Felipe Massa: The champion who could have been

It is a strange story set in Maranello, Italy in which a Brazilian, nicknamed ‘Baby’, is replaced by an enigmatic ‘Ice Man’ as he sets forth to tame a pair of mighty bulls.

Alright, I admit it is not quite that dramatic but you get the idea. Felipe Massa is out and Kimi Raikkonen is in at Ferrari – not that we are particularly surprised, of course.

After all, nothing is ever guaranteed. Massa’s own championship loss by one cruel point to Lewis Hamilton in 2008 proves this to be true. His defeat was harsh, even fans of Hamilton will admit this much. To be frank, it was an outcome mostly affected by tyres and weather; luck was not on his side. Felipe Massa began to cry unleashing the emotions which made him so popular in the paddock.

His time at the helm of the prancing horse is the best known chapter in this saga. It is strange to think that a Ferrari career, born in 2006, would leave an experienced racer with few opportunities for a seat elsewhere but this is the all too familiar way with Formula 1.

He now has his bags packed but it does beg the question: where does a driver go after Ferrari?

He could do a ‘Kimi’ and return in style after a year in rally or other such series. It is possible – a move to endurance racing or DTM is the next step currently in fashion, apparently. However, this seems unlikely; Massa and his Ferrari successor are incomparable in personality. 2014 will signal great change at Ferrari.

The plot thickens as whispers suggest that a return to Sauber may be on the cards. The Swiss outfit may opt for an experienced driver alongside Sergey Sirotkin who is currently on a dizzying spiral taking him to new racing heights at a remarkable speed. These could come to fruition but, again, the odds are stacked against this.

No driver wants to return to their former team, especially when they are an outfit under such financial strain and are yet to win their first championship. 

May I instead put forward the option of Felipe Massa donning the blue and white of Williams? Pastor Maldonado’s Venezuelan sponsorship hangs in serious doubt causing some to question the certainty of his bought seat. Valterri Bottas could be a Grand Prix winner one day and the experience of such a racer could be valuable for him.

It would feel like a backwards step but this decision would be entirely dependent on Massa’s philosophy as the end to his Formula 1 career looms ever closer.

Of course, we assume Sauber or Williams want Massa over the other contingent on offer, from those with some experience or millions in funding. They may be the new stars of the Formula 1 show; nothing can ever be assumed.

One must wonder what impact that 2009 crash in Hungary had on his confidence, the tragic climax at the peak of his career. His driving was never quite the same and the championship contender we all know is buried deep within, disappeared. It is a sad plot twist which has led to his departure.

Let us not forget those famous words printed repeatedly ever since: “Fernando is faster than you”. 

Felipe Massa endured some mediocre seasons, comparative to his team mate anyhow but, despite this, the Brazilian leaves with his dignity firmly intact. It was he who announced the end of his time at Ferrari and not the team.

The announcement ends on a cliff hanger, leaving the world of Motorsport contemplating where his next move will be. If this is the end, then Felipe Massa has done a good service to Formula 1 and the sport’s standing in his home nation, Brazil.

It has been a gripping tale which will now star two world championships, each with their own driving styles and victory hopes. The outcome of this story is very challenging to predict; will it end in tears or the sweet taste of champagne spray? The setting will remain the same as classic and historic Maranello says goodbye to one of its most loyal companions. 

To use those dreaded words “what if” – what if Felipe Massa had secured the championship title in 2008 and Timo Glock’s failing tyres hadn’t created a path of victory for eventual winner Lewis Hamilton? Perhaps Felipe Massa would be bowing out of Ferrari, and potentially his Formula 1 career, with more respect. This is respect he deserves.

Sadly with Felipe Massa, the final word in this story is likely to be: “nearly”.

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One thought on “Felipe Massa: The champion who could have been

  1. Brilliant post! Despite all the criticism he’s one of the most successful Ferrari drivers ever and the team will remember him as a great driver. That one year of racing alongside Michael Schumacher gave him so him, what a shame he has some problems now. He is a true hero and back in 2008 he accepted the 2nd place with a dignity, I will never forget the 2008 Brazilian GP.

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