Felipe Massa proved he has lost none of his potential to say incendiary things this week, when he is reported to have suggested Fernando Alonso had prior knowledge of the Crashgate events that have rocked F1. Of course the World Motor Sport Council found others and acquitted Alonso of any wrongdoing, meaning Massa’s comments were a little mischievous and in need of clarification, which Massa duly provided. But what does this bode for their working relationship next year at Ferrari?
The motivation for the comments, made during an informal session with what Massa evidently thought were friendly reporters, is relatively clear. Massa is still seething about the events during last season’s Singapore GP; the memory of the farcical, disastrous pitstop he was forced to make will linger on for some time, but also the points lost, potentially robbing him of the world championship.
What Massa fails to realise is that if Renault’s result of that day had been declared null and void by the WMSC, Lewis Hamilton would have been crowned the winner of the race, affecting the championship in a different way. But nevertheless Massa feels wronged by the happenings of that day; almost as if he knows that 2008 is the closest he will ever come to being world champion.
Why? A number of reasons. Firstly, Alonso should find it easier than anyone since Nigel Mansell to settle in at Ferrari. He speaks Italian, has a hard-charging attitude so respected by the fans and the hierarchy, and has openly said he loves Italians. Secondly, assuming (although it is quite a big assuming) Ferrari manage to produce a competitive car next season, all the evidence suggests Alonso will be better than Massa in it. Fernando has beaten every team-mate he has ever had, with the exception of Lewis Hamilton. Thirdly, Alonso is very special, and Massa is merely special.
Of course, Felipe has the advantage that he will be the team’s returning hero. He has grown up with the team, and he has become a contender with them. This speaks volumes, as does his family-like relationship with the team. But this will only last as long as the results do.
The transition between Massa’s protectorship and Alonso’s assuming of the throne at Ferrari will therefore be very interesting. It will of course help if there is added needle between the pair, as Massa began this week. Alonso has since moved to say, in effect, that he does not care. More throwing down the gauntlet required please, gents.