handle it.

This was somewhat expected; only the very best drivers can take a bad car and make it respectable.

But in a field with mere tenths separating the front-runners and the midfield, the size of the gap was just too big. After just two races, the knives were out, and lists of potential replacements were already being compiled.

After five, it seemed almost certain that he'd lose the seat at the end of the year—and possibly sooner.

Then Massa enjoyed a mini-revival at the sixth race, Monaco. He pretty much matched Alonso lap-for-lap most of the weekend, and finished close behind his teammate. That's exactly where Ferrari want him.

His pace was decent in Canada too, but an error early in the race put him into a spin and he fell from fifth to 11th, losing any chance of a podium finish. He'd demonstrated good pace at two very different circuits.

He wasn't especially poor at Valencia, either. The results say he finished a lap down while Alonso won, but on this occasion, Felipe was blameless. It was a combination oftrack debris, Kamui Kobayashi and a badly-timed (for him) safety car which left Massa a distant 16th.

And in the British Grand Prix, Massa qualified well in the rain and came home in fourth place, his best result of the season. In fact, it was his best result since 2010.

But one decent finish didn't prove a great deal. Felipe needed two good races before the summer break (a point at which a team may, if they haven't already, make a decision about their driver lineup for the next year).

In Germany, a first-lap accident dropped Massa to the rear of the field and he could only fight back to finish 12th. And in Hungary, a poor start from seventh left the Brazilian ninth after the first lap.

A race distance later, that was where he finished.


Has he proved a point?

The improvements in pace Massa has shown as the season has progressed won't harm his cause. In terms of pure pace, he appears to be largely within the window Ferrari want him operating in—within a few tenths of Alonso, with occasional blips.

Trouble is, he just isn't getting it done in the races. The pace he has means nothing if he can't convert it to good finishes.

It's true that he's had some poor luck here and there—Valencia, for example—but in Formula 1, a driver makes a lot of his own luck. If someone runs into trouble, it's usually because he put himself in trouble's way.

It doesn't matter that Felipe can point to a timesheet and say he was only 0.143-seconds slower than his teammate over the course of a lap.

What matters is the fact that, since he became able to drive the car at a half-decent pace (Monaco onwards), Massa has scored 23 points.

Alonso has scored 103.

I don't think he's done enough—and if he's still in F1 next year, it'll be a huge surprise.

 

Follow me on Twitter if you wish, @JamesNeilsen

 

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Helmut Marko says the F1 Paddock is Jealous of Red Bull

 

Red Bull's Helmut Marko says the team is simply “more creative” than its rivals…
via SPEED Staff / GMM  |  Posted August 01, 2012   GMM Newswire
 
 

 

Head to head! Red Bull Racing and Lotus Renault trucks Image by Supermac1961 via Flickr

The paddock noise about Red Bull 'cheating' is fueled by jealousy, the team's Helmut Marko has claimed.

So far in 2012, the reigning champions have been at the center of most of F1's technical controversies, including holes in the floor, wheel hubs, engine mapping and ride height adjusters.

In a headline-writer's dream, team boss Christian Horner let his temper slip this week when German reports quoted him as denouncing the sagas as “bulls**t”.

And Austrian Marko, who is team owner Dietrich Mateschitz's right hand man, denied in an interview with the German broadcaster RTL that Red Bull is overly “aggressive” when it comes to interpreting the rules.

“We are just more creative,” he said.

“We live within the regulations, but of course we also see how we can make them work best for us.”

Marko said “other teams” are simply not as good as Red Bull on that front.

“When they see us do something, they either copy it or they try to have it forbidden,” he said.

“The jealousy and envy that we see in the paddock is because we have won for the past two years, and because we are not a traditional racing team.

“I think this has fed this resentment and these attempts to disturb us in some way,” he added.

 

Halfway Through the 2012 F1 Season That Has Never Failed to Thrill

By BRAD SPURGEON via IHT, nytimes.com

F1 Drivers Parade: Fernando Alonso in an Austin Healey Image by Gregory Moine via Flickr

HOCKENHEIM, Germany — We have now arrived at the halfway point of the longest Formula One season in history — 20 races, ending at the end of November — and I think it is safe to say that there has not yet been a boring race.

Formula One
Formula One

A view from the paddock with Brad Spurgeon.

The German Grand Prix at Hockenheim on Sunday began looking as if it might end up a boring affair as Fernando Alonso scored pole position during a superb qualifying in treacherous, wet conditions and the Spaniard in the Ferrari looked set to hold onto the lead to the end. But with 25 laps left in the 67-lap race, a sudden teasing game began when Jenson Button in a McLaren managed to pass Sebastian Vettel in a Red Bull and take second position after starting sixth.

Button looked like he would capitalize on Alonso’s Ferrari’s frequent weakness: its tires’ performance at the end of races. As the British driver — who has not won since the first race of the season in Australia in March — pressured Alonso, at about a second behind him for many laps, the race became a scenario of suspense and guessing.

But guessing that this time it would be the McLaren that wore out its tires seemed unthinkable. Yet, suddenly, it was Button who became the prey to the rapidly attacking Vettel, who passed Button with less than three laps left and finished second.

Then, two hours after the race, there was more excitement as it was announced that Vettel had illegally passed Button by driving off the edge of the track at the hairpin to get past the McLaren driver, gaining an unfair advantage. Vettel was penalized, with 20 seconds added to his race time. He dropped to fifth in the race classification, which raised Kimi Raikkonen of the Lotus team to third place, and Button to second.

None of this changed the winner: Alonso claimed his third victory of the season — the only driver who can make that boast — proving once that again that he can capitalize on every opportunity that presents itself. He extended his lead in the series to 154 points. Mark Webber, in the other Red Bull, has only 120 points, while Vettel has 110.

But the race had the added benefit of showing what happens when the series’ five German drivers compete in their home race. Vettel, who has never won a race in July — and therefore never won his home Grand Prix — once again failed, with victory looking like it was teasing him, so close yet so far.

Michael Schumacher started third on the grid and finished seventh in a strong race which had the German driver outperforming his teammate — Nico Rosberg, another German, who finished 10th — for the third race in a row. And Nico Hulkenberg in a Force India, finished ninth.

The only German driver who did not finish in the top 10 was Timo Glock, in the inferior Marussia car that has not scored a point so far in its two and a half seasons in the series.

In the end, there was plenty to watch and dream about here, just as there has been at every race so far this year, and as the tight season no doubt promises for the next 10 races.