2016 F1 season driver rankings #18: Massa

2016 F1 season review

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In what turned out to be Felipe Massa’s final season the stronger areas of his game were less emphatic and his weaknesses were more clearly exposed.

Felipe Massa

Beat team mate in qualifying4/21
Beat team mate in race7/16
Races finished18/21
Laps spent ahead of team mate478/1087

The latter was especially clear in qualifying where he suffered a thumping 17-4 defeat at the hands of Valtteri Bottas.

He had begun the season well with points in all of the first six races including a pair of fifths. But over the next half-dozen grands prix he contributed just one point to the team’s tally.

Pit lane starts in Austria and Malaysia (having qualified seventh) due to technical problems didn’t help matters. Nor did being hit by Jolyon Palmer at the Hockenheimring. However in Hungary Massa was the architect of his own demise, crashing in qualifying and coming home 18th, nine places behind Bottas.

After announcing his retirement at Monza the final races of Massa’s career were more fruitful. However an opportunity to take a bite out of Force India’s points lead at Austin was squandered as he dithered behind Sainz and was mugged by Alonso. His final home race ended in disappointment with a crash.

At least he was able to bounce back with a final points finish at his swansong race in Abu Dhabi – and he kept Alonso behind this time.

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Over to you

It seemed like Massa was calling it in for most of the season. Struggling to think of any highs. Which is a shame because he’s had a great career and he is a true gentleman.

What’s your verdict on Felipe Massa’s 2016 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 F1 Fanatic Driver Rankings are produced by referring to:

View race-by-race notes on Felipe Massa

Australia – Out-qualified Bottas but was pipped to fifth by a few hundredths of a second by Verstappen. Massa’s car looked a handful in the early laps and Hamilton passed him with little difficulty. It was no surprise to see him come in early for a set of softs but Williams exchanged them for the medium compound during the stoppage. That set him on course for fifth place – Ricciardo had little trouble passing him on super-softs towards the end but as the rest were bottled up behind Grosjean it mattered little that Massa’s pace dropped off as severely as it did.

Bahrain – Williams only had one example of their new front wing for Bahrain and Massa received it by dint of being their leading driver in the championship going into the weekend. It proved a mixed blessing: the new part only arrived in time for final practice and although it gave the car a stronger front end it left Massa scrambling to rebalance the FW38. Having grabbed second at the start he slipped back on medium tyres and an error while being lapped by Rosberg opened the door for Kvyat to push him down to eighth.

China – His Friday running was disrupted by two left-rear tyre blow-outs. He also did not have use of the FW38’s new front wing and was caught out by the red flag in Q2: the upshot was he missed a place in Q3. He got ahead off Bottas at the start, however, and stayed there until the end, though Raikkonen bumped him down to sixth.

Russia – Was only a tenth of a second off Bottas on Friday and stayed within range of his team mate in qualifying. He wasn’t as quick in the early phase of the race on super-softs, and a late charge after a free pit stop didn’t help him progress.

Spain – Had one shot to get through Q1 but fell well short of his team mate’s time and missed the cut. But thanks to a solid driver, smart strategy and more impressive work by the Williams pit crew, he probably only finished two places lower than was possible. An early pit stop put him on a three-stop strategy which gave him more time in clear air.

Monaco – His Thursday crash was a rookie mistake. After being shaded by Bottas in qualifying, Massa took advantage of his team mate getting stuck behind Wehrlein to move ahead and ran a long stint at the end to nab the final point.

Canada – Crashed in the first practice session because of a fault with the DRS on a new-specification rear wing, which left him unable to run some new parts. Nonetheless he qualified close to his team mate. He slipped back from Bottas in the first stint and was given the opportunity to pit first, but he still dropped behind Rosberg. Soon after Massa’s car began to overheat, ending his race.

Europe – Didn’t click with the circuit as quickly as Bottas did but qualified ahead. Rear tyre degradation was the story of his race, forcing him to make an extra pit stop as he fell to tenth place.

Austria – Didn’t get out of the pits early enough at the end of Q3 to be able to do a third run on slicks, and ended up at the bottom of the top ten. Making matters worse, a front wing change on Sunday morning consigned him to a pit lane start. He looked on course to recover some points until a puncture forced him in for an extra pit stop, and he retired soon afterwards with braking problems.

Britain – Struggled in Q2 and failed to make it into the final ten. He moved into the points during the race, despite being elbowed aside by Vettel, but made an extra pit stop for softs which dropped him out of the top ten.

Hungary – Didn’t have access to the new Williams floor but also spoiled his qualifying by crashing on the wet track. His car was repaired overnight but a problem was discovered with his steering rack after his reconnaissance lap and Massa wasn’t able to get it fully to his liking before the start. A game effort to pull off a one-stop strategy did not work and he had to make a late extra pit stop.

Germany – Needed a late effort in Q2 to reach the final ten after being held up by Sainz. In the race he was tapped by Palmer early on and suffered damage which compromised and eventually ended his race.

Belgium – Software problems compromised the qualifying efforts of both Williams drivers but Massa was six-tenths slower than Bottas. He benefited from the first-lap chaos to move up to fourth but then pitted immediately to get rid of his super-soft tyres. He tried to get to the end with a single further stop but his tyres had gone in the closing laps. He was told to let Bottas through and after initially resisting he complied, then was demoted to tenth by Raikkonen.

Italy – Qualifying gave cause to view Massa’s decision to retire as a timely one: he was half a second off Bottas and missed the cut for Q3. He made amends with a decent start which got him up to eighth, but he was jumped by Verstappen at the first round of pit stops. He was a much closer match for Bottas on race pace, though.

Singapore – Backing off for yellow flags in Q2 might have cost him a place in Q3, though he was slower than his team mate. Running three stints on the softest tyres didn’t work out: he kept falling into traffic and having been ninth early on he finished out of the points.

Japan – Right on his team mate’s pace in practice, Massa was pipped by his team mate in qualifying and picked up a reprimand for driving too slowly. He was somewhat fortunate to finish the race in front of Bottas. With both Williams drivers making a single pit stop the team’s decision to bring Massa in two laps earlier, and the fact his pit stop was quite a bit quicker, decided this battle.

Malaysia – Admitted seventh on the grid was possible after taking tenth, but at least made it into Q3. However a throttle problem forced him to start from the pits, from where he recovered to a decent 13th.

United States – All-but matched Bottas in Q1 and Q2, and only a tenth away in the final part of qualifying. With both Force Indias and his team mate suffering a setback at the start it fell to Massa to capitalise for the team, but he ended up seventh behind a Toro Rosso and a McLaren. The Virtual Safety Car went against him, but dawdling behind Sainz gave Alonso the chance to pounce.

Mexico – Was well off his team mate’s pace on Friday, complaining about variation in grip levels from the tyres, and the situation changed little on Saturday. He got ahead of Bottas at the start put his team mate passed him early in the second stint as Massa struggled with his tyres. His straight-line speed kept him safe from Perez, however.

Brazil – The Williams clearly preferred the hotter conditions on Friday so it wasn’t a great shock to see Massa fail to make the cut for the top ten when the temperature fell on Saturday. The FW38 liked the rain even less and Massa slipped up by passing Gutierrez before the Safety Car line, earning a penalty. His pace on the intermediates at mid-race was good enough to prompt Bottas to go the same way, but as the rain worsened Massa struggled and eventually aquaplaned into a wall.

Abu Dhabi – The Force Indias separated him from his team mate at the end of his final Friday in F1, but he beat his team mate to take a place in Q3. Bottas passed him early in the race, then retired, leaving Massa to collect points for ninth. He ended his F1 career in fighting style, trying to find a way past Perez while simultaneously fending off Alonso.

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Author information

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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30 comments on “2016 F1 season driver rankings #18: Massa”

    1. I have always been anti-massa but ouch. 18th is strong. Where are the Renault guys?

  1. 2008 was his best year where he held the WDC for 30 secs. Never quite the same after being hit by that spring from his countryman’s car.

    1. I always thought that that incident crippled him somewhat, he was no longer the same, as stated by Nelson Piquet that such crashes makes you loose some performance and you can no longer be as competitive as before, he recons he wasn’t the same since his Imola 1987 crash, so all in all I think the relative lack of performance wasn’t up to him, quiet sad IMO.

    2. @abdelilah dex
      I don’t know what you are talking about. Massa says that’s rubbish. Raikkonen had an unlucky 2008 and Hamilton was also to blame for that, not to mention that McLaren were a one driver effort that season, and that the safety car rules open the scope for dirty tactics. Ham also affected Rai’s season when he crashed into his rear end in canada. After Raikkonen’s tardy start of 2009, he was beating Massa just before his crash so, all in all, Massa was never that great, he never shone either in Sauber, Ferrari, or Williams, so not surprised to see him beaten in every team, like Button they don’t beat teammates often but it won’t matter for some mysterious reason.
      On Piquet’s case it took him 20 years to speak about that crash, he claims he was left with permanent side effects from that crash.

    3. I still think the more accurate way to phrase it is that Massa was never the same since he came back from the spring to find Fernando Alonso had taken over his team…

  2. I like the bloke and support him but he has not shown much F1-grade drives this year. I hope he brought the team valuable development infos.

  3. Glad that next year will bring some fresh faces into F1. The likes of Massa were great at their peak but hung around too long.

  4. Well,i would put Felipe above JB…Felipe lost 0.2 in his qualifying ability this yera,and his races were ok…In Thursday of Monaco he crashed,but calling it a “rookie” mistake is a bit harsh.In Spa he was 0.6 behind Botyas because he had only 1 set of ssofts and locked at turn 1.In Monza he lost around 40 minutes in the first 2 practices.Massa,in comparison with Bottas,lost :
    -15 points in Canada, without having the new rear wing after his non fault Fp1 crash
    -4 points in Austria,with Bottas having graining issues
    -1-2 in Germany
    -4 points in Singapore when Williams tried to be agressive and he could have covered Perez
    -6-8 points in Malaysia
    -4 points in Usa,when he lost 5 seconds under Vsc
    Obviously Felipe wasnt as good as the other times,but nonetheless,he will be missed!

    1. *year,*Bottas

  5. Bit harsh on Felipe there if im honest.

    1. @pmccarthy_is_a_legend
      Yeah, but this is no surprise. It’s Keith’s view on drivers after all, and keeping his personal bias out of the assessment of a driver’s quality has never been his forte.

      That’s why I’ll probably restrain myself from reading this series of articles from now on, all it’s ever done for me is annoy me. If I have the self-discipline, that is.

      1. Avoiding a personal bias is impossible, so every assessment always will be colored by the author.
        You can hide it in colorful language or by disregarding certain events. The truth is out there

      2. Massa did beat every driver to the finish line at least once this season, which is pretty good for a driver rated as number 18.

        1. Is that true?

          1. Not true, unless you count DNFs. He did beat most drivers at least once, but he never finished ahead of Rosberg or Vettel, for example.

          2. Yes, it is true, or at least my spreadsheet says it is true. A huge amount depends on how good your logic is. If your logic is flawed then your results are flawed, but if your logic is right then the results are difficult to argue with. I think there is a small flaw in my logic, but as far as I can tell it hasn’t affected these results.
            Getting to what is probably a fundamental point, should a person like Rosberg, who crashed out of the Spanish GP, or Vettel, who was DNS at Bahrain, be considered to be ahead of Massa, who did complete the race? nase appears to believe a person who retires needs to be treated differently from one who finishes the race. By what right does Rosberg or Vettel have that they, when classified as “Ret” or “DNS” or whatever, should be classified ahead of someone who finished last? This isn’t accepted in other forms of racing, and as far as I know this doesn’t apply in F1, therefore I maintain my stance: Massa (8th in the Spanish GP), like 17 other drivers on the grid, got to the finish line ahead of Rosberg at the Spanish GP, and in the case of Vettel Massa finished ahead of him 4 times: Bahrain, Russia, Austria, and Malaysia. Let me know if you find a flaw in my logic.

          3. ColdFly F1 (@)
            9th December 2016, 9:52

            @drycrust following your logic ‘Massa was beaten at least once by every driver on the grid (incl. Haryanto, though excl. Vandoorne)’.
            Which could be considered ‘pretty bad for a driver rated as number 18′.

            Looking at it like that points out the flaw in your logic ;)

          4. @coldfly That wasn’t the flaw I was thinking of, but yes, you are right. After some thought I have to concede that maybe 18th place is justified, because someone has to be 18th, so maybe it is personal bias that makes me think Massa deserves a higher place than 18th.
            Thanks to your question I found another flaw in my logic, but again it wasn’t the one you were thinking of. The flaws relate to thinks like “Ret”, “DNS” and where a place position has some sort of marker next to it, e.g. “20†” and how those should be treated. Unfortunately I was using LibreOffice Calc as my spreadsheet, and the amount of logic required in a macro, and the amount of macros is pushing it beyond what it is capable of, so I’m having to shift everything to an online spreadsheet, but there were problems with doing that, so I’m having to put it aside for a bit.

        2. @drycrust
          I’ll add something else pretty impressive that he managed at the start of the season. He was the only driver on the entire grid to finish in the points in all of the first 6 races. Until Monaco, I also think Williams was the only team to have have both drivers finish in the points every race. Massa certainly was pretty strong at the start and even though his performance has gone down now, I think P18 is a little low. P15 or 16 would be better in my view.

  6. My personal top 10:

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

    Very close for the top 3 and for 6-10 places

    1. ColdFly F1 (@)
      7th December 2016, 13:44

      1) HAM(2) good racing throughout year, with few mistakes
      2) VES(4) just love the excitement and quality he brings to racing
      3) RIC(1) less mistakes than VES, but not as exciting
      4) ROS(8) very solid season, but had a few average moments
      5) ALO(6) can’t wait to see him in a stronger car again
      6) VET(3) a times excellent; but too often disappointing (or even annoying) during 2nd part.
      7) PER(7) very close to HUL, both solid
      8) HUL(10) over the full season just behind PER (or not, still not sure)
      9) SAI (5) falling a bit on my rating, very strong first half
      10) RAI (13) climbing, but does not show up enough on race day
      PS – there is very little between positions 2-5 on my list.
      PPS – (values between brackets = mid year rating F1F)

      1. @coldfly must say i’d choose the same except I’d put Ricciardo behind Rosberg. Both did a comparable job but Rosberg had much more pression and snatched the crown.

      2. 1.Rosberg (at times Lewis was too quick but Nico was always there)
        2.Hamilton (he had some slow races, particularly before Malaysia)
        3.Verstappen (not because of Sao Paulo, that might have been bravery and the parc ferme rules, but the on season team change)
        4.Ricciardo (a little deflated from September onwards.)
        5.Raikkonen (slower in the beginning, but truly quicker and consistent there after)
        6.Vettel (like Ricciardo, he deflated)
        7.Alonso (JB should not be too hard for him)
        8.Perez (always there when it matters)
        9.Hulk (unlucky, when released from SFI, he went really quick)
        10.Sainz (dependable.)

  7. Performed excellently against his teammate last year, and even lead the battle for fourth in the standings following his Austrian podium, but dropped off the mark considerably this year. The time for retirement came knocking, and Felipe, wisely and contritely, took it. A doffed cap to the classy, charming little man that is Felipe Massa – don’t you dare stay away from the paddock for too long…

  8. Think it’s a fair rating for Massa. The mid field were a competitive bunch with the likes of Perez, Hulk, Bottas and Sainz. He was definitely the weakest of them all this year. Honestly, I thought his performance was similar to Palmer (both of whom I would put at 17 o 18

  9. His worst season since a long time. Maybe the worst of them all.
    Williams lost its engine advantage and now are where they belong. The midfield battles.

    And being there shows Massas’s shortcomings more than Bottas’s.

    It’s the right time to go.

  10. Bit harsh but by the numbers about right.

    What was really sad was the fact that Williams turned out a dog of a car for 2016 after showing a bit of promise in the previous 2 years.

    In reality Massa did what his equipment would allow during his final year which probably he regrets doing because it by no means reflected the talent that he has shown thru his career.

  11. At the beginning, it looked like 2016 might amount to something for Felipe, but he seemed to get progressively more… …worn-out, for lack of a better word. The retirement announcement seemed to be a weight off his shoulders. It was a sad season, but I will always treasure the memories of the beautiful goodbye that the F1 community gave an excellent racer who possessed grace and personality.

    Felipe Massa will be someone worth aspiring to. But the version to aspire to is not, perhaps, the 2016 edition.

  12. Nice career. Time to move on. So excited about Massa, Button and Rosberg leaving. Overdue. Time to get some talent in that will fight at the front

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