Will Felipe Massa thrive on the home crowd pressure – or be crushed by it?

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Felipe Massa scored a home win at Interlagos in 2006

Next weekend Felipe Massa will experience a unique cocktail of pressures very few Formula 1 drivers ever have to face.

Finding yourself in a championship showdown that’s gone down to the final race is one thing – doing it all at your home Grand Prix is quite another.

Home race heroes

Drivers respond to racing in front of their home crowds in different ways.

To some it seems to make no difference to their performance – Michael Schumacher, for example, was no more crushing at Hockenheim or Nurburgring than anywhere else.

Others seem to suffer under the weight of expectation. Rubens Barrichello, particularly in the immediate post-Senna years, is an example. Facing up to the burden of taking over from the much mourned Ayrton Senna in his countrymen’s affections, with neither the machinery nor the experience to do it in the late ’90s, he struggled.

Still others positively thrive on it. The great example is Nigel Mansell, who seemed to find an extra gear whenever he raced at Silverstone. His victory over team mate Nelson Piquet in 1987 is remembered as as one of the great F1 wins, but the magic was there in 1983, 1988 and 1989 as well, and on his last two appearances at the venue in 1991 and 1992, when he obliterated the opposition with a superior car.

Massa’s unique challenge

Felipe Massa surely belongs in this latter category. Whatever misgivings there have been about his abilities up until this year, the Paulista has always delivered at home.

On his second visit to the track as an F1 drivers in 2004 he put his Sauber fourth on the grid – the best starting position he and team mate Giancarlo Fisichella managed in the car all year.

In 2006 – his first visit to the track as a Ferrari driver – he capitalised on on problems for team mate Michael Schumacher to run away with the race. Last year he was on top again, and a second consecutive home victory would have been his, had he not been required to move aside for Kimi Raikkonen, much as Raikkonen did for Massa at Shanghai.

Massa’s good at home, but how good is he under the peculiar pressures of a championship showdown? That’s a situation we’ve never seen him in during his F1 career, and he pre-F1 experience doesn’t offer many useful pointers either.

Perhaps he’s just one of those people who’s at their very best when under peak stress. Or perhaps there’s a tipping point and the demands of performing at home in a championship-decider – the chance to inherit the mantle of Senna – may prove too much.

It’s one more fascinating dimension to this riveting championship showdown.

How do you think Massa will fare in his crucial home race?

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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 “Will Felipe Massa thrive on the home crowd pressure – or be crushed by it?”

  1. What if Massa takes the win but not the championship? No doubt he’ll still feel like he’s won then championship to a certain extent.

    Hamilton’s pretty much got both hands on the championship, IMO.

  2. I think Massa winning at Interlagos is an inevitability. If anything, the pressure is on Hamilton, because all he’s got to do is not mess up, and he’s never done well in that kind of situation.

  3. It’s gonna be a Ferrari 1-2 in Brazil, after that, the championship is Hamilton’s to win or loose.

    I don’t know why but I’ve just got this air of Mansell in ’86 off this championship, maybe it’s the way everyone seems to think it’s a done deal already.

  4. It’s not really Massa’s to win [the championship], but for Hamilton to lose. I don’t think Massa, or even Ferrari as a team, can do much other than approach this as a normal race and try to finish 1-2 – the totals at the end are not really in their hands…or favour.

    There’s slightly less pressure on Hamilton this year as well – one less championship contender out the picture, and he has the experience to learn from.

  5. Even the most rabid crowd support cannot make up for what appears to be (China) a clearly inferior car. Big balls and cheering crowds are no match for McLarens current superiority.

  6. Jack (#2) – What do you mean by ‘he’s never done well in that kind of situation.’ What about China just a week ago. All he had to do was not mess up and he did superbly!

  7. In my humble opinion, Lewis Hamilton has got what it takes to win the championship and become the youngest champion in the history of Formula One, right here in Interlagos. But you know, anything can happen, and maybe the final decision will be up to the Gods of Motor Racing. Hopefully they will interfere and help our child prodigy to turn game around. We must not forget that Hamilton won’t be able to use his joker engine and as you know, **** happens ( and it may )

  8. As most of you probably don’t know, the next GP will be happening during one of our national hollidays, 02nd of November, the day of the dead. I’m not sure if you have a similar holliday in England. Funny thing is that it usually rains here on that day, so even if the weather forecast says the opposite, rest assured it will rain, at least a little. Another factor is that the track is located near the Guarapiranga reservoir, and because November is usually really hot here, the waters of the reservoir may facilitate some condensation. So the cards are on the table…

  9. I want Lewis to win more than anything in the world, but I am preparing myself for him not doing it. All it takes is a moment of madness, or a technical failure or another jealous driver bashing into him and taking him out and that’s it! Massa will have his home crowd willing him on and that really counts for something. I will find it very hard to bear if Lewis loses. I have already seen comments on teletext sportchat from British F1 fans saying, “I can’t wait to see Lewis and his dad’s faces when they lose in Brazil. I shall be having a party to celebrate, all welcome”. And this wasn’t a unique comment. With that level of hatred from his own countrymen, I think the gloating and unpleasantness if he loses will be astronomical and horrendous.

  10. I think Massa will be very strong at Interlagos and he will take the victory – so that is his role done. Whether he wins the championship or not will depend on whether Hamilton does badly or not.

    So Massa will thrive.

  11. How about this for a prediction for you. Kovalainen busts a gut and suddenly finds the race pace that has been missing all season and scores his second win.

    Lewis brings the car home in second place in a uneventful controlled drive.

    Kimi sets the fastest lap of the race in lap 69 and then puts it into the wall the following lap.

    Massa pops up third after having been saved the embarrasment of being let past by Kimi.

    McLaren 1-2 gives the Team 18 points and they take the WCC as they should have last year and Lewis is crowned WDC.

    Two hours later we hear that McLarens fuel is too cool and its all stripped away and gifted back to FIAt.

    I wonder whar odds I’d get at the bookies????? :)

  12. I’m worried that if Hamilton wins the title then, that is it, pressure is off, he’s going to run away with many more over his career and it will be another Shu-fest.

    I would like to see Massa dominate more than Hamilton falter, but both will need to happen if the unbelievable is repeat itself.

  13. Massa will win, Hamilton and Alonso will collide after Lewis gets a poor start from pole.

  14. I don´t like Lewis at all, but this year he really deserves the win in spite of his arrogance and endless fuss around him. He´ll get it.

  15. November 2 in Brazil is a day that we dedicated in memory of loved ones who have passed away.

    Funny thing is that it usually rains here on that day

    Yes, traditionally in São Paulo, I don´t know why, there’s always some light rain falling in this day, but I read at the CPTEC/INPE (the best place to know about the weather in Brazil!), that could rain at the qualifying (probabilities of 80% and temperatures variation between 17ºC / 19ºC) and minor chances in the race (40%).

    So the cards are on the table…

    I think that this could affect more Felipe´s main strength, his fasts laps at the qualifying.

    I´m sure that McLaren will have the edge this year at Interlagos and Lewis could even win the race!

  16. I really think this year, Hamilton will drive just like Alonso did in 2006, not running to take the pole, but driving to keep the distance long enough to win with no surprises, the pressure keeps behind and I really think now is Massa the one with the pressure on, trying to show to his country he deserves the win… Anyway, I’m one of the hundred who don’t like the attitude of Lewis, but not many likes Michael Schumacher, and all the records he broke, and the champs he got.. so, I expect a great race, a great strategy and a good show…

  17. I tink this year Lewis will take WDC. Sad news for Massa because this year maybe is his last chance to do it. Ferrari gave him a chance and if he can not use that he will be beated man and next year Kimi will be back again.

    In one hand I hope that Hamilton win ,even i do not like him. I want see how he will be in next year when he have 1 WDC in his pocket. Kubica is right there, Kimi as well ,Alonso also and Heikki is not giving his way to Lewis in next year either.

    It will be more difficult in next year so both drivers are in situation Now or Never in Brazil.

    But i would not put my mone on Massa honestly.

  18. I am told by a friend who works for McL&Mer that the plan for Qualifying is to send Lewis early at all times in the event of 60% and above chances of rain.

    Kovi is also going out to cushion LH wether from the back or at the front as the team sees fit.

  19. Hamilton will drive for the win if the opportunity is there, but he really only needs 4th or 5th, it’s an easy weekend for him.

    Even if massa wins at home, which i think he can, it’s really all about what hamilton does, the race isn’t in massa’s hands, it’s in hamiltons.

    would really love to see hamilton and alonso go wheel to wheel with interesting results…

  20. Massa will push to the limit for his title hopes. no doubt about that. I think he can handle this pressure and win this final race since he has his home court advantege. But WDC will not be decided by his results alone.

    i’d rather see Hamilton taking the crown than to see Massa clinching the WDC and be more conceited than ever next year. Even though I don’t want Hammy’s egocentric personality, I don’t like Massa’s conceitedness more.

    if Massa loses WDC, he will blame it to the car, setup, and to the team for not giving him 100% and saying “I should have won the WDC today but the car wasn’t good as i expected”. But if he win, he will just say “I had a perfect drive during the weekend”.

    CD – a Ferrari fan who really dislikes Massa.

  21. Regardless of the championship battle, I’d really like to see Felipe win in Interlagos. He knows the track better than any other driver, and it couldn’t be a better place for him to race for the last time this season.

    However, it seems clear to me that McLaren should have the edge unless Felipe’s mechanics come up with something pretty special. The rain wouldn’t help Felipe’s car performance either, though it might throw in the lottery factor against Lewis.

    I reckon a Ferrari one-two is the unlikeliest of all outcomes given their instability, and even that would do little to help Felipe’s hopes of becoming this year’s champion. I’m excited to see Felipe fighting hard on Sunday, at least to show Ferrari what the season could have been without their mistakes.

  22. Anyone who thinks this is an easy race for Lewis is wrong. The slightest mistake can knock him back to well beyond 5th place. If he doesn’t race to win it’s more likely he’ll have a mental lapse that could drop him in the order.

    As for Massa, he has absolutely MORE pressure than Lewis, home town crowd and all. How he handles it remains to be seen and how close he will be to Lewis during the race.

    Look at his gaffe in Japan when he needlessly speared Hamilton. If he pulls the same stunt in Brazil, what are the chances he’d get black flagged?

  23. jeb from philippines
    25th October 2008, 22:01

    If it’s lewis it’s lewis but if it’s for massa, lewis should be the most unlucky person. Maybe he will be destined of always being a loser.

  24. Times Online already confirmed what my friends at McLaren were telling me last week.
    McLaren put Lewis Hamilton before team

  25. Yusuf – What the article says is that McLaren are going to focus on getting Hamilton to win the drivers’ title instead of the constructors’ title next weekend. And that makes perfect sense. Even if they score a one-two at Interlagos (which they haven’t managed all year although, oddly, I see they’ve had four one-fives) Ferrari would be champions by finishing three-four.

    McLaren in the constructors’ championship are in the same position to Felipe Massa in the drivers’ championship. It’s not enough for them to beat their rivals, they need other people to beat them as well, and they’re not really able to influence that. I think they’re just being pragmatic.

  26. I am a ferrai fan but personally opine that ferrari failed to take the fight in shanghai to maclaren which is different from last year and giving the chance to hamilton to edge closer to world championship. Massa may win the race in brazil and hamilton world championship and ferrari constructors if hamilton keeps his cool and drive a professional race like in shanghai. The only the fear is whether hamilton’s car on second race with same engine and may develope similar mechanical problem as Kovi. I opine Massa must aim win and leave the rest to back of the field and be happy at least with the win in front of the home crowd and even kimi leading the race and if in front of massa, must let massa win the race and have the joy…Cheers…Raj

  27. Im hoping for a lewis win if not at least top 5 so he gets the championship

  28. This one is hard to call. Both are as likely as the other to lose their cool and slip up. And thats without taking all of the other variables such as weather, reliability into account.

    I hope Lewis wins it, but ask me monday who I think will win it ;)

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