Time for Massa to move on — Ian De Cotta
MAY 26 — Formula 1’s appetite for a fresh winner at every stop in the 2012 season was given a new twist in Spain a fortnight ago, when unheralded Pastor Maldonado took the chequered flag.
Until Barcelona, victory came from powerhouses McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull, despite the fickle Pirelli tyres turning the championship on its head.
With Maldonado winning in a Williams that was winless in eight years, it seemed all bets are off as we could be in for more intrigue in an anything but predictable season so far.
But at the Monaco Grand Prix this weekend, the stage is ready for the script to settle down, with the lead actors separated from those with bit parts in the championship battle.
Not that it will be without drama as the plot thickens.
Until the last race, Ferrari were not among the big teams punters were tracking although Fernando Alonso won in Malaysia two months ago. The Italians have been struggling for speed most times and were at best a soft bet.
But that changed in Barcelona, where only fast degrading tyres stopped double world champion Alonso from plunging the dagger into Maldonado’s heart in the final laps.
It is a sign they have exorcised the goblins wreaking havoc in their cars and with Alonso tied on points with Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel at the top of the drivers’ championship, it seems nothing can stop Ferrari from surging ahead. They last bagged the coveted drivers’ title with Kimi Raikkonen in 2007 and five years is a drought too long for Formula 1’s most storied team.
But not all is in their proper place at Ferrari. Their weakest link since 2010 has been Felipe Massa and the Brazilian is going through his most torrid start to a season with Ferrari. Of the 63 points the team have raked in, his contribution is just two.
So what ails Massa, who was edged out to the drivers’ championship by McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton in 2008?
It is tempting to pin all the blame on the life-threatening injury he suffered at the Hungarian Grand Prix the following season from a loose spring that flew off the car of Rubens Barrichello and hit his head. He was back racing the following season to partner Alonso but lost some of the combative edge that had moved Ferrari in 2006 to recruit him from Sauber.
Alonso, 30, is a domineering and intimidating partner to have in any team, but it is not the fear of racing the Spaniard that has plunged Massa to the lowest ebb of his career. Against the far-more talented Alonso, it must have dawned upon the 31-year-old Brazilian that his chances of winning races, much less the world title, with Ferrari have dimmed dramatically.
The team have invested most of their resources on their top driver to get them back into championship-winning mode and Massa does not fit into the equation any longer.
His best bet for redemption, as the final leg of his career looms, is to move on to a new team. It is a decision that must have occupied his mind this season, and one that must be made.
Alonso needs a more aggressive partner to push him to his third title and return Ferrari back to their glorious days, and the younger 22-year-old Sergio Perez may just be the one to do it. The rising star from the Ferrari-supplied Sauber team chased Alonso all the way in Malaysia and switching places with Massa is the best solution for all.
It will be a happy homecoming for Massa to an old stomping ground, and he has the experience that Sauber need right now to get them to the next level. — Today
* Ian De Cotta is senior F1 correspondent at Today.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.