Former world champion Mario Andretti has expressed his surprise that Felipe Massa has emerged as early top dog at Ferrari. The Finn started the season well with a pole position at the Australian Grand Prix, but since then, has ben plagued by disappointments and mistakes.
After podiums in Malaysia and Bahrain, Raikkonen had to retire from the Spanish Grand Prix. After clipping a barrier when qualifying at Monaco, he finished a disappointing eighth. With Massa now well ahead on points, the pressure is on Raikkonen to make up lost ground.
“I think Massa has had a leg up on Raikkonen, being at Ferrari before him – and having twice beaten Michael, let’s remember,” Andretti told magazine Autosport. “He knows the car and he knows the people – he’s part of the team. And I think Kimi, coming in, probably felt that.
“I don’t know Kimi that well but I always think he looks somewhat passive. I don’t know if it’s that way inside or not. Maybe he doesn’t have the team rallying around him as much as you might expect. I’m on the outside, looking in, and this is just conjecture, but I was sure Kimi would immediately take char, and it doesn’t seem to be the case at th moment.
“I would imagine his character is stronger that Massa’s and I think that ultimately, he might endure a high-pressure situation better. My feeling is that it will unfold that way and it will be interesting to see if it does.”
Andretti thinks that this year is going to be one of Massa’s best chances to win the drivers’ championship. “It will be interesting to see whether Felipe can become a reliable team leader at Ferrari,” Andretti explained. “You often see drivers with a lot of talent but without the mental strength to deal with it properly.
“In the past, we have seen him crumble but may now he has gained enough confidence in himself that that will change. A lot of that will have to do with the support he gets from the team – which I am told is considerable. The kid was always quick – but wild. This is a critical point in his career – if ever he has dreamed of being world champion, he will never have a better opportunity than now. He threw away a couple of races at the beginning of the year, but then he won the third.”