2015 F1 driver rankings #11: Felipe Massa

2015 F1 season review

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Felipe Massa

Beat team mate in qualifying8/19
Beat team mate in race8/15
Races finished16/19
Laps spent ahead of team mate388/1002
Felipe Massa 2015 form guide

Last year Felipe Massa endured a season dogged by misfortune, then hit a patch of strong form in the final races. This year was something of the opposite – the cards fell in his favour but he didn’t always play them well.

At first he seemed to have carried the momentum from 2014 with him: he lined up third on the grid in Australia and finished fourth, although his was the sole Williams in the race after team mate Valtteri Bottas injured his back during qualifying.

Massa consistently gathered points in the first half of the season – barring Monaco where the FW37 was well off the pace – and mounted a fine recovery run to sixth in Canada after dropping out in Q1 with a turbo failure. Bottas was on the podium that day but Massa made it to the rostrum soon after in Austria, thanks to a slow pit stop for Sebastian Vettel.

While Massa’s starts were not the strongest part of his game – he lost more places on lap one than any other driver – he nailed his getaway at Silverstone and took the lead for 19 laps, the most convincing position a Williams has been in for many years. It was only a matter of time before the Mercedes pair demoted him, however.

A second podium followed in Italy, this time with Bottas hot on his heels. At this point Massa still led his team mate in the points standings but Bottas decisively pulled ahead over the final rounds.

There were several weekends where an anonymous Massa slipped towards the back of the Williams/Ferrari/Red Bull scrap: Belgium, Hungary and Mexico. He branded his home race in Brazil a poor showing even before his inconsequential disqualification due to a technical infrongement. A trio of collisions spoiled several races – with Nico Hulkenberg in Singapore (his rival’s fault), with Daniel Ricciardo in Japan (a racing incident) and with Alonso in America (for which Massa was to responsible).

In the end it was telling that even in a year when he had the rub of the green compared to his team mate, Massa still ended up behind Bottas in the points table.

View race-by-race notes on Felipe Massa

Australia – Close to his team mate’s pace in practice but didn’t look like out-qualifying the other car until Bottas suffered his back problem. Massa pipped both Ferrari drivers to third, albeit a daunting second and a half off the Mercedes. He didn’t have the pace to keep Vettel behind in the race, but brought the sole remaining Williams home in a useful fourth.

Malaysia – Said the team is still lagging behind in wet conditions after qualifying. He lined up ahead of Bottas and make a good start to take fifth and would have finished there had he not lost out to his team mate at the end.

China – Damaged a front wing during second practice when his rear wing stalled, sending him into the barriers. Impressive lap in qualifying put him fourth on the grid but he lost out to Raikkonen at the start. Ran fifth for the entire race, powerless to catch the leading pack but comfortably the quicker of the two Williams.

Bahrain – Qualified behind Bottas but suffered a greater setback before the race began when a technical problem forced him to start from the pits. He suffered a further setback when he was tagged by Maldonado early on. An aggressive strategy helped him find clear air late in the race, but attempting to nurse a set of medium tyres proved too ambitious, allowing Perez and Kvyat to capitalise.

Spain – Blamed an error at turn three for his disappointing qualifying performance. Started well but ran wide at turn two, losing some of the advantage he gained, but he was able to recover sixth using a three-stop strategy.

Monaco – Qualified better than Bottas but was crowded out at the start, picked up damage, and never really figured in the race from there.

Canada – A problem with Massa’s turbocharger robbed him of power in qualifying and consigned him to a 15th-placed start. Some well-worked passes helped him make up ground, including a superb side-by-side dice with Ericsson, as did the race’s longest stint on the super-soft tyres – 33 laps. He capped a fine damage limitation run by taking sixth place off Maldonado.

Austria – Having brought a raft of updates for the FW37 Williams played their cards close to their chest as usual on Friday, when Massa had a near-miss with Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene in the pit lane. Out-qualified Bottas thanks in part to the yellow flags, taking fourth on the grid. He ran in that position in the race until Vettel’s slow pit stop handed him his first podium finish of the year.

Britain – Williams seemed further from the pace than usual on Friday but it all came good on Saturday as they ejected Ferrari from row two, led by Massa. A brilliant start then propelled him into the lead, but his team mate was clearly quicker at this point and Massa came under pressure. His first pit stop was slightly slow as the team chose to clear debris from his rear wing, but even without that he wouldn’t have stayed ahead of Hamilton (though it might have been less close with Rosberg). When the rain fell Rosberg passed him easily at Village, and he was jumped in the pits by Vettel, falling to fourth.

Hungary – Eighth on the grid meant he was last in the Ferrari/Red Bull/Williams qualifying battle, and sloppy parking on the grid meant a five-second penalty. That dropped him back in the pack, and an early switch to soft tyres (even earlier than Kvyat’s) didn’t work out – a third pit stop was required, which dropped him out of the points.

Belgium – After a minor technical problem delayed his start to Q1, a poor final sector in Q3 left him sixth on the grid, promoted one place by Grosjean’s penalty. He lost three places at the start and was passed by Kvyat shortly afterwards as he struggled on the soft tyres initially. Lacking the expected performance on the straights, Massa was also passed by Kvyat before the end of the race and finished where he started.

Italy – Couldn’t improve on his first run in Q3 but it proved good enough for fifth on the grid ahead of his team mate. His track position advantage proved useful at the end of the race when Bottas pushed him hard, but wasn’t able to find a way past.

Singapore – “Not a fantastic track for us”, admitted Massa. He only had one set of new tyres left for qualifying and made an error on his run, leaving him ninth. He pitted one lap in front of Hulkenberg in an attempt to stay in front of the Force India, but the pair tangled as Massa rejoined the track. A puncture from that spoiled his race, and a gearbox failure later ended it.

Japan – Having been fourth in Q2 he lined up fifth on the grid, and the contact with Ricciardo spoiled his race. He lost more time than the Red Bull driver getting back to the pits and only had the two Manors behind him at the flag.

Russia – Last year a technical problem in qualifying left Massa languishing near the rear of the field in Sochi – this time he largely had himself to blame following an error in Q2. He recovered well in the race, however, using the alternative strategy of starting on the soft tyres and staying out during the Safety Car period. He passed Kvyat and was close enough to Raikkonen to demote the wounded Ferrari on the final lap.

United States – Incurred Alonso’s wrath by punting him into a spin at the start, and dropped out soon afterwards with a damper problem.

Mexico – “A terrible lap” reflected Massa after understeering off at turn seven on his way to seventh on the grid. Couldn’t follow his team mate past either of the Red Bulls in the race, losing out to a lunge from Ricciardo, and admitted afterwards he had struggled for rear grip.

Brazil – Described this as a “race to forget” even before he was thrown out of the results for having illegal tyre temperatures. Ill at ease in the car from the word go, he scraped through Q1 and Q2 to claim a place in the top ten, but slipped back from his team mate in the race.

Abu Dhabi – Passed Sainz soon after the start, then spent most of the rest of the race staring at Hulkenberg’s rear wing. Picked off the ailing Kvyat for eighth.

Over to you

Seemed to be on par with Bottas in beginning of the season but in the second half of the season lost a bit out to him.

What’s your verdict on Felipe Massa’s 2015 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments.

Add your views on the other drivers here:

The 2015 F1 Driver Rankings will continue next week with the top ten drivers of the year.

2015 F1 season review

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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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26 comments on “2015 F1 driver rankings #11: Felipe Massa”

  1. Up to nr. 12 I predicted almost every single ranking as being right, but surprised to see Massa this low, although that’s more based on the feeling that he was closer to Bottas this year than last, than hard facts. I would have ranked him higher than the likes of Hulkenberg and Ricciardo this year though.

    1. Just shows Bottas droped the ball a bit.

  2. While Massa’s starts were not the strongest part of his game – he lost more places on lap one than any other driver.

    Which is weird and a sign he might not be at ease with the car. You can say about Massa what you want but he is a very good starter.

    1. what a joke, hahahaha

    2. And it is not true, he is in 9th tied with Grosjean over the whole season losing 2 places in the first lap.

      1. @rossotoro,
        You’re saying that @kiethcollantine’s statistics in his link are incorrect?

        Those statistics show that he lost 34 places, which is more than double the next ´worst starter´!

        1. not to speak for @xtwl but I don’t think he’s saying that stats are wrong for this year, they are what they are. But historically, Massa has been a very good starter, so for him to drop off the way he has this year may indicate other issues, one of which is his comfort level with the car.

          It’d be interesting to look at his starts before and after Spa (from when the start procedures changed).

          1. Exactly, Massa has always had excellent starts – I think the new procedure didn’t do any favours for him, or many others for that matter. There was definitely nothing wrong with his start at Silverstone! I guess his stats were disproportionately affected this year by incidents such as the US GP which left him right at the back.

          2. @uan You’re right. There is nothing wrong with the stats, I simply pointed out I did not expect Massa at the end of this table as he is a good starter.

        2. Yes, I am. His statistics only look at the hard numbers, they do not look why he lost places in the first lap and when you use the hard numbers he actually lost 35 places, not 34.

          He had 4 first lap incidents this year:
          – Bahrain he qualified 6th and started from the pitlane due a technical issue and finished lap 1 as 18th.
          – Monaco he qualified 12th and in the first turn Hulkenberg collided with him finished lap 1 as 20th.
          – Japan he qualified 5th and in the first turn Ricciardo collided with him finished lap 1 as 20th.
          Total of 35 places.

          He also collided with Alonso in the US but that was his fault:
          – USA he qualified 7th and in the first turn he collided with Alonso finished lap 1 as 15th.
          Total of 8 places.

          In the other 15 races he gained a total of 8 places in the first lap, his best in Russia (3 places) and worst in Belgium (lost 3 places) so if you add all the numbers he would be at 0 places*, so saying he lost the most places of all drivers on the grid might be true (haven’t checked the other drivers.. yet) but it is like saying Button is better than Alonso, Kvyat is better than Ricciardo and Verstappen trashed Sainz, if you only look at their points.

          * The numbers I used in my previous post were based on a chart made by someone else, the numbers above are based on fia reports.

          1. @rossotoro
            Good job! My gut feeling told me that the stats were probably misleading, and your post proved that to be correct.

  3. Seeing Massa who did really well (and to an extent Sainz as well) in the bottom half of the field after a solid season where he once again showed that Bottas might be very good, but still has room to improve rather says a lot about the great field of drivers we have in F1 currently in my opinion!

    Massa finally started a year strong again, but somehow let it slip away a bit in the middle of the year. At the same time I guess his teammate recovered more and more from that back injury and got back on top form. Also a bit of a shame how Williams not investing in development for the second half of the season hurt their performance.

    1. agree @bascb
      As one contributer put it yesterday “the places 5-14 are extremely close; they all had some good ups and a fair amount of downs over the season.”

    2. Yeah, Bottas’ average performance at the start of the year made me wonder if his back injury was still bothering him. For sure Massa was performing well, but I wasn’t seeing that extra little bit that Bottas showed last year.

  4. This season and 2014 are hard for comparisons. I would put Massa lower but I think he delivered okay so I agree with Massa and Sainz at the moment.

  5. Bring on the top ten!

    (What I hope and want)

    1. Vettel
    2. Verstappen
    3. Hamilton
    4. Perez
    5. Ricciardo
    6. Rosberg
    7. Kvyat
    8. Grosjean
    9. Bottas
    10. Hulkenberg

    What I think keith’s will be

    1. Hamilton
    2. Vettel
    3. Verstappen
    4. Rosberg
    5. Perez
    6. Hulkenberg
    7. Ricciardo
    8. Grosjean
    9. Kvyat
    10. Bottas

    1. Rosberg 4th is laughable. Even 6th is a stretch.

      1. That seems pretty harsh. If not for engine problems in Japan and Russia Rosberg would likely have finished the season with eight wins, the same number as Hamilton. So either Rosberg is being underrated or Hamilton is being overrated. Probably a bit of both are at work.

      2. Yeah, I would have put Rosberg in 11th to be honest.

    2. I’m pretty sure that Keith will put Vettel first. I don’t think Verstappen will be quite as high up (often good racing, but still also lots of rookie errors) and I think Rosberg did quite well overall – he was often just a little bit slower in qualifying than Hamilton which contributed greatly to his unremarkable results. My top 10:

      1. VET
      2. HAM
      3. ROS
      4. KVY
      5. RIC
      6. PER
      7. VES
      8. BOT
      9. GRO
      10. HUL

      … with Vettel and Hamilton quite a bit above the rest.

      I have to admit though that you should take this with a grain of salt as I followed this season much less than 2009-2014 due to busy private life and slightly reduced enthusiasm for F1 due to Mercedes dominance (I find intra-team battles less interesting than inter-team battles). I watched several races as highlights only, skipped over pre- and post-race show, and I even skipped a race (Abu Single) completely (not even watching highlights) for the first time since 2008.

    3. I think so too. Outstanding drivers of the season are: Ham, Vet, Ver….

      Out of these only Vettel was clearly above his teammate at nearly every metric Keith likes to look at. Also the only guy to win against Mercedes on pace. His spirit and energy was high entire season. Best in class.

      Hamilton I believe should be second. He was pretty epic at start of the season… But was totaly dominated by Nico last few races… This part bumps him down from first..

      Verstapen.. Amazing in every way except hardly top results(due to car no doubt) a few rookie errors, teammate was close to him..

      Then there there are Nicos, Daniels, of this world, who were great sometimes but not really better than top 3.

      I should point out this year all top 10 drivers were really good, and only a few on entire grid could be classified as poor.

  6. So Hulkenberg on the top 10? Don’t agree.

    1. WheeledWarrior
      12th December 2015, 8:47

      Hulkenberg had a strong first half of the season but had way to many crashes and incidents in the second half (Singapore, Russia, US) and was beaten by an excellent Perez very often as well.

      I would have ranked Hulkenberg 11th and Massa inside the top ten.

    2. He did Win the most important race of the year and raced most kilometers… Good year for him. But shockingly Perez was even better.

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