Massa's two cents may prove costly to Williams

By Ubaid Parkar, 2 April 2014
© Glenn Dunbar/Williams

For someone fast approaching his 200th Grand Prix, Felipe Massa sure does drive slowly.

Just over three and a half years after he was infamously told to hand over position to Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso, the Brazilian was subjected to a similar and painful instruction at the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday.

The competitor in Massa, though, chose to ignore the confidence-crushing order pointing out after the race that he was helping Williams.

"I am trying to do my best for the team," he had said justifying his stance.

Just how he was trying to do the best for the team is questionable. He was definitely trying to help himself though, even if it came at the cost of Williams' resurgence.

5.1 SECONDS SLOWER

At the start of lap 53 of the 56-lap race at Sepang, Massa was told not to hold up teammate Valtteri Bottas in hopes that the quicker Finn would attack and attempt to overtake Jenson Button, who was holding on to sixth place ahead of the Williams duo.

Bottas was the last of the battling trio to have pitted and had tyres two laps fresher than on Massa's wheels. Button's last stop came at lap 39 and Massa at 42, but the Brazilian was still considerably slower than the 2009 world champion.

© Alastair Staley/Williams

From laps 45 to 52, before the team order was issued, Massa had lost 1.2 seconds to Button. Bottas, meanwhile, gained a whopping 3.8 seconds over the McLaren and 5.1 seconds over his teammate.

So, Valtteri was definitely faster than Felipe. Much faster.

After repeated requests from the pit wall, Massa eventually replied on lap 55 claiming that he was "getting quicker" despite being a tenth off on the lap and two-tenths slower on the preceding one to Bottas.

Button consequently benefited from the battle behind and maintained the pace he could manage but even the Briton admitted later that the Williams was a quicker car.

Although the one trailing him wasn't.

"I'm sure the result would not have changed even if I had let him by, so it's the same," reasoned Massa without the benefit of hindsight.

Bottas sat behind Massa in hope that the Brazilian would let him through - losing downforce and smarting his tyres as a result. After all the Finn had adhered - reluctantly - to the team's call in the early stages of the race when he was instructed not to fight with his teammate.

"Don't attack Massa. Don't be aggressive to Massa. We need to let him go through (Kevin) Magnussen and then we'll just follow through," Bottas was radioed on lap 6.

"Well, tell him to go through," came the calm and unimpressed reply. "I have more pace."

Massa failed to make the much-awaited pass despite the rookie having damaged his car and consequently losing vital tenths after a clash with the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen earlier. This defined the veteran's outing.

Bottas, in contrast, left his slower and vastly experienced partner unchallenged, opting to heed the call from the pit wall instead. No point battling a teammate and risk getting both the cars into the gravel.

MILLIONS AT STAKE

© AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin

Just how Massa helped himself isn't really clear.

After being annihilated at Ferrari by Alonso, Massa was now being upstaged by a driver who was racing in his 21st Grand Prix.

Williams' deputy team principal Claire Williams was questioned how the team had dared inflicted such an emotional blow to a driver who had suffered so much by being Ferrari's number two.

But then Williams, former world champions, has had a torrid run recently with the 2011 and 2013 campaigns as one of its worst in its shining history.

Massa's opinion cost the Grove-based outfit a very likely two points if not four; the latter of which is one less than that it scored in the entire last season. And with the sport's revenue distributed among the teams on the basis of their position in the constructors' championship, the move could potentially cost the team millions.

Not to mention a potential rift emerging between the drivers that could damage future opportunities. After all there are still 17 races remaining this season.

The real question is: How could Massa do that to Williams?




 

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