Is Felipe Massa championship material?

Felipe Massa remains, to me, the most mysterious driver on the grid — perhaps even more mysterious than Kimi Räikkönen. He has a reputation of being a highly erratic driver. And yet, had his engine now blown in Hungary he would be leading the championship. Indeed, as things stand he is only eight points away from the lead — not a million miles off.

He can have more spins than you can count in Silverstone, leave out the welcome mat for overtaking cars in Germany, then pull off one of the most amazing starts you have ever seen in Hungary. This repeats a similar pattern at the start of the season. He had a pair of embarrassing spins in Australia and Malaysia. Everyone was writing him off. And then bang, bang, bang — 28 points from three races.

The constant fall and rise, fall and rise characterises Felipe Massa. Is he genuine championship material or just a mediocre driver who is simply lucky enough to have a great car?

I was developing a theory about what was going on. Last week Bridgestone boss Hirohide Hamashima seemed to confirm it.

Hamashima has also shed some light on the fight at Ferrari between Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen — claiming the Brazilian is superior when the car is perfect, but Raikkonen excels when the driver has to overcome some technical deficiencies

“When the car conditions are very suitable for Felipe his abilities are 110%, but once the car is not so good his abilities are 90%,” he explained. “But Kimi could get the package performance at 100% even if the car condition is not so good.”

That fits with what is becoming clear about Felipe Massa. If conditions are not quite right, he is simply all over the place. Think of the rainy conditions at Silverstone, for instance. But when the car is well hooked-up, Massa is a machine. In Budapest, the warm temperatures suited the Ferrari down to the ground and Massa had an amazing start and drove a great race until his engine expired.

So, Massa excels when conditions are perfect for him, but can’t cope if the slightest thing is wrong. This begs the question though. Does this sort of driver deserve to win the World Championship? Should a Champion really be the sort of person who can cope with some drizzle? Someone who can cope with a bit of adversity? Or does his superiority in perfect conditions excuse his mishaps?

1 comment