Could Felipe Massa ‘do a Prost’?

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On his current run of form Felipe Massa stands a chance of achieving something very rarely seen in Formula 1: he could turn the tables on his team mate by taking the title off him the year after he won it.

The only driver to achieve this in recent F1 history is Alain Prost, who did it twice while at McLaren. In 1989 he infamously turned the tables on Ayrton Senna and took away the title the Brazilian had won in 1988 when the pair were also team mates. And in 1985 he did likewise to Nika Lauda, the year after the Austrian had pipped him to the title by half a point.

Before then you have to go back over four decades to 1967 when Denny Hulme, driving a Brabham, pinched the drivers’ title off his team mate – Jack Brabham!

As noted here earlier the drivers’ championship race has closed to just six points covering four drivers. Lewis Hamilton may sit on top of the pile but Ferrari have won the most races and in the past four events Massa has trimmed Kimi Raikkonen’s advantage over him to a single point.

It seemed unthinkable a few weeks into the season when Massa had gone off three times in two races.

Why is it so rare to see drivers in the same team take titles off each other? In Formula 1 the competitiveness of a car counts for a lot, so you might imagine it would happen more often.

In recent years we have become used to seeing the top teams focussing their efforts on a single driver – it was certainly the case for Michael Schumacher at Ferrari.

One team that have consistently bucked that trend is McLaren. Their policy on signing drivers appears to be to compile a list of the best drivers in the sport and try to sign the best two who are available.

This has had destuctive consequences in recent years: the class of 2001 – Raikkonen, Alonso and Juan Pablo Montoya – all stormed out of the team on less than happy terms within 18 months of each other. Which is something else that Prost could tell us a thing or two about…

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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28 comments on “Could Felipe Massa ‘do a Prost’?”

  1. Even though Massa is obviously getting more mature, i would say it’s quite strange to compare him to Prost, since i never saw him “get the best of it”, as i think he simply lacked speed in Monaco for example. On the contrary i find comparison with Denny Hulme pretty fair. The only thing in question is his ability to score consistently.

  2. I agree with Philip. No one can be compared with “The Professor” when it comes to faultless driving.Prost was head and shoulders above all the drivers Past and Present when it came to flawless driving and yet driving on limits of the car. Kimi and Massa are both prone to errors (and silly ones for that).Hamilton though has made less errors as compared to his competition, His inexperience in finding the sweetspot on his car is going to work against him in long term. Alonso and Kubica are the two drivers who are closest to Prost in the Current lot. The Pole more than the Spaniard.

    Of course this topic has started If Massa can repeat Prost’s Feat The answer is a “BIG YES”. I do see sense of purpose in eyes of Massa , and carelessness in Kimi’s. But Kimi has always has that “careless” demeanour :)

  3. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr
    30th May 2008, 13:32

    maybe he could but i dont think massa could get near kimi when he is really on it like in spain.

    i see alot of people have taken not how he finished 3rd in monaco this year even though he admitted he doesnt like the track.

    Well 1st of all he finished 3rd last year and secondly he shoul have finished 2nd but he made a mistake and lost it to kubica them 2 points could cost him later in the season.

    there’s no doubting that massa is very fast over a single lap and when he gets away well from pole he takes some beating, but he does tend to make mistakes if he loses the lead, malaysia last year and this year for example.

    the problem is with massa is i dont think he can make the best of a bad situation. if he cant be on pole and doesnt have much chance for a win i dont see him finishing 2nd every time.

    if you look at alonso’s 2 championships he was brilliant at that, when he couldnt win most the time he was 2nd. and with the current point system you have to be consistently scoring well.

    will be intresting to find out anyway

  4. I sure hope you are right on this one Keith. I would love to see Massa win this year especially next week. I will be at the Canadian Grand Prix next week. My first Grand Prix ever, I cannot wait for it. I love Massa and it would make for a complete weekend if he won there and got that much closer to that #1 spot.

  5. Hi Keith, here is a suggestion for the statistics articles that follows every GP, include a comparison between the last season and this for top drivers over the equivalent races. I believe the recent praise for Massa is sqewed by the earlier Turkish GP. Each driver has his own favourite tracks.

    Infact Massa is the one doing significantly worse compared to his own performance from last year while Kimi is faring better. Kubica is of course the most improved driver while Lewis and to a lesser extent Heidfeld stays on track. The second row is their head-on stats versus themselves with an equal position after the comma. Both Lewis and Kimi are improving in some races and worsening in others. I believe the battle is still between these two and maybe Kubica if he keeps his new astonishing form. Lewis must of course do much better in the horror races for him from last year(Shanghai, Brazil) to challenge.

    Kimi 31->35 +4 head on 3-3
    Felipe 43->31 -12 head on 0-3, 3
    Lewis 42->38 -4 head on 3-3
    Heikki 6->15 +9* head on 4-2
    Nick Heidfeld 23->20 -3 2-3, 1
    Kubica 13->32 +19 4-0, 2

    Switched teams, his results is best compared to Alonsos 9p from this year vs his 6p or Alonsos 44p from last year vs his 15p. Still a long way to go for Heikki!

  6. I’m getting a little bored at people diminishing Massa’s shot at the title. I was the first to criticize him when he made 2 stupid mistakes earlier. In fact, I said he was worst than Barrichello, and you can’t top that in Brazil as far as calling names go.
    BUT that has changed, he had four great performances, winning twice, driving behind Kimi in Spain and all, and still people refuse to aknowledge that, insisting on this absurd comparison of “the first 1/3 of last season”. Who’s to say Massa couldnt have won in Monza last year, where his car gave up, and Hockenheim, and Brazil? that’s just crazy! BTW, if that was the case, Hamilton fans should prepare for the worst, because if he doesn’t win the next couple of races he’s doomed! his last 3 races of the season should warrant him no more than 10 points!
    Yesterday I watched the 86 finale in Australia, which Prost won. How auspicious it is to find this post at the very next morning?
    The way I am lucky, Massa can relax. The title is his for the taking.

  7. Diacho,

    I hope and pray that you are right. It would be great to see him win the championship especially in Brazil. We need it we haven’t felt victory since Senna and that just seems like a long long long time ago. If Massa can keep his head on his shoulders he should be OK and hopefully Ferrari don’t mess with his strategy like they did last year that pissed me off so bad.

  8. Massa has certainly taken another great step in maturity and he is more than capable to take the title this year. His performance at Monaco, while it wasn’t the best, it was better than I expected of him in the wet, and he drove fairly well when Raikkonen faultered.
    Watch out for Raikkonen though, he may be quite off-form now, and that may even be due to lack of motivation on his part, but when he wants to, he can dig deep and leave his opponents in the dust. Just like how Massa can when he is on form.
    Of course, Hamilton is a big favorite, Canada is a track where Hamilton should do well on.
    Keep an eye on Kubica as well. Now that he has finally got out of Heidfeld’s shadow, he just needs the car to be in with a chance for the championship, and BMW can do that. He was only one of the drivers not to make a fault in Monaco, an achievement in itself, and if it weren’t for Hamilton’s well-timed shunt, he could have won that race. Don’t expect him to be slow at Canada.

  9. Yup, lets make it! all those Hamilton suckers are in for a treat!!

    PS> before the flaming starts, I’m just kidding! I like Hamilton and totally cheer for McLaren. Ayrton Senna, anyone? And Hamilton is so much like a brazilian, I’ve been calling him Luís Hamílton, best brazilian in F1!

  10. It’s certainly possible that Massa could do it. He’s certainly fast enough when he’s on it. But, mechanical difficulties notwithstanding, it’s whether he can maintain his current consistency.

    He seems like such a sweet fellow and it would be kinda cool if he did manage to do it. As a Ferrari fan, I’d be happy if either he or Raikonnen were to win it. However I believe that Raikonnen is currently the best and most complete driver at the moment and is still more likely to win it than anyone else.

    If there was someone who was to pip them at the post, I’d like it to be Kubica (who in another post I claimed as one of the most naturally talented drivers on the circuit presently).

    p.s. as long as it’s not McLaren who take the title ;-)

  11. Lady Snowcat
    30th May 2008, 20:36

    Kimi will do it…

    Massa is certainly getting better but Kimi will do it…

  12. If he “does it” it won’t be a surprise to me, I realized his talent last year …….. and said so! And if he doesn’t it will be close.

  13. Ofcourse he can do it!

    His performances at the beginning of the season are very relevent to this topic. The amount of pressure Felipe was under after Melbourne and Sepang was huge, in every media from Italy to Brazil and beyond.
    One of the major talking points at the time, in sites like this, was the poor start to the season for Massa.
    A spin and then a collision with Coulthard in Australia,
    then a terrible mistake just a week later in Sepang that cost him a podium finish.
    The knives were out, the rumours of his race seat being
    at stake were rife. His confidence, his self esteem, must have taken a horrible battering.
    Despite this, since Bahrain, he has come back to life, and answered his critics in the best possible way.
    It amazes me that now, the very same people who were
    criticising him less than two months ago are now talking of him winning the championship.
    He is in the best car on the grid, he has the speed, and the talent, at times to trouble his team mate and defending champion Kimi Raikkonen. All he needs now is to remain consistent, like he has done since Bahrain.
    Podiums are what matter, to remain in the hunt. Its no good winning one race and then finishing tenth the next. When Kimi performs, or Lewis, Felipe needs to be right behind them.
    How much he has improved over the years is quite impressive, as his career looked dead and buried back in 2002/2003. How much is owed to Michael Schumacher’s guidance we will never know? I believe it has helped enormously.
    As for the Prost comparison, I don’t know. Alain Prost was always contending for championships, year in year out, as was Mansell, Senna, Piquet. As Nigel mentioned last year about Senna, ‘when I won a race, who was second, Aryton? When he won a race, who was second, me?’
    The same could be said of Prost during those times too, such was the richness in talent back in those days.
    Maybe this is why we are still talking about these drivers still, twenty years on. We were spoilt rotten back in the 1980’s.

  14. I honestly don’t think he will finish above 3rd in the championship.

  15. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr
    31st May 2008, 9:29

    mansell is so full of himself its unbelievable

  16. Massa is getting more consistent that’s for sure. But I see the Ferrari drivers taking points off each other. Raikkonen might find himself fighting off Massa throughout the season if he cannot pull out a decent lead. Meanwhile, McLaren won’t make that mistake this year. In fact they don’t need to this year as Kovaliainen is already too far behind to fight for the championship this year, and has already been used as a test driver for Hamilton in Monaco with the dry tyres. This could happen at BMW also as Kubica is also etching out a good lead over his team mate. It was the two drivers fighting so close for the championship at McLaren last year that allowed Raikkonen to catch up and steal it.

  17. I must say he has impressed me the last races.
    But I’m still not sure he can do it a whole season long.
    Ferrari has the better car, but McLaren isn’t that far behind, if they can find that little bit, I put my money on Lewis. He is leading now without the best car!

  18. Lady Snowcat
    1st June 2008, 12:02

    There is no doubt that Massa seems to focus more on racing Kimi than anyone else…

    At Monaco he blocked Kimi and let Lewis through to second…

    He didn’t hold Lewis at Turkey….

    This could gift the WDC to Lewis… unless Heikki’s luck changes…

  19. I don’t agree with either of those points Snowcat: I explained why here

  20. Lady Snowcat
    1st June 2008, 14:52

    Well Keith we’ll have to agree to disagree…

    I saw Massa moving firmly in front of the Kimster giving Lewis free rein whilst not compromising his own get away… on that basis Kimi had to get off the accelerator which lost his momentum…

    I have watched the same clips that you did and have reached a different conclusion…

    Probably how all things F1 continue to generate discussion ….

  21. Did Raikkonen say he got off the accelerator at the start?

  22. Lady Snowcat
    1st June 2008, 16:29

    If he hadn’t he’d have collected Felipe…

  23. How do you know that? Did Raikkonen say he had to back off to avoid hitting him? Did Ferrari publish the telemetry showing him lifting? Sorry if this sounds very adversarial but you’re accusing a driver of chopping his team mate and I’m not prepared to believe that unless I see hard evidence.

    From looking at this top-down video Massa and Hamilton clearly got away quicker than Raikkonen and Massa’s movement off the line had nothing to do with Raikkonen ending up third.

  24. Lady Snowcat
    1st June 2008, 17:29

    Oh Keith come on…

    I wasn’t ACCUSING Felipe just saying that it’s clear that he moved right into Kimi’s path rather than just stick to his line and block Hamilton…

    He obviously saw Kimi as a greater threat…

    I may well have done the same thing if it was Kimi who was second on the grid…

    In fact Felipe made exactly the same move in Malaysia except he was nearly too slow as Kimi was nearly alongside there but chose to hold off and get by at the first pit stop…

    Lewis did it to Heikki at one of the races too…

    It’s clear that he moved left and inadvertantly gave Lewis the room… why are you so worried by that?…

  25. You said, “he [Massa] blocked Kimi and let Lewis through to second,” which to me sounds rather like you were accusing Massa of delaying Raikkonen.

    I’m not “worried” by anything – I’m interested in knowing what actually happened and when you said Raikkonen got off the accelerator I wondered if you’d read something I hadn’t.

    If you look at the video I linked to in my last comment it’s clear that Massa and Hamilton both got better starts than Raikkonen, On top of that even if Massa had held up Raikkonen, Raikkonen had plenty of track to use on his left-hand side meaning he wouldn’t have needed to lift.

  26. Lady Snowcat
    1st June 2008, 17:56

    There is no way he wanted to get too far left…he ended up doing that a bit later with unfortunate effect…

    The track on the left was horrid (I actually was on that portion of track later in the day)…and would have given him completely the wrong entry at Ste Devote as well when you need to be on that kerb in the centre… he would have had to let more cars through if he’d gone left I am afraid…

  27. One point Snowcat that you fail to mention is that Felipe Massa played his part as Number 2 driver perfectly in Brazil last year.
    He really did help Raikkonen in that race, as well he should have as he was no longer in the championship fight, but now this is for ‘POINTS’.
    Raikkonen is a big boy, and has been at this level since 2001. You get no favours from these boys when the lights go out, and the visors come down. He knows that, and he excepts that.
    Thats motor racing!

  28. OK, I agree Massa has generally upped his performance this year, but is this because Kimi is off the boil, or is it the cause of Kimi’s problems?
    If Ferrari aren’t careful they will have both drivers taking possible points away from each other, allowing the McLarens and BMWs to creep ahead – remember you can win a Championship by being a consistent 2nd every race!
    Massa still needs to learn patience and how to plan ahead, even in Monaco he appeared to be rattled by his mistake and losing a place to Kubica – and when ITV interview his race engineer, the comments are always ‘we had to calm him down’. The old Massa is still underneath this new face. Also he does prefer to win from the front and not chose his moment to overtake for the lead, he is too dependant on pit stops and his race engineer to plan for him, I think.
    As for Kimi, there does not seem to be any explanation for his lacklustre performances recently, unless the higher management have already told him he isn’t going to be Champion again this year!

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