Luca di Montezemolo's comments re Felipe Massa have a strange ring to them. Maybe it's the ringing of alarm bells.
The Ferrari boss was quoted as saying: "I have waited for Felipe with great perseverance in the last four races. I want a strong Massa who will shave points off the rivals. In Singapore he had some bad luck, but he is in good condition to win. Those who race for Ferrari don't race for themselves, but for the Ferrari team colours. One who wants to race for himself will have to face his team."
Looking at the two essential implications in that quote, a) that Massa has not been serving the team very well in the last four races and b) that he's racing not for the team but for himself, it's difficult to see how it stands up. In Hungary Massa was a good fourth (to Alonso's second), taking points off Jenson Button. At Spa he drove a faultless race to fourth (on a day when Alonso spun out), at Monza he was third, denying Vettel and Webber more points and robustly dealt with Hamilton on the first lap. At Singapore he rescued a couple of points from the back row his car's mechanical failure in qualifying had left him starting from.
It's difficult to see how he was not serving the team well. No, he wasn't beating Alonso (Spa aside) - but then they don't want him to do that. It's also difficult to see, from the outside, how he is racing only for himself. Those words of di Montezemolo have more the ring of laying the ground for something that's already been decided but not announced than a genuine summation of Massa's recent form.
Felipe Massa © LAT
There's a definite undercurrent of mutual dissatisfaction - and it's been like that since Hockenheim. The relationship between Massa and the team has not recovered from the team orders controversy there. There is a feeling that the whole sorry business could have been avoided had the management taken the bull by the horns well before the race and talked through what would happen if - as seemed perfectly feasible - Massa got away better than Alonso off the grid.
As it was, he was presented with the stark choice only when the time came to make the swap. The writing was on the wall long before the German race, when Alonso lost a genuine chance of victory in Australia through the team not asking Massa to move aside. Alonso and his management had a meeting with the team in the wake of that and whatever resolution was reached was clearly not passed on to Massa.
If one wished to be hyper-critical of Massa's recent performances you might say that if he was a couple of tenths faster he might have beaten Vettel to third in Hungary (he just missed jumping the Red Bull as it exited the pits from its drive-through) and Button to second at Monza. But if he was a couple of tenths faster he'd be on the same pace as Alonso - and it's difficult to see how this team would operate with two equal number ones.
It managed to do this with the Raikkonen/Massa line-up, but the dynamics of any team being led by Alonso do not lend themselves to this. In replacing Raikkonen with Alonso, Ferrari made the choice of taking on a driver that would bring leadership to the team - and he has done that brilliantly. But the equilibrium depends on a driver in the other car that is either a couple of tenths slower or who has agreed to act in support. In Massa they have the former, but the relationship has apparently broken down. So if he was to be replaced, by whom?
There have been very few drivers in the sport's history quick enough to be equal number one but prepared to act as number two - Tony Brooks at Vanwall in 1957-58, Ronnie Peterson at Lotus 1978. Are there any out there now?
What about someone looking towards his post-F1 career but still super-fast, whose career would have a beautiful sign-off with a season at Maranello. An Australian, who has the same manager as Alonso...
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