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Archive for the ‘Massa’ Category

Two weeks ago Felipe Massa’s hopes of a podium in Spain were wrecked by a strange situation with the refuelling of his Ferrari, which meant that the team believed he was running out of fuel and was telling him to slow down in the closing stages of the race. He lost places to Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.

Massa track.
When we spoke to him after the race he and the team had not worked out the reason, but yesterday he explained what happened,

“What happened to my car especially in the last race was something that I never saw before. We had the fuel in the car but the car was reading wrong numbers, so the refuelling machine was putting the right fuel in, it was reading the right numbers of the amount of fuel that went inside but the car was saying to the engineers, to the telemetry, that all the fuel was not inside.

“Then we changed the refuelling machine, we did exactly the same thing, and we again had the wrong numbers, so maybe I saved fuel for nothing.”

A very frustrating situation, unusual too.

This weekend the Ferrari should be pretty competitive, so Massa has another good chance to get that first podium of the season.

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This is Felipe Massa looking back across the wreckage of his Sunday afternoon. With a little commentary from me at the end.

Why did you start the race on the soft tyres?
“Now it looks very simple, but before the race we were looking at all the numbers, looking at the grip that there was on Friday and on Saturday, also at measurements we took of the asphalt on Sunday, as we have done in the past. It looked like the soft was the tyre to start on. Now we can see how the race turned out, it looks easy to see the tyre situation.”

What was the problem?
“Melbourne is a track where it was very hard to make the tyres work well. There was a huge difference between the soft and hard tyres. Here we had very low grip. The soft tyres didn’t work because they had good grip to start with, then after 5 laps they were destroyed. We went with them at the start, but they were just like they had been on Friday in practice. We don’t have a lot of experience with the slick tyres, they are not like grooves, where from Friday to Sunday everything changes with the track. It was very difficult also to make the hard tyre working.

How did you react when you realised that the soft tyres were the wrong choice?
“The team decided to put one car on three stops and leave one on two stops. Unfortunately I was put on three, then the safety car came out. So that wrecked my strategy. Nevertheless, I was behind Hamilton and he ended up 4th (before promoted to 3rd by the stewards) so there was something to be done there. But then I had a problem, which made the car steer to the right (turned out to be a broken upright).

How big a disappointment is the form Ferrari showed in Australia?
“It’s been a bad start, we expected to be competitive, not like the Brawn, because the Brawn has shown itself to be on another level. But we thought we were competitive. We did a qualifying lap which was close to the third fastest, so we were competitive with the others. But we need to work.”

Did Red Bull surprise you?
“Yes, they did. They surprised me a bit in qualifying, but especially in the race. They had a good pace. “

Where do you go from here?
“Last year was had one team that was competitive with us, and that was McLaren. This year you have one team that is on another planet and they will win the championship by half way through the season if it carries on like this. And then we have the others who are more or less like us, with very small margins. We can play with them, with development and so on, but not with the Brawn. “

Reading between the lines:
Felipe is pushing the Ferrari line about Brawn, hoping that the appeal against the diffuser will succeed. I think this is unlikely.

He and the team had got used to the track evolving over a Grand Prix weekend, to such an extent that grooved soft tyres, which don’t work in Friday practice, are fine on Sunday. He expresses surprise that the slicks don’t seem to work like that.

The team got the strategy call wrong, as he admits. They did a couple of times last year as well. In fact the safety car coming out for Nakajima’s accident helped the drivers who started on soft tyres, because it negated their lost time. It turned it into an advantage to have started on softs because you then had two stints on the better tyre. This is what made Kubica so competitive.

Bottom line: team mistakes and a car which struggled on the tyres are worrying, but academic in light of the fact that both cars broke down, which is perhaps even more worrying.

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Here’s some video I shot of the Ferrari event this morning. After reflecting on his recent misfortunes in the early races of the season, Massa talks about his feelings on the proposed winner takes all points system. Before you ask, the lady on the right is Dr Lisa Lilley, Shell’s fuel doctor.

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Felipe Massa ended this week’s Barcelona test with a positive message for Ferrari fans around the world, “We have the car we had hoped for.” The only problem is, there’s another car in front of it.

The F60 has suffered a few reliability problems this week, a leak in the cooling system prevented Raikkonen from completing a race distance on Tuesday, while Massa lost some time with a hydraulics problem. However the pace of the car has been class leading, leaving aside the Brawn-Mercedes, and Massa heads for Melbourne feeling that he has a car which is capable of fighting for the world title again.

“The car has grown a lot, ” he told Italian reporters. “To start the season well you need a car which is fast and will make it to the finish line, lots can change during the season, but the points lost at the start can be decisive.”

Massa should know, Melbourne has been a bogey track for him. Since he got a competitive drive in 2006 his best result there has been sixth place. It’s worse than that though; after the first two races in 2006 he was 14 points behind, in 2007 it was 11 points behind and last year 14 behind again.

The start of the season is Massa’s Achilles Heel.

Massa says he is happy with the car,
“We’ve had some little problems, but since Wednesday afternoon I did a race distance and a half without getting out of the car. I’m also happy with the performance of the car relative to the others, apart from Brawn. For sure in terms of consistency and speed they are ahead.”

As for his expected rivals, McLaren, Massa admits to being astonished by their poor showing,
“I’ve never seen McLaren so far behind,” he says. “However they have another test to find out what’s wrong. It’s a team which can improve from one day to the next so we need to give them respect.”

Massa also confirmed that the Ferrari will start the season using the KERS system.

I liked the look of the Ferrari when I watched it in Barcelona this week. It’s very balanced, has good braking stability, changes direction well at high speed and is nimble through the slow chicane and over the kerbs. It looks like a really good, driveable car.

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Massa gets creative

Felipe Massa has been doing a lot of thinking over the winter judging by some comments he made on the official F1.com site in an interview today.

Massa thinks that the races are too long and boring and also that teams and drivers should make more of testing, make it more of a spectacle and encourage crowds and sponsors to come along. The unspoken part of this is that he would like to do more testing miles during the season as, like many people, he feels that the ban on testing from the first GP to the end of the season is not a great idea.

“I have some ideas that maybe the race can be slightly shorter, because in the last 15 laps nobody really cares about the race any more, ” (mmm…what about Brazil last year, Felipe?)

“And as we have seen that Friday is not so important for the show, we could extend the Saturday morning a bit and take away the Friday altogether. In addition to that, we could do two, three or four (test) sessions during the season – not together but separately – and make a ‘testing championship’ and the winner could take a bonus for the championship. Like that, you could have a lot more sponsors following the testing, and of course more media. Maybe we could have a nice practice in the morning and a big qualifying (type session) in the afternoon. I think if everybody gives his opinion and brings together some good ideas, we could make a good championship all together. “

Having opinions and bringing ideas to the table is precisely what the Formula One Teams Association has been doing and they will report their findings tomorrow at a press conference I will be attending. Autosport is saying that we will be treated to an overview speech by FOTA president Luca di Montezemolo and then speeches on the technical side form Ross Brawn, the sportng side from McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh and the commercial side from Renault boss Flavio Briatore (“I belieeeeve we need bring down cost, make more show…” and so on.)

Back to Massa, he did a long interview with Donald McRae in the Guardian newspaper yesterday, where he got all poetic while reflecting on how he lost the world championship in the final kilometre of the season.

“When I won I didn’t know what to believe. Was I champion or not? I knew something unpredictable was going to happen. It was like I was in a big bubble. I was driving around the track and I could see people were screaming and jumping up and down. But I was not quite sure what it means. It was very unreal. It was insane.

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Massa gives Ferrari a cautious thumbs up

Felipe Massa, like all the drivers at Sakhir, has had a frustrating time with testing interrupted by sandstorms. He got some miles in on Tuesday but did not run the KERS system in the Ferrari car. The plan was to run it on Wednesday, but the sandstorm intervened.

Ferrari are not making too many noises at the moment about how well things are going. The car has been faster so far than the BMW and the Toyota and apparently it’s looking quite consistent, which has been the hallmark of Ferraris in recent years. But is it fast enough? Because there is no doubt that the McLaren looks like a strong car.

I saw this quote from Massa this morning, which I found interesting,
“The F60 is behaving itself better here (Bahrain) than it did in Mugello, where it was harder to drive, less stable. Now the car makes me feel more at ease. It’s very important because now without the aerodynamic downforce it’s all much more difficult, especially when the tyres go off. However we have found the right track for improving the set-up.”

It’s a cautious thumbs up. There is a long way to go to understand all the bells and whistles on these new cars and to get them sorted out and precious little time to do it. Track testing is very limited this year, with only one car per team allowed at a test and a limited number of tests at that. Ferrari and McLaren will come together at the Barcelona test in March (I expect) and then we will get a truer picture. I’m sure there are new parts aplenty to come to both cars, as there will be to BMW and others.

The KERS system could turn out to be important if one team has it and the other hasn’t, or one team has it working better than the other, especially at the race starts, where it is worth 70 metres or so in acceleration off the line compared to a non KERS car.

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A question of luck

I talked a lot about luck during the broadcast on Sunday. Luck always has a role to play in big sporting events; the rub of the green, the ball hitting the crossbar, the engine failing three laps from the end.

When the hard work has been done and the results are what they are to that point, a final race will often come down to a question of luck and so it proved on Sunday, with the rain showers, Glock’s gamble on dry tyres, which almost paid off and almost handed the title to Massa. Then the crucial piece of luck, the one which handed the title to Lewis, when it started raining heavily with less than 130 seconds to go to the end of Hamilton’s season. Glock couldn’t control his car on dry tyres in this narrow sliver of time and Hamilton caught and passed him. No rain, no title.

What I didn’t get around to mentioning in the broadcast, because of all the thrills, was that the organisers at Interlagos had placed Hamilton and McLaren in garage number 13. [ more ]

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The 30 second World Champion

Spare a thought for Felipe Massa. The Brazilian did everything he needed to at Interlagos, he won the race from pole position and as he crossed the line, Lewis Hamilton was in 6th place, needing fifth to take the title.

Massa had 38 seconds lead over Hamilton. He was world champion elect.

But on that final lap, Timo Glock was struggling on dry tyres and the rain began falling harder, just as McLaren expected it to. Their weatherman was under real pressure from the pit wall as he had predicted a heavy downpour and McLaren had instructed Hamilton to let Vettel, who had passed him for fifth place, go because they felt he would catch and pass Glock. It took half a lap longer than they expected but he did it.

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