Felipe Massa

The Final Push

Photo: Mercedes AMG Petronas F1

With the european season is now over as Formula One begins it’s final third of the season, teams will be preparing for the final push, the onslaught of seven more races from the bright night lights of Singapore right through to the heat of the desert for the grand finale in Abu Dhabi.

Just two points now separate title protagonists Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in the championship standings, the closest it’s been for a very long time. Both drivers will be looking across the garage at each other knowing that one mistake, one reliability issue or one clash could end their respective title bids, but do not expect they’ll give each other any quarter to claim the grand prize.

The fight behind the warring silver arrows couldn’t more alive, Red Bull have really pushed on in 2016 by taking on the mught of Ferrari and beating them. With Max Verstappen taking victory in Spain ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo’s pole position and near Monaco victory, Ferrari still have not managed to record neither a victory or pole position through major inconsistancies much Sebastian Vettel’s dismay.

The fight for second place will get more intense as each race gets crossed off the list, despite the big prize being out of reach, pride is on the line for both Red Bull and Ferrari. Neither will back down without a fight with just 11 points between them, so don’t expect niceties, expect a dogfight to the bitter end.

Same could be said for the fight for fourth place in the constructors between Williams and Force India, both teams are  performing valiantly for their much more smaller outfits compared to those ahead of them. There is no telling who may come out on top of this fight with them both being so evenly matched. Just three points lie between the two privateers, so every position & overtake matters greatly.

McLaren-Honda recently pinched sixth place from Toro Rosso and with their recent upgrades taking to great effect with both chassis and their power unit. Despite Jenson Button’s recently announced sabbatical and the always fired up Fernando Alonso relishing a fight, it could be a tall order for the junior Red Bull squad to take it back. With no power upgrades available to them and just chassis improvements the only weapon in their arsenal, it’ll no doubt make their efforts more tricky.

The criticism that Renault have faced all season for their results has been quite unfounded, the car was what was leftover from the very underfunded and deeply in debt Lotus team last season. With only six points to their name so far in 2016, it may seem from the outset they’ve had very poor season for a manufacturer, but don’t be fooled, with both Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen always pushing to prove their critics wrong, I’d be wary of what the results that could be possible. 

Locked in a fight for that coveted tenth place in the constructors standings, Manor and Sauber are pushing like crazy to beat each other. Manor hold the high ground having scored a crucial single point with Pascal Wehrlein in Austria, while the swiss outfit have struggled all season long with financial woes that have hampered much of their intended progress, there are still seven races that could throw a surprise result in either teams favour, so don’t the fight isn’t over yet. 

While all of the teams have now converted their full focus to the new chassis regulations of the 2017 season that lies ahead, updates that were pre-planned are still filtering through. Despite this the pecking order we see won’t change dramatically if at all, what we will see is the gladiatorial clashes of that will keep us on the edge of our seats.

With still plenty to fight for regardless of their positions whether it’s the prized world title or the pride of a top ten finish, this season is far from over, I expect the final third of the season to showcase the best of what Formula One always has to offer. 

Let’s Race!

Felipe Massa Announces Retirement from F1

Photo: Williams Martini Racing

In a press conference with team principal Claire Williams in in the Williams motorhome, Felipe Massa has decided to announce his retirement from Formula One after 14 seasons in the sport.

Massa said “Every team I have been a part of has been a special experience, and not only in Formula One. I have so many great memories over the years and thank everyone in all the teams I have come through to help me get to where I am today. My career has been more than I ever expected and I am proud of what I have achieved. Finally, it is a great honour to finish my career at such an amazing team as Williams Martini Racing. It will be an emotional day when I finally conclude my Formula One career with my 250th Grand Prix start in Abu Dhabi.”

Claire Williams went on to say “It has been a pleasure to work with Felipe these past three seasons and we will all be sad to see him leave. Felipe came to us at a time of huge change and his blend of experience, talent and enthusiasm have been an important factor in the turnaround of the team. Anyone who knows Felipe knows what a warm and caring person he is, with an infectious personality. He has done a great deal for our sport over the years and I think every team that has had the pleasure of working with him has great affection for him. I know this has not been an easy decision for him, but we all respect his decision to bring his Formula One career to its conclusion at the end of this season. I would like to thank him, on behalf of all the team, for all his hard work over the last three years and we wish him the best of luck for whatever the future holds. He will always be a member of the Williams family and we hope that he will always feel welcome within our team.”

Massa’s F1 career began in 2002 with Sauber pairing up with Nick Heidfeld, scoring four points and a best finish of fifth at the Spanish Grand Prix certainly showed that despite his youth he was going to be a great talent of the future.

In 2003 he was replaced by Heinz-Harold Frentzen at the Sauber team, however Massa spent that year with Sauber’s long term engine supplier Ferrari, he completed testing duties gaining more experience during the Scuderia’s most successful era.

Massa rejoined Sauber for 2004-05 and still produced some good results including a best of the season fourth place at the 2004 Belgian Grand Prix. In 2005 he outpaced his team mate Jacques Villeneuve comfortably through the season.

When compatriot Rubens Barrichello announced he was moving to Honda for 2006, Massa’s career really took off after it was announced as he was Barrichello’s replacement. After enjoying a great first season with the Maranello team he secured his first pole position and victory at the Turkish Grand Prix, then to cap off the season he also won his home Grand Prix at Interlagos. 

After a strong season with three victories in 2007 including having a new team mate in the shape of Kimi Raikkonen after Michael Schumacher announced his first retirement, Massa was really announcing himself at the top end of the field.

It was in 2008 that came Massa’s chance to shine with six victories he was almost world champion, this was spoiled by the last gasp moments of Lewis Hamilton passing Toyota’s Timo Glock at the final corner to claim the fifth place needed to beat Massa to the championship. Massa was gracious in defeat and showing his pride in front of his home fans who came out to back him.

The 2009 season saw a very different shape to himself and Ferrari with the new regulations and the team did not perform well, however at the Hungarian Grand Prix in qualifying a rear suspension spring came loose from Barrichello’s Brawn who was in circuit in front of him, as Massa exited turn three he didn’t see the spring bouncing in the road and subsequently it hit him the head at 150mph rendering him unconcious, because of this incident he duly missed the rest of 2009 with a fractured skull.

After recovering well he returned back to the cockpit in 2010 and after four more seasons at Ferrari with strong results reluctant to appear despite numerous podium appearances, a race win kept failing to appear although it came close in the 2010 German Grand Prix, however he  was told through a coded message that he had to allow Alonso to pass to gain maximum points towards the title.

In the November of 2013 it was announced he would be leaving the Scuderia to head to Williams for the 2014 season on a three year deal partnering the young Finn in Valtteri Bottas, his best moment with the team came at the 2014 Austrian Grand Prix snatching a surprise pole position ahead of his team mate and both Mercedes, since then he has secured five more podiums and continued to show  he still had the speed to compete at a high level

His subsequant time with Williams has been a solid relationship as he has been  imperative in helping the team secure third place in the constructors championship for the 2014 and 2015 seasons. 

There is no doubt he’ll want to help see out his career on a high in helping keep Williams ahead of Force India for the 2016 constructors championship.

Felpie Massa will be a missed figure in the field having gone from an aggressive rookie to a very near world champion, he has always carried the latin charisma that has helped him become a well liked member of the F1 paddock.

My top 5 moments of 2014

5. Daniel Ricciardo’s first season at Red Bull/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/149/80413967/files/2014/12/img_1538.jpgWe all thought when Daniel was announced at Red Bull it would be a tough challenge to beat Sebastian in his first season at the senior team, but with the changing of regulations and Mercedes dominance, Daniel took full advantage of the car’s capabilities and used them to his own advantage, his first win in Canada came at the expense of the Mercedes MGU-K failures but he had worked hard to put himself in the situation to begin with, wins Hungary and Belgium were fully deserved also, finishing 3rd in the drivers standings can’t be a bad achievement in his first season at Red Bull

4. Williams Resurgance/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/149/80413967/files/2014/12/img_1539.jpgAfter what can only be described as a calamitous 2013 season for the Grove squad, 2014 must have been a dream turnaround. I admit I have a soft spot for Williams (who doesn’t?), being still a privateer team and their huge success in doing so. The FW36 was an outstanding success by any standard, a reshuffle of the team, switching to Mercedes power units and finally designing a good chassis underneath them, Bottas came close to a podium in Australia had he not clipped the wall, but the highlight of the season was Austria, the circuit played to the car’s strengths in straightline speed and Massa took pole with Bottas alongside to secure their first front row lockout since 2004. Since then the car went strength to strength, they didn’t take a win but the car was solid all year, 2015 can hopefully be a step up once more.

3. Hybrid Success
/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/149/80413967/files/2014/12/img_15081.jpgAfter all the criticisms from so many of F1 fans and even Bernie Ecclestone himself (surprised?) the new 1.6l V6 Turbo Hybrid era of Formula 1 in my eyes was a success. With the combustion engine, turbo and ERS battery power combining to create a new sounding Formula 1 hybrid monster. Luca Di Montezemelo called it “Taxi driving” in Bahrain and no one liked the noise to start with, but come seasons end with some great reliability by some teams and epic racing, the critics soon piped down, except Bernie of course who seems to want to go back a step to the V8s and V10s. (See a previous article)

2. Lewis Hamilton’s Title Win/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/149/80413967/files/2014img_1540.jpgAfter years of close calls and near misses Lewis finally gets his hands on title number 2. A year of so many highs and lows, the 4 wins early on to the mid seasons struggles, A British GP then 5 more on the bounce after Spa’s calamities, Lewis kept his head strong, a strength not normally seen. Nico out qualified Lewis for the season and that is a stat not many would have guessed would happen. A lot of learning, hard work and perseverance really showed in Lewis’ race pace this year. Nico will no doubt come back stronger in 2015, but i’m sure Lewis will no doubt be upping his game too. Nico vs Lewis is far from over.

1. Mercedes openness and Bahrain Fight./home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/149/80413967/files/2014/12/img_1543.jpgAfter pre-season testing it was clear Mercedes had a pace advantage over the field, but the dominance we saw was unprecedented. The fight in Bahrain really showed their pace but more importantly their willingness to let them race. Not for a long time have we seen two drivers lap after lap go hammer and tongs for the win, but Paddy Lowe told them they were free to race as long as they didn’t touch. It transpired that Nico and Lewis would contend for the Driver’s crown, but despite all the on track battles, wars of words and mind games, Mercedes never defined team orders despite Hungary’s mid race confusion. They let them go at it, I commend them for that as the sport and fans benefitted from such great on track action and a title fight to remember.

@SteveF1C