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The Five Best Drives of Felipe Massa

Andrew Szekler writes about the excitement of Formula One racing.

Felipe Massa was the ever-reliable second driver of Ferrari when he was driving alongside Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso.

For a brief time in 2007 and 2008, Massa was a title contender on his own merit, a man who on his day looked as fast as anyone and rather surprisingly, had the better of Kimi Raikkonen in 2008 and 2009 until he suffered a season-ending head injury at the Hungarian GP.

2015 Austrian GP

Massa left Ferrari at the end of 2013, and his critics questioned whether he even had a right to be on the grid after he was comprehensively bested by Fernando Alonso between 2010 and 2013. but Massa proved his critics wrong throughout 2014. Despite the woeful luck he had at the beginning of the season, he came good in the second half of 2014 and more often than not had the better of his talented young teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Mercedes were utterly dominant throughout 2015, and apart from the occasional flash of speed from Sebastian Vettel, nobody looked like challenging the Silver Arrows.

Nobody was challenging the Silver Arrows in Austria either, as Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton disappeared during the race. Vettel was following them at third, and Massa was following Vettel at fourth, the two of them gapping the rest of the chasing pack.

Vettel looked slightly faster than Massa, but a slow pitstop for the Ferrari man allowed Massa to jump Vettel and move up to third. Vettel closed back up to Massa, but he was unable to pass the Brazilian, who scored a well-deserved podium. He was slightly lucky with Vettel’s problems, but Massa was still driving the wheels of his car and finished half a minute ahead of his teammate by the end of the race.

2006 Turkish GP

Massa switched from Sauber to Ferrari in 2006, and initially, he struggled at the Scuderia. After he was joined by his new race engineer Rob Smedley, his performance improved markedly, but he still failed to win a race.

He surprised everyone when he scored his first pole position at the Turkish GP and edged the legendary Michael Schumacher. He maintained his lead at the start and was running a safe first place, though few doubted that their positions will be eventually switched as Schumacher needed all the points in the championship fight against Alonso.

Ferrari’s plans were thrown off script when an early SC was deployed. All drivers jumped into the pits, Massa maintained his lead, but Alonso jumped Schumacher for a second.

After the restart Massa pulled away from Alonso, who rather surprisingly had the measure of an unusual error-prone Michael Schumacher. While Alonso and Schumacher were having a life and death duel for the second position, Massa was comfortable motoring away towards his first F1 win, which he duly scored by reaching the chequered flag 5,5 seconds ahead of Alonso.

2007 British GP

Ferrari and McLaren were the two dominant teams of F1 during the 2007 season, and which team won the races was pretty much determined by the characteristics of each track. McLaren had a car with a shorter wheelbase, which gave them an advantage on tracks which had slow corners, while Ferrari’s long-wheelbase car had an advantage on high-speed corners.

The British GP looked like a race where no team had a clear advantage over the other, and the grid was a mixed one. Hamilton took the pole from Raikkonen, Alonso was lining up third behind his pole-sitter teammate, while Massa was lining up fourth.

Massa stalled on the grid, which saw him start from the pitlane. Silverstone was not a particularly easy track to overtake at, as on the old layout the heavy braking zones that were needed for overtakes were largely missing.

Still, Massa was not discouraged by his opening-lap disaster and charged through the field. By the closing stages of the race he was all over the back of fourth-placed man Robert Kubica. Kubica, however, made no mistakes and kept fourth place, but it was still a feisty drive from Massa, and he showed the paddock that he was a real racer and fighter.

2008 Hungarian GP

Going into the Hungarian GP, McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton was leading the 2008 championship. The McLaren man was seemingly on a roll after two very impressive wins in Silverstone and Hockenheim. Ferrari, on the other hand, was seemingly on the backfoot, as their drivers struggled to match Hamilton. Kimi Raikkonen’s qualifying woes were particularly concerning.

The pattern of the last races continued in the qualifying session of the Hungarian GP also, as Hamilton took pole, and surprisingly he was joined on the front row by his teammate Kovalainen. Massa was only third, while Raikkonen was only 6th.

Massa had a rocket start and immediately passed Kovalainen and was arriving side by side with Hamilton into Turn 1. Massa was more aggressive and passed Hamilton with a superb move.

The two of them immediately started to pull away from Kovalainen and the rest. Before the race, most expected Hamilton to easily cruise away from the field, but this was not the case at all, as a matter of fact Massa was quicker than his McLaren rival, and steadily increased his lead.

Massa looked secure in his lead when Hamilton dropped back with a puncture. By this time, Kovalainen was over 20 seconds behind Massa, and the Ferrari man looked set for the win when disaster struck. He had to retire with an engine failure with three laps to go. It was bitter luck for Massa, but it still took nothing away from a sensational performance.

2008 Brazilian GP

Going into the season finale of the 2008 season, Lewis Hamilton had a seven-point lead over his rival Felipe Massa. Hamilton had just come off the back of a superb win in China, while Massa looked like a beaten man in Shanghai, where he was way off the pace of Hamilton and his teammate Raikkonen.

Still, with a mathematical chance still alive, Massa had something to fight for. He looked like the dominant man in Sao Paulo. He took pole from Trulli and his teammate Raikkonen and was the hot favourite to win the race. The title was another matter, as he needed Hamilton to finish sixth or lower, a possibility, but not a very likely one.

The race started in wet conditions and Massa succeeded in holding onto his lead. He maintained first place after the field switched to dry tyres, and despite some early challenge from Vettel and Alonso, as the track dried up, Massa eased away from the field. By the time the final pitstops were done, he was in the lead by over 10 seconds. Hamilton at the time was running 4th and looked set for the title when the rain began to fall again.

Drivers jumped into the pits, but as the rain was not particularly heavy, Timo Glock decided to brave it out on dry tyres.

Glock’s gamble meant that Hamilton dropped back to fifth, and with two laps to go, when Sebastian Vettel passed him, he dropped back to sixth. For a brief time Massa looked like winning the championship.

Massa maintained his iron grip over the race and when he crossed the line, the Ferrari pits went wild in celebrations. However, fate had another cruel twist in store. When the heavier rain slowed Glock down, Hamilton passed the Toyota man on the final corner of the last lap, in the end winning the title with one point from Massa.

Massa may have failed to win the title, but he had a superb race. Under difficult conditions and immense pressure he performed superbly, especially in comparison with the topsy-turvy race his main rival Hamilton had.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Andrew Szekler