No driver in the history of Formula One can come as close to winning the world drivers’ title without actually doing it as Felipe Massa.
Rewind almost five years to the final round of the title decider in Sao Paulo and Massa had tears in his eyes, celebrating becoming a world champion on his home soil. In the pitlane, his father was also crying tears of joy, tears that would become those of despair just seconds later as Lewis Hamilton past Timo Glock’s struggling Toyota on the final corner of the final lap to snatch ultimate glory from his grasp.
Fast-forward back to today and Massa is a man under pressure. Serious pressure. Yes he is team-mate to Fernando Alonso and the Scuderia has clearly put all of its eggs into the Alonso basket but seventh in the drivers’ standings with a paltry 61 points is an extremely poor return for a man who could have been world champion. It’s little wonder many see it as a matter of time before Ferrari pull the plug.
Massa’s 2013 season didn’t actually get off to a bad start in Australia. He outqualified Alonso to start fourth on the grid ahead of his team-mate and actually led the pursuit of Sebastian Vettel in the opening stint.
But he vented his frustration after the race when team strategy brought in Alonso for fresh rubber earlier on the second stop, allowing the Spaniard to come out ahead of Vettel and Massa, who was not a happy bunny afterwards when interviewed by Sky Sports F1.
No, I'm not pleased. When you are there fighting with a car and I was second and close to Sebastian and then suddenly a car behind stops ... he [Alonso] stopped pretty early to be honest - it was a risk, but it worked.
Spurred on by this sense of injustice, Massa qualified on the front row in Malaysia alongside pole sitter Vettel, with Alonso a place behind. But he bemoaned high graining on his intermediate tyres en route to a fifth place finish after Alonso crashed out in the opening lap.
Sadly for Massa, the promise of the first two races soon became a distant memory and he would not finish ahead of his teammate again in the opening half of the season.
Massa again put his sixth place finish in China down to excessive graining on the front tyres as his team-mate took the race victory.
Nonetheless, he enjoyed arguably his best race of the season in Spain, storming to his one and only podium so far having been demoted three places to 9th on the grid for blocking Mark Webber in qualifying.
Monaco proved an unmitigated disaster. A gearbox replacement meant he sat out the entire qualifying session and so had to start from the back before suffering a big crash during the race, hitting the wall at the Ste Devote corner which led to a hospital check up.
The accident may well have affected Massa.
Back in 2009, the likable Brazilian came close to losing his life after a suspension spring from countryman Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn smashed into his helmet at full speed forcing him to miss the remainder of the season. That he made it back to such a high level of racing at all is testimony to his strength of character and racing spirit but it is bound to have had an effect.
He was fit to race in Canada but again seemed all at sea, qualifying 16th and finishing eighth. He was slightly better in Britain, finishing sixth from his starting place of 11th but Germany was another day to forget as the Brazilian spun into retirement on the third lap.
Eighth in Hungary means that Massa is now well and truly out of the running. But more worryingly for him will be all the talk in the paddock surrounding his future within the team.
Felipe’s mid-season marks:
Race craft: 6/10
Summary: Must buck up his ideas or he’ll be out.
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