Williams “couldn’t afford” to keep Massa instead of Stroll

2017 F1 season

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Felipe Massa’s intended retirement at the end of last season only came about because Williams couldn’t afford to keep him according to the team’s former chief technical officer Pat Symonds.

Massa announced his retirement at last year’s Italian Grand Prix and Williams subsequently announced Lance Stroll would take his place. Stroll’s career has been financed by his billionaire father.

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However Nico Rosberg’s abrupt retirement at the end of the year led Williams to sell Valtteri Bottas to Mercedes, opening the door for Massa to continue his career.

Symonds, who left the team in December before Massa’s return was announced, told F1 Racing magazine he urged the team to keep stability in its driver line-up due to the new technical rules being introduced this year.

“When I was there I was adamant that when we crossed into a new set of regulations it was important to stabilise everything else,” he said.

“In an ideal world I would have kept both drivers, but budgets at the time were not there to sustain that. Williams needed to at least keep Valtteri and that didn’t happen.”

Bottas out-qualified Massa 17-4 last year which was the widest gap between any pair of team mates all season. The team indicated they were only prepared to release him to Mercedes because Massa was able to return.

“To keep some continuity, the only option was to bring back Felipe,” Symonds continued. “I think you’ve got to remember that Felipe didn’t really want to retire, but in mid-2016 they couldn’t afford to keep him.”

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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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38 comments on “Williams “couldn’t afford” to keep Massa instead of Stroll”

  1. Miltiadis (@miltosgreekfan)
    22nd March 2017, 12:22

    Interesting comments by Symmons.Felipe was only paid 4 millions per year which is not that much…

    1. Poor Massa, one wonders how he can pay the bills.

      1. Miltiadis (@miltosgreekfan)
        22nd March 2017, 13:14

        I mean in F1 terms!!

    2. @miltosgreekfan It’s more a matter of what money the team has received as a result of its driver line-up as opposed to what it’s paying out to its drivers. Stroll’s father reportedly brought in $80m. Unfortunately I don’t think Massa had quite the same financial backing…

      1. Miltiadis (@miltosgreekfan)
        22nd March 2017, 13:18

        Yep,80 millions is an extreme amount of money in todays F1!

    3. @miltosgreekfan I think when Symonds say “Williams couldn’t afford Massa” it’s something more like “Williams couldn’t afford not to have a pay-driver for 2017” than “they didn’t have money to pay for his salary”.

      If not, then they are on bigger troubles than most people thought…

      1. Miltiadis (@miltosgreekfan)
        22nd March 2017, 13:24

        @arrows98Perhaps,without Stroll’s money,they wouldn’t be able to put so much efford on this year’s car.Now this the Bottas deal,they are in really good shape(financialy speaking)

      2. @arrows98 They are publicly traded and therefore their finances are public. I believe last year they made a modest profit – but the point is you can look it up. Anyone can.

    4. Massa’s contract might not be that much, but if Stroll was bringing upwards of £20m behind him to race, that’s suddenly a £25m swing in the accounts.

      It might just be my reading but Symonds could also of meant Williams couldn’t afford to not sign Stroll, which is basically the same thing.

    5. Which means that Massa wasn’t earning Williams enough sponsorship, only his salary and perhaps a few millions.

  2. I wish I wasn’t paid much like Massa.

    1. I’m glad I don’t have to spend even half as much as Stroll.

    2. I still remember Brawn paying 800k for Rubens and 3m for Button.

      1. And winning both titles… No pay driver team will win a championship.

  3. Ah, bless, spinning the story to make Stroll the saviour of Williams.

  4. Canadian national broadcaster put this together about Stroll, I have not watched it yet: http://www.ctvnews.ca/w5/at-age-18-lance-stroll-is-the-first-canadian-to-race-in-formula-one-in-11-years-1.3327363

    1. What a pile of rubbish. I’m Canadian and I have to say Stroll really does suck. Out paced by Massa by a second a lap? Next year he will have a challenge against a one armed polish driver. Can’t wait to see the test times on Tuesday.

  5. Sad day when money makes cars “more faster” than hot-shoe drivers. Stroll plus $20M is likely faster than Massa minus $4M overall. Time will tell how good he is- there are definitely results behind him but the question remains how much of that was the funding advantage he brought to his teams. Kid is still fast though- he took that advantage and won a lot of stuff.. we will see!

    1. cartwheel, that’s always been the truth though, right back into the origins of the sport in the 1950’s – for all the song and dance that the fans make about drivers, as Frank Williams puts it, it is the teams that can make or break a driver. Drivers do not design and manufacture new components, run wind tunnels, ship supplies to the tracks or assemble, service and repair the cars – none of that happens without a large sack of cash to keep things going, and frankly the drivers on the grid are nothing without those teams behind them.

    2. That has always been the case though.

      In the 90’s on a $50m budget a paydriver who’s sponsors bring $10m is worth more time on track than a Schumacher or Mansell. Nowadays a paydriver like Stroll bringing in $80m on a $200m budget is worth a lot more than keeping Massa or even Bottas I recon.

    3. The equation was probably “$20M + Stroll and Bottas will get us more points than -$4M + Massa and Bottas”. Williams made the decision to go with Stroll and the cash when they still thought that they would have their quickest driver in the car to make use of all of the advantages that the $20M funding injection would bring. It didn’t matter how fast Stroll was, Bottas (and by extension Williams) would have been the ones that benefitted from the better car that could be funded with the extra cash. Now, they’ve been forced to fall back on Massa as their main driver, when it was never in their plans. They’re putting as positive a spin on this as they can, but they’ve been dumped in it by Bottas’ move to Mercedes.

  6. I wish I was underpaid like Massa… To have the best job in the world and still get 4 million in a year…Yeah, I think I could live with that.

    1. please let this through
      22nd March 2017, 16:06

      you say you wish to pocket his money, but do you wish to get a suspension spring at speed of north of 200+kph embedded into your forehead lobe damaging your eye and eyesocket, like he did in 2009, in hungary?

      Do you wish you could get a 12 tonn tracktor on track as your barrier? Anyway, this is not a cinderela story we are living in. Do not be silly, we do not live in la la land, I mean, you cant be him and viceversa.

      1. Yes, many of us on this site would accept those risks for the opportunity to race. Just as the current drivers do.

    2. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
      22nd March 2017, 18:11

      And don’t forget that when you retire you can get an actual F1 car as a gift from your team!

  7. Williams will continue to slide over F1 cliff..Stroll with Daddys money and Massa who well past his prime, this year looks over before it starts for this once mighty juggernaut team..l have seen this happen so many times when kids get involved in the family Business!!!! Alan Jones called this when the apppointment was made….

    1. What a load of absolute crap. Really, Sir!

    2. Seriously, as if Williams are the only team with struggles.

      1. I am sure Jones has more insight into the Williams team and its current culture / leadership than u blokes..

        1. This is ridiculous. Claire Williams has taken the team into the top 3 twice in her four seasons in charge. Not since 2003 have we been so far up the leader board. Yes, mainly thanks to a Meredes lump in back, a lump that Claire Williams bought.
          I’m a long-term Williams fan. Through thick and thin. And it pains me to say this, because I have enormous admiration for her father, but it is not Claire who has damaged the team, but Frank, by not stepping down sooner. His input and methods were outdated.

          The team is in trouble (if you can call it trouble, a profit is a rare thing in F1) because of the ridiculous costs and poor distribution of wealth. As are most teams.

          1. Gong tong..Claire is a graphic designer/ PR person….really ???? she is out of her depth..a ridiculous appointment

  8. As the result of the whole silly season story surrounding Williams, the team now has what is probably the weakest driver line up on the grid. However, on the financial side they are probably quite strong which could help them in bringing upgrades more relentlessly than their direct rivals Force India, Toro Rosso and Haas. Williams will pay Filipe probably less than $5M, get $15M+ from the Stroll family and who knows how much from Mercedes in addition to PU discounts for the Bottas deal. In a season where there is a lot of “low hanging fruit” development wise accourding to Newey, the financial benefit over their might be more important than ever.

  9. Williams couldn’t afford a non-disclosure agreement in Symonds’ contract?

  10. Massa is so overrated and just needs to move aside for some actual talent.

    1. Dang, I wish I was un-talented enough to come within one turn of the drivers championship.

      Or to recover from a vicious crash and race for Ferrari.

      Or be the best option available to drive the Williams in 2017 for millions of dollars.


    2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      23rd March 2017, 7:39


      They wouldn’t want him back if they didn’t trust him. He was talented enough last season to be the only driver on the entire grid to score points in all of the 1st 6 races. So that was actually over 25% of the season which sounds like quite a lot. He may have got worse over the season but he could well start this season strong again. He also had a very good final race last year.
      Massa is certainly more valuable to Williams than getting yet another new driver because he’s had so much experience in F1 as well as being in the Williams team for the last 3 years.

  11. Williams can’t afford Massa (who brought sponsorship) but can afford to have Paddy Lowe?

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