Felipe Massa's Emotional Outburst a Sure Sign of a Driver in Decline

Craig ChristopherAnalyst ISeptember 27, 2011

Felipe Massa: The fun has gone.
Felipe Massa: The fun has gone.Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Felipe Massa’s emotional attack on Lewis Hamilton after the Singapore Grand Prix is a clear symptom of a driver realising his dreams of glory have evaporated.

After a testy weekend in which the Brazilian and Brit had couple of run-ins, emotion got the better of Massa, leading him to interrupt one of Hamilton’s interviews by slapping him aggressively on the shoulder and offering sarcastic congratulations on a great race.

Not satisfied with this childish outburst, he went on to tell anyone who would listen that Hamilton ruined his race and that Hamilton is a danger to himself and others.

And he’s not letting facts get in the way of a good story, either.

He is reported as saying, “He could have caused a big accident. He touched my wheel on a straight—300 kph, and he punctured my tires, so he destroyed my race.”

He does realise the race was televised and everyone saw the collision happen in the middle of Turn 7, one of the slowest corners on the track, doesn’t he?

The histrionics continued. "My thoughts are that, again, he cannot use his mind—even in qualifying."

While it is certainly true that Hamilton has had a bad year in terms of collisions and that he has crossed swords with Massa on a few occasions, he’s not the reason Massa’s career is in a downward spiral.

The incident in qualifying where Massa accused Hamilton of trying to pass at all costs was in reality Massa driving slower than everyone else in order to build a gap to accelerate into.

Nothing wrong with that, but he was holding Hamilton up and so Lewis tried to pass, at which point Massa accelerated to block him and then immediately slowed, while Hamilton completed the pass.

The animus between these two has its roots in the 2008 championship season where Hamilton managed to clinch the title from Massa by a single point on the final lap of the final race of the season.

Although their rivalry that year seemed good-natured, it did mark the high water mark for Massa’s career.

Since then his performances have been on the slide.

The 2009 season got off to a slow start with both himself and teammate Kimi Raikkonen struggling against the superior Brawn and Red Bull Machines.

He was then involved in the sickening accident in Hungary when he was hit in the helmet by a spring that had come loose from compatriot and friend Rubens Barrichello’s car in practice, which required a titanium plate to be fitted to his skull to make it strong enough for racing.

Since his comeback, he is a different driver.

Gone is the spark and flair of a guy who could lead the championship. He is slower, more risk averse and has been humiliated by his team and teammate and placed in a position of the Ferrari’s very clear No. 2 driver.

Despite being in a very competitive car last year—his teammate took it to second place in the championship—he languished well behind the big five of Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber.

This year he seems resigned to aiming for a top six finish—sometimes he even achieves it—but he’s coming into conflict with the faster drivers. He has yet to even come close to finishing on the podium.

In Australia, he held up Button for a long time. In Monaco, he famously held up a flying Hamilton until the two had their inevitable touch at the hairpin and Massa’s subsequent destruction in the tunnel.

It continued in Monza where Massa was holding up Webber until the two touched at the first chicane, spinning Massa and ultimately putting Webber out of the race.

And so we come to Singapore and we’re back to Massa complaining because the big boys play rough and he—or his race chances—ends up getting hurt.

At 30 years of age, Massa’s career should be far from over, but it’s difficult not to get the impression that his seat at Ferrari wouldn’t be better filled by a promising youngster than by a guy whose role has been reduced to a faithful sidekick.

He will not outlast Alonso, therefore Ferrari would be better served by blooding a new apprentice, someone who will take the team out beyond 2014/15.

Massa, meanwhile, is costing them points and contributing little. Where's the value in that?

It is a little sad to see a once-exciting driver struggling to stay competitive in a rapidly evolving sport, but even more so when they lash out at others to cover for their own inadequacies.

It's time for Massa to either accept he hasn't got what it takes and resign himself to finishing off the podium or get out of the sport. Anything else is just deluding himself.


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