Massa Bashing is back after the F1 break, which only goes to show that Felipe’s va-va-voom remained on holiday.

Felipe Massa
Felipe Massa in China - credit: Cahier Archive

Massa Bashing: Round 3

The three-week break for F1 may be painful for us fans, but over at Ferrari I’m pretty sure that Felipe Massa wished it would never end.

OK, maybe I’m being melodramatic; he’s a ‘born racer’ after all, with a record to set strait; indeed, perhaps he was eager to get back in the cockpit and show us at Badger and all those around the world something drop dead gorgeous on the track, something that would rise above the pure ugly of the F2012.

Wishful thinking.

It was another woeful weekend for the man in the rather funky helmet, compelling me to ring the bell on round 3.

Massa finished 13th and qualified 12th.

First off, this makes him one of the few drivers to go backwards during the race.  Of those that started ahead of him, he moved past Raikkonen (who let his tyres go off that ‘cliff’ we’ve been hearing so much about) and Schumacher (who had tyre issues of another variety). Of those behind him, he managed to stave off the three new teams, the Torro Rossos and Nico Hulkenberg (who had a very poor race weekend).

He had no major incidents and, I would argue, was on an average strategy when you consider his grid position.  His drawn out two-stopper managing to give him race pace toward the end of the grand prix, rather than having to make him hang on vis-à-vis Vettel.  You could argue that this meant he lost the opportunity to undercut other cars, but I would say that his final position represents a lack of raw pace.

Again, we must compare him against Alonso.  From where I was sitting on Sunday morning, Fernando would have had a very strong race finish had he not made a mistake (yes folks, he is human, don’t let those brows deceive you) when trying to pass Pastor Maldonado. The eagle minded among you might remember Ferrari battling with McLaren in the pit lane, trying to get Alonso out ahead of Hamilton.

Another performance from the bottom shelf leaves Massa as the only driver outside of the three ‘new’ teams not to have scored a point this season.  It is also the first time he has failed, three races in a row, to qualify in the top 10 as a Ferrari driver.  The last time this happened was when he was at Sauber, in 2005.

Massa at Sauber 2005
Massa at Sauber in 2005 - credit: Cahier Archive

In Massa’s defence

Felipe, nonetheless, did do himself some favours this past weekend – ‘some’ being the key word here.

Let’s start with the simple stuff.  This time around he was only two tenths shy of Alonso in Q2 – a marked improvement on the last two qualifying sessions.  Also, considering how tightly bunched Q2 was, his time was within a margin where a very minor error cost a very many grid slots.

His strategy for the race left him on fresh tyres at the wrong time.  Hanging on to his tyres much longer than the rest of the two-stoppers, Massa ended up in 2nd place twice during the course of the race.  Not only does this show you how tightly bunched this race was, but also that track position was key throughout.  Being at the front, twice, on rubbish tyres, and at the back, twice, on fresh tyres (without the time to take advantage of them), is worse than being in the middle both times.  Had he been in the middle of the pack Massa could have used his experience to take advantage of any driver errors taking place around him.

As for the Alonso comparison: on 5Live’s Chequered Flag podcast, Jaime Alguersuari argued that Fernando would have ended up ninth even if he had not made the mistake of trying to pass Pastor Maldonado – his pace toward the end of the race does indeed support this point of view.  It also allows Massa’s performance to be seen in a more positive light.

So, although he didn’t set the world alight and could have been a tad more aggressive with strategy, Massa this time drove an average rather than poor race.

But is average good enough for a Ferrari number 2?  Your thoughts?

* Thanks to Craig Normansell for his contributions.