Inside Line: Bravo Felipe Massa!

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Dear Felipe,

I trust you are well, amigo! Good to see you in your new Williams team with the Martini branding – very retro, very historic and very cool. However, I must admit that not seeing you in red has taken some getting used to, but now the white racing overall is starting to suit you.

But enough of the formalities, because I am really writing to say to you: Bravo!

Ignoring those silly team orders in Malaysia is the best thing you could have done, and believe me, you did yourself the best service by turning a deaf ear to it all, and with it earned some big respect from true F1 fans and drivers, too.

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I must be honest, I thought it must have been April Fool’s come early when those fools on the pitwall gave you the “Bottas is faster than you” command. How insensitive was that, and how stupid to make a call of that nature so early in the season with very little to gain.

And then they were even more stupid, by saying afterwards it was not team orders, and then they went totally dumb by saying that if you had allowed Bottas through and he could do nothing about Button, they would switch you again!

Does April Fool’s happen early in Malaysia? Like on 30 th March?

This command coming from a team who did not flinch once during their heyday – when Nigel Mansell versus Nelson Piquet raged on and off track – imagine either of them being told to give way for the other. Crazy! Or Jacques Villeneuve and Damon Hill told to swap places!

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Williams is a team steeped in Formula 1 history, with a rich legacy of victories and massive success at their zenith with a legion of fans. Yet that moment illustrates how far they have fallen. Have they forgotten how to be winners? Champions? A shame because once upon the time they owned the manual on those two subjects…

We all know what you went through at Ferrari. Granted that was slightly different because when they told you to let Fernando Alonso pass, at the 2010 German Grand Prix, he was still in the championship battle and your form was not right up there. Nevertheless you have since said that that day at Hockenheim was one of the lowest points of your time at Maranello.

Yet at Williams, who have been gushing with kind words about the good spirit you have brought to the team, they feel they can open these wounds in such a callous manner – no respect.

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The exact first command from the pitwall on lap 53 at Sepang was: “Felipe, Valtteri [Bottas] is faster than you. Can you let him through?”

And then a few minutes later: “He’s got better tyres, we need to let him go – don’t hold him up.”

There and then you must have had a severe case of déjà vu, that nightmare scenario was back. Did you think they were joking? I wish you would tell us what went through your mind at that point? Drop us a line if you ever care to do so…

Whatever the case, you reacted like a true racing driver should, driving harder and making sure that the command would not be adhered to. I believe I was not alone that day in willing you to beat your teammate – It was so blatantly wrong, because Formula 1 is still a sport for many of us.

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It was amazing how your guys on the pitwall were quick to back-pedal when you flipped them the bird and took matters in to your own hands. However from an outside perspective damage had been done which no spin doctor could repair, hopefully they can patch it up but this one will not simply go away.

I trust you did (or at least will) take them to task about the whole episode, as they were out of line making those demands from you, the senior driver in the team, running ahead of your teammate and so early on in the season with very little (if anything) to gain at that moment.

Last year at the same place – Malaysia – Sebastian Vettel ignored the Multi-21 team order and infamously overtook Mark Webber to claim victory. He apologised at first but then retracted, in my book he did the right thing as a racing driver. You are out there to race, not tow the corporate line and fix a race – which in my book is exactly what team orders are – race fixing.

On that same day lat year, Nico Rosberg was told to hold station behind Lewis Hamilton by the Mercedes pitwall – which he did.

Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday 24 March 2013.

We can debate the issue of who is right and who is wrong, and go off about sportsmanship and teamwork, but the big difference is as simple as it is stark: Vettel has four F1 world titles, Rosberg has four grand prix wins. I rest my case.

Anyway, before I really start ranting and fueling conspiracy theories, allow me to close this note and say once again that you did yourself proud. Had you succumbed on Sunday at Sepang you might as well have walked away from the sport with your head bowed in shame. At least you can walk through the paddock with a huge grin on your face, your head held high for doing the right thing.

You reacted with the spirit of the true racer which resides in you and as a man from the country of Ayrton Senna, you flew the flag of Brazil with pride and you owed that show of strength to your nation who hold you in high esteem.

Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Preparations, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Thursday 13 March 2014

You no doubt won many fans on that day, including I am sure many who had or were in the process of writing you off.

I predict this season is going to be packed with high profile team order sagas: Rosberg vs Hamilton, Vettel vs Ricciardo, Alonso vs Raikkonen, Button vs Raikkonen – all sideshows ready to explode. Watch this space!

Meanwhile, Felipe keep it up and boa sorte amigo for the rest of the season – and remember: a luta continua!

Cheers

Paul Velasco

 

 

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