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Could Massa Become World Champion?

Could Massa Become World Champion?

Can Felipe Massa Become World ChampionWhen it was announced that Felipe Massa would be driving for Ferrari, I publically stated that I didn’t think much of the Brazilian driver, and even suggested that the decision to replace Rubens Barrichello with Felipe was an act of desperation on the Italian teams part. Since that announcement was made, Felipe has raced for a complete season with the Scuderia, partnered with Michael Schumacher and now to be teamed with Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen. In Massa’s first year with Ferrari, the Brazilian managed two victories, a string of podiums and a nice tally of points. In fact, the young charger finished 2006 with 80 points which placed him third in the championship.

So is Massa really any good, or is the car simply carrying him?

The reason I ask now is because Ferrari are venturing into a new era. Their golden child Michael Schumacher has retired from racing, and key personnel have been shifted around. For sure, 2007 is going to be a tough year for the team simply because of all the changes that have occurred, but the car appears to be on form and winter testing has gone relatively well for them. Felipe has just topped the timing sheets in Bahrain for three successive days and has quite clearly underlined the cars potential for this upcoming season. And as I typed up the final Bahrain post earlier, I started to think that Massa may have what it takes, the potential, to become a World Champion.

Sure, it is all smiles now...It was this thought that led me to recall my previous judgement of the Brazilian driver, and possible even think about revising it – Felipe Massa is starting to look like a potential World Champion. With his new team mate, Felipe has been seen to be jovial and social at the circuits, and he has stated that himself and Kimi get along okay. But Massa’s recent superb ontrack performance almost gives the impression he is stamping his authority on either Kimi or the team. It was Felipe that went fastest, not Raikkonen. In fact, aside from his very first run, Kimi hasn’t been in the press much and although he hasn’t avoided the cameras, he hasn’t attracted them.

This kind of behaviour from Felipe is reminiscent of drivers of an era past, where often if both team mates were testing together, one would always ensure to pop in a quick lap just prior to the end of the day simply move up on the timing sheets – it is a mind game, and Formula One drivers occasionally like to play. I get the impression that Felipe is playing a little, but he is also marking himself out as the ‘Schumacher replacement’. While the media were playing to Kimi late last year as the ‘replacement’, I feel that it is Massa who is trying to gain the coverted crown.

So Massa is playing his cards well, but does he really have the potential to win big? Well, drivers have often said that they thought Felipe was a fast driver. Even when he was poodling around in a Sauber, people in the know have offered praise to Massa. Unfortunately, the statements were often followed with a “…but he throws off the track too often.” And this was the real crux of Felipe’s problem. Ferrari suffered this in the first part of 2006 when Massa threw the red car around a fair amount, but Massa soon found a groove and settled down. The maiden win came in Turkey and then the storming drive in Brazil in front of his home crowd left many a fans jaw on the deck – it was a superb drive to victory.

So as Massa enters his first season without the guiding hand of the ‘Schumacher team’, he will have to assume a more dominant mantle in the Scuderia. As testing showed though, this task doesn’t seem to daunt the diminutive driver, and I think I’m going to eat some humble pie and revise my initial statement made 18 months ago: Felipe probably has the ability to it, but he needs to start well, dominate Raikkonen and keep it on the black stuff.

Is my revisied statement a more accurate reflection of Felipe’s abilities, or should I stick to the original? Have your say in the comments…

Formula One, F1, Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen, Michael Schumacher, Ferrari

Oliver White

7 comments

  • Hey!

    I’m enjoying your blog very much.

    I have been watching all the young up and coming F1 drivers for years now. I was also fortunate enough to have spotted Michae1 Schumacher at a WSC championship race in Montreal a year before he got his F1 test andI told everyone how would listen that I just saw a future F1 Champion on his way.

    To which I was met with much trepidation and denial.

    (how do you know? how can you tell? What the hell do you know? etc)

    When I first spotted Felipe testing with Sauber, I immediately saw how massive a RAW talent he was, he immediately reminded me of the late great Gilles Villenueve by the way he muscled the car around to the extreme. I told all who would listen that he was a potential winner and a very exciting driver to watch. Whats more, I pointed out to my many Tifosi friends at a Ferrari centric forum that he was EXACTLY the type of Classic, throw the car through the corners and muscle it back out again kind of driver that Enzo Ferrari and Luca Di Montezemolo adore so much(as do I). And at this revelation, I was again met with much negative venom and disdain for supporting and even suggesting he would one day be Ferrari bound. I never doubted it for a second from his first F1 practice laps.

    So what exactly is it that I see and saw that many like yourself could not?!?! For one, His total commitment and Fearlessness when attacking corner. So whats changed now you might ask? He still attacks the corners as hard as ever, but Now, with Maestro Michae1’s tutelage, he has discovered the secrets of the virage. And with that knowledge he has become a tighter and even more polished kind of tiger.

    On close first hand observation by a pal in Malaysia who spend an entire session focusing on Felipe lapping Sepang. This friend was also experienced at driving on this, his home track, to which he said…

    “Nobody attacks corners like Massa. AND he tries every conceivable angle of entry and exit as though measuring as many possibilities for angles of attack for passing and defending on every inch of track.

    So much so that once fully acquainted with said corner, he becomes virtually impossible to attack there, or to resist his will to pass you.

    Some might recall his pass on Alonso at Imola in an impossible location.

    It should also be observed that last year he passed more cars than any driver including Michae1. He even has the distinction of having passed the most cars on the first lap all season long. So this makes him both a Superior Starter, Passer and Defender of his position.

    And best of all is that he’s still very much on a very steep learning curve…. and even better, he has total humility and lacks the big headed ego of many less talented driver.

    Ah ya… Did I mention that he is also by far the best team player, second only to Michae1 Schumacher, and the best performing team mate and closest competition Michae1 on the same team!?!

    Thats including the likes of Piquet & Rubens…

    What can I say… I Believe!

    P.S.>>> I don’t think he’s the next MS, but he will be one of the most exciting drivers to watch in years.

    Cheers!

    Louie!

  • I don’t think he’s going to be able to “dominate Raikkonen” though. Once Kimi has got his feet under the table at the team, and is fully comfortable there, he’s gonna be a force to be reckoned with.

  • Thanks Louie, it is your kind of passion that I love to read – thank you for your* wonderful comments. I haven’t had the opportunity to watch Felipe first hand, and the TV feed never does justice to those who are driving at the top of their game, but it is interesting to hear how people interpret Felipe’s driving style, particularly after witnessing it. I hope Felipe does well in 2007, because I’m starting to think he deserves it – I can’t remember another driver who looks so elated from winning, even Schumacher’s jumps pale in comparison to Massa post-Brazil!

    Chris, I know testing is just that – testing – but hasn’t Massa dominated Raikkonen in the past three days? It’s going to be interesting though. Felipe has the slight advantage of already knowing the team from testing and driving, whereas Kimi will be in the ‘friend-making’ phase this year. I think this year will be more of a make-or-break for Raikkonen, who has started to gleam doubting comments from experienced commentators. He has to prove himself in the (hopefully) reliable Ferrari.

    I hope both you guys are right, because that would mean a close well-fought championship right down to the wire. I can’t wait for Melbourne!

    *Minor grammar correction – that’s what happens when I post before 2 coffees!

  • Thanks Olly!

    I have been accused of over writing from the heart or wearing my Red Passion on my sleeve before. But I just love to express it.

    I would also like to include that although I’m a bit concerned with Kimi’s out of car judgment from years past(not to mention that he’s already had a serious drinking problem since before he arrived to F1 at the age of 18), Butttt! I have to say that I have no doubts about his talent.

    IMHO, I feel that Ferrari have the best pairing of drivers with the best combined potential of scoring maximum points at each race. This bods well for Ferrari’s WCC hopes.

    I also predict that the young “Dark Horse” Lewis Hamilton will be a future force to be reckoned with. I expect that he will out perform Alonso by mid season on occasion. He’s already well know to have “Prost Like” skills of preserving his hardware while still driving the wheels half off. And he has a amazingly keen sense for track and social judgment. He’s sure to become a pain in the Champions backside before too long.

    I also tip Haki K to upset Fisichella, In a Big Way.

    I think we well have many, many surprises and excitement this season!

  • I have to say, until the latter part of 2006, Mssa looked unexceptional, but in the last few races, he really began to come on strong -as if knowing that Schumacher was retiring, he realised he had a real chance to make his case for being no.1 for 07 and having a run at the championship.

    For all that, and for all that Raikkonen seems in some ways a rather flawed character, I can’t help thinking it will be the Finn who ends up on top. Raikkonen just seems so blisteringly, uncompromisingly fast, that I don’t think it will matter how hard he works, or how much he gets the team behind him. If the car is there, he’ll do the job.

    Interesting what Louie had to say about drivers who just seem really special from the first moment you see them. I’ve been right about that sometimes myself (Alonso in the Minardi really caught my eye some years back, and come to that, he made quite an impression when I saw him race in F3000 at Spa in 1999) but other times I’ve been dead wrong. Justin Wilson looked like he really had it when I saw him racing in the junior formulae, and yet when he reached F1, he looked very ordinary.

    Interesting aside – I remember watching Lewis Hamilton in FRenault some years back, at Croft, and he was seemed utterly unexceptional that day. The quickest guy out there was Danny Watts – and where is he now?

  • Massa has been my next favorite to MS ever since Massa stepped into a Sauber. I want to see Marco Andretti in F1 soon as well, even over Scott Speed(way to childish for my tastes, maybe Texas really is that different from California though).

    I was upset when Massa was stuck at Sauber instead of moving on to the bigger teams, but then again Ferrari knew back then, and started to groom him for today. It will be a good season, even without MS. Sadly my wife will not watch F1 without MS so my two-year old and I will watch happily without her.. :p

  • @Patrick: It is funny how sometimes the cream of the lower crops fade into the background while the runners-up claim the glory and move on up. And also when the really fast youngsters reach F1, they appear slow and old. I think that has to do with nurturing talent in Formula One, and I feel some teams don’t do that right. Jordan always did okay at finding talent, and when the car was good the speed shone out. But teams like Prost and Toyota struggle(d) with the new kids.

    @John: Sounds like a dream to me, not having the wife around on Sunday afternoons. 😉 My girlfriend got into F1 last year, so my weekend ‘me time’ is no longer strictly all mine. Oh well, at least she strokes my ego from time to time by asking questions she knows I can answer! I hope your two-year-old enjoys the experience.

    It will be a good season, even without MS.

    I agree, it’s gonna be awesome and I cannot wait…

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