Felipe Massa: a class act

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Parallel to Lewis Hamilton’s moment of joy was utter despair for title runner-up Felipe Massa.

Massa crossed the line at the end of the Brazilian Grand Prix thinking he had won the world championship. The home crowd and his Ferrari team thought so too – but when Hamilton came home in fifth place the smiles vanished.

Massa drove a faultless race in Brazil. He started from pole position, he set fastest lap, and he won the race. And for all the talk of his weaknesses in wet weather he kept his head during the showers at the start and end of the race.

He couldn’t have done any more, and he was powerless to prevent Hamilton beating him to the championship by a single point.

I won’t pretend for a moment that I am anything other than relieved that the title contenders didn’t end the race tied on points, as it looked like they were going to as the last lap began. That would have given Massa the title – with six wins to Hamilton’s five – and a hard-earned championship would have been forever tainted by the disgrace of the Spa penalty. As far as I’m concerned, the sport dodged an undesirable and disreputable outcome, just as it did in 1982.

But I felt bitterly sorry for Massa at the end. Since Bahrain this year he has forced his critics to re-evaluate their opinions of him with every passing race. He comes across as a genuine and warm individual – and his emotions are invariably writ large across his face.

He was the model of graciousness in defeat. Afterwards he said:

We need to congratulate Lewis as he did a great championship, he scored more points than us so he deserves to be champion. I know how to lose, I know how to win and it is another day of my life where I will learn a lot.

Hopefully we come back here with the title [next year], but it is part of our experience and part of our life.

And I don’t buy all this ‘that was Massa’s only shot at the title’ stuff either. He’ll win more races in the future. And people like me will look a lot less surprised when he does.

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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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50 comments on “Felipe Massa: a class act”

  1. Terry Fabulous
    3rd November 2008, 3:40

    Hear hear Keith. Well Said!

  2. I’ll second that emotion. I didn’t like Massa’s comments after Fuji but he really stood out in the press conference today. A great lesson for all (some of his fans included) on how to react in defeat.

  3. I agree totally.

    I always said he was so lucky to be at Ferrari, being Jean Todt’s manager son’s client, and happy to play no.2 to Schumacher.

    But this year he’s a different person, and very fast.

    He just needs to learn to have patience when he doesn’t start from pole, and if her can do that, he’ll catch Hamilton.

  4. yorricksfriend
    3rd November 2008, 4:39

    Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the press conference on the Australian telecast

  5. “That would have given Massa the title – with six wins to Hamilton’s five – and a hard-earned championship would have been forever tainted by the disgrace of the Spa penalty.”

    I would hate to see his title be tainted, he can not be blamed for the penalties on Hamilton even if he did benefit from them.

    Massa had two heart breaking moments where wins were taken from him at no fault of his own (granted, reliability it a huge part of championships) . The same can be said for Hamilton on only one occasion and even on that day he managed to pick up a couple very important points.

  6. he didnt find anything else to say
    he deserve the losing
    and the best wining all the time

  7. I think he was anything but disappointed not because he lost the world championship but the way he lost. less than few kilometers to go he was the world champion and 18 seconds later he wasn’t.

    He knew it would be hard to win the championship here with the given point difference and we would surely have seen a happier massa if the race had finished in dry and hamilton was 5th.

  8. I completely agree that Massa was the epitomy of a sportsman here. I dont think I could have reacted as well as he did. And like you mentioned in the live blog Keith, after the Spa incident, I never thought I could feel sorry for Massa if he didnt win the championship. It really was something today. Great race, great final lap and final corner. FIA needs to see that even without their meddling, F1 is a very exciting sport.

  9. SPORTING LSOER MY ASS! He was implying all week long he was winning the title clean if he clinched it.

    Wat the hell is he thinking? Did he forget how his points tally got a few automatic top-ups from FIA and Mosley thru zero efforts of his own?

  10. Hamilton didn’t win the race…. he didn’t drive to win the race. He got this year’s championship by a fluke. Just admire vettel for his perfect driving. Vettel is the perfect rain driver. Like other British drivers, this is the first and the last title for Hamilton. Wait and watch how vettel erases his records. Massa was just perfect and the Mclarens were struggling to match the lap times of the Ferrari’s.

  11. I cannot get over the reaction of the team and the fans to the incredible last minute reversal of fortune. After Ted Kravitz’s little flag stunt, I was expecting a lynch mob around the podium.
    Massa, the teams and the fans should be happy that he won the race in such difficult conditions, although all he had to do was keep it on the track. He was only threatened a little by Vettel, and not at all by Alonso or Kimi, so to me it was relatively easy, as compared to the battles Lewis was having just to keep in 5th place.
    My admiration for Massa has grown this year, as he has shown he can drive a mature and courageous race if necessary. But to win the Championship next year he has to be more consistant, not get rattled by misfortune and just drive better.

  12. Both Massa and Hamilton did all that was asked of them. Despite the reliability problems at Ferrari earlier on and the FIA’s attempts to level the playing field by flirting with the rules, the outcome was spectacular. I think we’ll see a lot more from both drivers in the future – let’s hope Renault and BMW get into this title race as well next year; while a two-horse race is still exciting, four, five or even six contenders would be something else indeed.

  13. Hamilton didn’t do what he was supposed to do, but Massa did what he was supposed to do. As always told about Hamilton’s driving, he will choke and goof up things in the last minute, and he did it. Is he a world champion material? NO. Vettel overtook him bravely…Bravo Vettel. A real champion is someone who win the real battle and not gaining an advantage of someone who is not in the battle (Gock). Hamilton always said he is the best rain driver, why didnt he prove it in Brazil. Vettel is the best and even Massa is getting faster than anyone after every race. As i said this is the first and the last title for hamilton

  14. I think the Brazilian crowd could take a couple of lessons from their No 1 driver in sporting conduct. I did feel incredibly sorry for Massa at the end but think the experience can only make him stronger. Looking forward to see what he can do next year.

  15. That would have given Massa the title – with six wins to Hamilton’s five – and a hard-earned championship would have been forever tainted by the disgrace of the Spa penalty.

    It seems like some will go on forever on this subject, but a title for Massa would be as much (or as little) tainted as Hamilton’s is right now. I rate both drivers, but both men and their teams have made an alarming amount of mistakes, this season.

    To reply to your remarks, here and in other posts, on the Spa penalty: I find that nonsense. Had Hamilton lost the title, it would not have been that penalty, but his and his team’s mistakes, and bad luck:

    (a) Crash into Alonso’s car in Bahrain
    (b) Crash into Räikkönen’s car in the pit lane in Canada
    (c) Drive-through penalty because of gaining an unfair advantage while overtaking Vettel in France
    (d) Puncture in Hungary
    (e) Over-confident manoeuvre on Räikkönen in Japan, sliding off the track 2 corners later, and the subsequent drive-through penalty
    (f) Many small mistakes in the last laps in Brazil, letting Vettel slip by, and taking the title only in the dying minutes, after what I think was a rather lucky, overtaking manoeuvre onTimo Glock

    In fact, hadn’t Hamilton been so lucky in Monaco, he and McLaren would have screwed up there, too.

    Don’t get me wrong, Massa has done stupid things, too, this season, but saying he’d deserve the title less than Hamilton, is like saying Räikkönen would have deserved the 2003 or 2005 WDCs less, because of McLaren’s and Mercedes’ erors during those respective season.

  16. Is he a world champion material? NO.

    Of course, the guys only been around two seasons and had two championship deciders already. Give it a break man.

    If he’s winning championships or just narrowly losing them and he’s still very inexperienced, then that makes me think there will definitely be more to come as he gets better. It’s clear Hamilton is not the finished article – but he was still the better driver.

    Anyway to go back to the main point – yes, Massa lost with real dignity and grace and should be congratulated for it. It’ll be interesting to see how he bounces back from this in terms of the battle for supremacy at Ferrari.

  17. I don’t get the “Massa is so much better now” stuff. Massa did worse this year than he did in 2007 and this year his car was actually a lot more competitive with the McLaren than it was in 2007.

    The thing is, Massa did less worse than his competitors. The fact is that this year the guys in the top teams have underperformed so incredibly.

    Raikkonen failed miserably mid season. 3 poor races after a wrong turn in car development, then a failed engine and then 3 races were Raikkonen tries to make up a little too hard and crashes.

    Hamilton’s long list of errors was summed up already, but he also had to content himself with a car that was slower than the Ferrari through the biggest part of the season.

    Don’t even get me started on Kovalainen.

    Overall Massa was at best least worse of the top team drivers, but in the end Hamilton was one point “less worse”.

    I do have to say that Interlagos was the first time that Massa actually impressed me. His other wins were these “get the pole on a circuit where no one can pass and everybody just drives the laps till the race ends”. They were sometimes called “dominant wins” even though the next car was right behind him through the entire race. Just couldn’t get passed, because it’s impossible to overtake and there isn’t much to gain in points anyway.

    I do think this is Massa’s last chance, because I don’t think Raikkonen will make this mistake again. After Raikkonen stops, either Vettel or Alonso will join Ferrari and then I’d really say it’s all over for Massa.

  18. Reagen –

    Hamilton didn’t do what he was supposed to do, but Massa did what he was supposed to do.

    Hamilton played it conservative – that’s exactly what he was supposed to do.

    A real champion is someone who win the real battle and not gaining an advantage of someone who is not in the battle (Gock).

    It was Glock’s gamble to stay on dry weather tyres. The gamble didn’t pay off. Really it has nothing to do with Hamilton, and to say Hamilton doesn’t deserve the title because of is to miss the point. I think Massa’s taking it better than you are.

    Lustigson & Patrickl – I’ll be covering all that in the post-season driver rankings – more here: 2008 F1 driver rankings

  19. @ Keith
    Looking forward to it. :)

  20. Keith , Glocks pace in the last lap has me really puzzled. Do you have a comparison of his lap time to someone else still running on dry tyres on the last lap ?

  21. As i have said before this is the first and the last title for Hamilton….This year he got the title by a fluke. Mark my words and read it next year.

  22. @ Jean
    Check out this post on the Autosport.com forum. I haven’t bothered to read the whole thread, though, so there may be more information.

  23. A gracious loser? Yes. A class act? No. A real class act would’ve disavowed – even rebuked – the crowd’s reaction at the end. Shame Lewis had to celebrate amidst all the boos…although I’m sure he didn’t care at all. Massa simply acknowledged what happened – that he lost a closely fought championship. Nothing more.

  24. Jean – Yes: Championship changes hands twice in the final three laps (Video). Lustigson’s link as a good ‘un too, and I’ll do the usual post-race analysis article later as well.

  25. It’s funny – and I’m not referring to any of the comments above – but it always seems to be the same people who say firstly that Massa has improved enormously this year and secondly that this is his last chance for the championship. It sure can’t be both. The problem for assessing a driver’s ability is separating his talent from the performance of his car, which you can only really do by comparing team mates. Here Massa looks good, because he’s done much better with Ferrari over the course of the season than his team mate. But is it because Kimi has had a problem, or because Massa has driven better?

    You can still level the same criticisms at Felipe – some fantastic qualifying performances, and great wins from the front row, but otherwise fails to shine. But there’s not a huge difference from last year. I think he was 11-6 in qualy against Kimi in 2008, compared to 9-8 last year. And if you strip out abnormal qualifying (when either of them is outside the top 10 for mechanical or other problems), then on average Massa has qualified 0.33 of a place ahead of Kimi at races in 2008, compared to 0.69 of a place in 2007.

    In fact, Massa scored 97 points this year compared to 94 points last year – so he’s Mr Consistent, while Kimi dropped from 110 to 75. Is this all down to the ugly Ferrari engine cover? I have no idea, but even if Kimi is back up to speed next year, we can confidently forecast a few Massa poles and wins (assuming of course, that Ferrari is still the car to be in).

    It sometime seems that Formula 1 has a memory that lasts no more than one race, but Felipe is still haunted by his early career, where he was out pointed by Heidfeld and Fisichella at Sauber, before being out pointed by Schumacher and Raikkonnen (2007) at Ferrari. The only team mate of whom he unequivocally had the measure was Jacques Villeneuve, back in 2005.

    Felipe needs to maintain his form in 2009 against the possibly resurgent Kimi, or he runs the risk of being filed in the drawer marked ‘good number 2’ alongside DC and Rubens.

  26. What do you think Kubica unlapping himself to gain nothing and putting Hamilton’s title in jeopardy? Was he trying to help Massa, he didn’t realize or he just didn’t care?

  27. Lewis Hamilton is lucky. The Spa incident worked to his advantage. If the stewards had been awake, they would have given him a drive-through penalty immediately and Kimi Raikkonen would have been able to colledt his wits, come in and change to dry tyres, win the race, and then who knows what would have happened if Raikkonen had the motivation from that win. Maybe it would have been a three way fight yesterday.

    And in Japan, Lewis made a joke out of F1 at the first corner with that stunt he pulled. If you can watch the video of that start, and tell me you’re not embarrassed to see all those cars being punted off the track (Raikkonen, his own team mate Kovalainen, and others) like it was a bunch of kids playing a videogame instead of the world’s “premier” motorsport, well…. clearly more of a Lewis fan than you are an F1 fan.

    The wrong world champion.

  28. Massa was world champion for 21 seconds……


    this explains what happened in every detail for the last 3 laps

  29. Quite how Hamilton punted off people behind him is left unexplained though…

  30. @ Rob R.

    The wrong world champion.

    I wouldn’t say that, but my view of Hamilton isn’t through pink glasses, as we say in my country. B)

  31. The best result we could have hoped for – Massa winning the GP in Brazil with Hamilton winning World Champ.
    Both terrific – Massa has come on in leaps and bounds.
    Really glad F1 is returning to BBC – NO MORE ******* ADVERTS – always at the wrong time and always totally inconsequential.

  32. Hi all,

    we wish to announce that we have slapped a lifetime ban on Timo Glock for failing to keep his car running at maximum speed during the lap.

    As per regulations applied to non-Italian championship winning teams, Lewis Hamilton will have to race through all of 2009 on 3 wheels only if he wishes to defend his title.

    We are still investigating complaints from a certain Italian team that Hamilton committed the following offences during the race –
    i) dangerous overtaking
    ii) unsporting defensive blocking moves
    iii) forgetting to flush the toilet
    iv) illegal kissing of hot girlfriend
    v) making a mess of the paddock while celebrating

    We cant prove i) and ii). We will be working very hard to see if iii) to iv) apply and an automatic 25-sec penalty for Hamilton would ensue.

    From your most reliable and lovable F1 stewards

  33. When was that last time we had a WC who was liked more then disliked?

    The past three Champions have been very polarizing. Shu certainly had his enemies, Alonso tended to push peoples buttons, including me until this year, and now Hamilton. Kimi seems to be the only one that a majority wanted to see win (just in a different color car).

    So, die hard Ferrari fans, how can you not like Hamilton be defend everything Shumacher did? I have still yet to answer that for myself.

  34. SPORTING LOSER MY ASS! He was implying all week before the race how he would be a worthy champion – that this title was clean if he had clinched it.

    Wat the hell is he thinking? Did he forget how his points tally got a few automatic top-ups from FIA and Mosley thru zero efforts of his own? Crying at the end of the race was his acknowledgment that even with FIA’s help, he couldnt win the title.

    That said, i hope the stewards get their retribution for being corrupt Ferrari boot-lickers. And Mosley for his well, Hitler impersonations on tape.

  35. I think Mika was a well liked champion all round.

  36. Wow, it’s quite amusing that on a post about how gracious Massa was in defeat there are some very bitter people. Grow up and learn how to lose properly.

    Luck? Well you could argue that Massa got lucky with the rain at the end. If it wasn’t for that then Lewis would have been a comfortable 4th. 5th at worst.

    Hamilton has more points over the last 2 seasons than anyone. And given that they’re his first 2 seasons in F1, credit has to be given to him. He edged a double world champ in the same car and annihilated Kova this season.

    I’ll admit I didn’t expect Massa to be right there at the end. He’s come on leaps and bounds so congrats to him. Next year it’ll be great if the 2 Ferraris and 2 McLarens are fighting for the title as well as the other great drivers – Alo, Kub, Vet etc.

    Hopefully 2009 matches up to the thrilling finishes of 2007 and 2008!

  37. i really wanted massa to win but if that happened then it would have been quite heartbreaking for ham….

    on the other hand i was really sad to see massa expession at the end of race when he came to parc ferme…he wanted to celebrate his victory but it was really hard for him, it was like he was celebrating with a broken heart.. at that time i really felt sorry for him. but i think in the end the best man won (altough i think massa is as deserving as ham is)

    more then sorry i am afraid that this might be the best chance massa will have at the championship….but he proved his critics wrong this time….i really really hope he make it next time

  38. Massa a class act! Not even close, after all the favoritism showed to him by the stewarts, the FIA, and Bernie he should be ashamed of himself for not winning the title! He showed his true colors at the end of the race by crying like a ******* baby which is what he is.

  39. According to F1-Live.com Massa sent his brother to the Toyota garage to warn them not to wear their uniforms when they left the circuit.

    Even if he was a bit ungracious early in the year regarding various stewards rulings he has started to grow on me.

  40. You hit the nail on the head Keith. Those people who claim that Felipe Massa will only ‘get one shot at the title’, in the Eddie Irvine sort of way, do not appreciate Massa’s position.
    His stock has without a doubt risen, and the respect he has achieved throughout the season has risen too. I can remember reading one story, shortly after Ferrari’s disastrous Singapore Grands Prix, inwhich Massa comforted a Ferrari mechanic who was crying his eyes out. According to the article, Massa told the heartbroken mechanic that ‘we win as a team, we lose as a team’.
    My God, most drivers would tear the garage to pieces if that happened to them, but Massa excepted it. It was just one of those things, as was the engine blow up in Hungary. What can you do, what can you say? You learn what you can, and you move on!
    This is the same guy that shoved an Arrows up an escape road at the 2002 Monaco Grands Prix at almost full speed. The same guy, who we all thought, we had seen the last of. He really has to rate, as one of the biggest ‘come back’ drivers of the modern era. So close to the edge to being so close to the summit. A remarkable story.
    In the press conferance that followed his defeat in the championship, Massa maintained his dignity and did not once blame anybody else. No whining, no pity was asked. Just a man who had done his best, tried his hardest, and had been undone by circumstances no one could have predicted.
    Around him, were two of the most highly paid, highly rated drivers of the last two decades. Both sat ashen faced and uncomfortable, as if they wanted that taxi to airport so badly. These were the men Massa had beaten, men that, if three years ago you would have said would have lost to Felipe Massa, you ‘ALL’ would have laughed.
    So much for money, good contracts, and all the kudos. Nothing is more valuable than the human will to improve, and sheer guts and determination. Massa will be a world champion, there is simply no doubt about it.

  41. @ the limit
    Well spoken, mate.

  42. Robert Silvestre
    4th November 2008, 11:22

    Give SPA back to Lewis and demote Felipe to 2nd place. Take away the extra point Felipe got from the Bourdais’ incident, but give him Hungary, and he would be the Champion today. Felipe didn’t lose the championship in Brazil… he lost it in Hungary. It wasn’t meant to be.

  43. All those that think the champioship would have been “tainted” had Felipe won it – would you have said the same last year if Hamilton had taken the title? Seeing as Mclaren were docked all their points and yet not the drivers? I don’t wish to drag up the whole spy saga once again, but perhaps everyone needs to accept whatever penalties were handed out, rightly or wrongly.
    Both deserved this championship, but as they say – look at the scoreboard.

  44. All credit to Massa. Shame about the booing the whole weekend from the Brazilian fans though, but I guess that’s just the way it is.

    I think though the ferrari was the better car – I’m sure if Alonso (or Hamilton) was in one they would have won the DWC long ago.

    And Spa penalty aside, the real injustice would have been the Bourdais Fuji one… I’m not sure Massa would have really felt he had won it properly (I certainly wouldn’t) if Hamilton had been 6th in the end.

  45. @ the limit
    u were just perfect in your comments.

    please don’t blame the brazilian fans, we are very emotional but we actually do like hamilton.

  46. i would like to say sorry to Glock whom i blamed much for Massa’s loss! – But i love racing and i experienced every nice moment it threw at Interlagos. Congro to Hamilton and Massa for providing such a spectacle.

  47. Terry Fabulous
    6th November 2008, 4:31

    Good point Robert. Hungary is where it all went wrong for him. What a huge disappointment, 2 laps from the end.

  48. Hi Keith,

    Your blog is surely a water cooler for Felipe’s detractors and may I say haters. But I just had one question to ask, how many drivers have won the championship and weren’t on the podium to celebrate it? Maybe an idea for a new post, or perhaps i should learn Spanish and post this on a Spanish Blog… :P just kidding

  49. Harkirat –

    Your blog is surely a water cooler for Felipe’s detractors

    Looking at the many positive comments about Massa on this post I don’t agree.

    how many drivers have won the championship and weren’t on the podium to celebrate it?

    I don’t know off the top of my head but I bet it’s not that uncommon. Senna and Prost must’ve done it at least once each, and Schumacher did it at least twice, last in 2003.

  50. He’ll win more races in the future.

    Five years later (I can’t believe it’s been that long!) and I’m still hoping for these words come true. I think leaving Ferrari is a step in the right direction for Felipe. Hopefully he will land another seat (Williams?) and we will finally see if his lack of pace has really been down to his accident or due to Ferrari’s policy of having a clear number 2. I think in a team that gives him a chance to show what he can do he can still shine as he did back in 2008.

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