Felipe Massa is in the unusual position of having been team-mate to three world champions – Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso. He partnered Schumacher during the German’s last year as a Ferrari driver before he retired for the first time, then raced alongside Kimi Raikkonen for three seasons, and has spent the last four years as team-mate to Alonso. He therefore has some unique insights into how these drivers compare to each other.
Massa’s record against his three team-mates tells an interesting story. While partnering Schumacher, Massa took 3 pole positions, stood on the podium and won twice. Crucially, both of his wins were in races that Schumacher finished, illustrating that he was capable of beating Schumacher at least occasionally. But Schumacher was clearly stronger over the season, winning seven races on his way to second place in the Drivers’ Championship, while Massa finished third, 41 points behind his team-mate.
Of his three team-mates, Massa has beaten only Raikkonen over the course of a full season. In 2008, Massa lost out on the title by a single point to Lewis Hamilton while Raikkonen (who had won the 2007 championship for Ferrari) was 22 points behind Massa in third place.
Alonso arrived on the scene in 2010, at the same time that Massa returned after missing the latter part of 2009 due to injuries sustained in his horrific Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying crash. Against Alonso, Massa has failed to win a single race in almost four full seasons, while Alonso has scored 11 wins over the same period. Massa has also not taken a single pole position while Alonso has four during their time as team-mates. Alonso has twice finished runner-up in the Drivers’ Championship since joining Ferrari (and looks likely to do so for a third time this season), while Massa has not finished a season better than sixth as Alonso’s team-mate.
It’s easy (and tempting) to blame Massa’s apparent non-performance on his 2009 accident. But what if Alonso is just that good? What if Massa has maintained the level of performance that saw him miss out on the title in 2008 by a single point, but Alonso is just so far ahead that Massa looks slow by comparison?
Massa’s own opinion on the matter is fascinating, and reveals that he considers Alonso’s superiority to be the major factor in their relative performances as team-mates. He told Sky Sports F1‘s Martin Brundle:
“For sure I’ve had some tough times as well with strong team-mates. The one [I] was suffering more [against] was Alonso. I think maybe he’s more complete.
“Schumacher was very, very good. He was amazing and a very complete driver as well. But I think maybe Alonso is even more perfect.”
In 2014, Alonso will once again be paired with driver who is considered one of the best in the sport, when Kimi Raikkonen joins Ferrari. If Massa is correct that Alonso is even more complete than Schumacher, then Raikkonen might struggle against Alonso. After all, Massa did outpace Raikkonen in 2008, but he has never come close to beating Alonso over a season.
Kimi Raikkonen will rejoin Ferrari on a two-year deal from 2014. This marks the only time in Ferrari’s history that it has re-signed a previous Ferrari World Champion for more than a one-off race. Raikkonen therefore has a unique second bite at the Ferrari apple – a chance to take an already successful history with the famous Italian team and make it even more successful.
Raikkonen joined Ferrari in 2007 from McLaren, replacing the retiring Michael Schumacher. Raikkonen’s team-mate at Ferrari throughout his first stint with the team was Felipe Massa, the same man Raikkonen is now replacing on his return to Maranello. In his very first race for Ferrari, the 2007 Australian Grand Prix, Raikkonen took pole position, set the fastest lap and won the race. It was a stunning statement of intent, particularly considering that he was attempting to fill the biggest shoes of all in F1, those of Michael Schumacher.
The rest of the 2007 season was not so dominant for Raikkonen. He would not win another race until the French Grand Prix, which was the eighth round of the season, and by then it looked like the title would go to one of the McLaren drivers (double World Champion Fernando Alonso or super-quick rookie Lewis Hamilton) or Raikkonen’s own team-mate, Felipe Massa. But the win in France was just the beginning of a charge back to the front for Raikkonen in the second half of the season.
Raikkonen won again at the British Grand Prix, but retired at the next round at the Nurburgring. He then had a string of podium finishes – second at the Hungarian and Turkish Grands Prix and third at Ferrari’s home race at Monza. The next race was at Spa, where Raikkonen had already won twice before during his time at McLaren. He made it three wins in at Spa in 2007, which brought him to within 13 points of championship-leader Lewis Hamilton with three rounds left in the season.
Although Raikkonen had been inching closer to the top of the standings throughout the second half of the 2007 season, his title hopes suffered a major blow at the Japanese Grand Prix, where Hamilton won and Raikkonen came third. He was now 17 points behind with two races remaining in the season. In 2007, 10 points were awarded for a race win, 8 for second place and 6 for third. That meant Raikkonen had to win at least one of the remaining races and could finish no lower than second at the other race in order to even have a chance at the title.
Raikkonen made sure he did everything he could to secure the title. He won in China while Hamilton beached his McLaren in the gravel at the pit entry, his tyres too worn to allow him to take the sharp left-hander at the start of the pit lane. So Raikkonen went to the final race in Brazil 7 points behind Hamilton and three points behind Alonso. Raikkonen was in with a chance, but he was certainly an outsider.
For the final race of the season in Brazil, Raikkonen qualified third, behind Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton. He surged past Hamilton at the start and ran second to team-mate Massa until the second round of pitstops. Raikkonen managed to pass Massa in the second round of stops, although Ferrari would surely have engineered a position change otherwise anyway, as Raikkonen was the only Ferrari driver in with a chance of the title.
From that point on, all Raikkonen could do was win the race and hope Hamilton and Alonso did not score sufficient points to beat him to the title. Hamilton had handed Raikkonen a clear advantage early in the race when he slowed significantly after encountering a problem in his car. He was able to reset the onboard computer in his McLaren which allowed him to get back up to racing speed, but he was 18th by then and a long way out of the points. Alonso ran third throughout the race after passing Hamilton on the opening lap.
For Hamilton to win the title, he needed to finish fifth with Alonso no higher than third. As it happened, Alonso finished third, but Hamilton could do no better than seventh, despite fighting through the field superbly. That made Raikkonen World Champion by a single point from Hamilton and Alonso, who finished equal on points.
For Raikkonen, winning the World Championship in 2007 was the high-point of his Ferrari career, although he would remain with the Scuderia for another two seasons. In 2008, he seemed to be lacking motivation and was outpaced by Felipe Massa. Raikkonen won just two races in 2008, in Malaysia and Spain, compared to six for Massa, and the Finn went on to finish a distant third in the Drivers’ Championship, while Massa lost out on the title by a single point.
2009 saw the unlikely triumph of Brawn GP and the rise to prominence of Red Bull Racing, while Ferrari had a tough season. The Ferrari F60 was off the front-running pace, so much so that it delivered just one victory all season. The win went to Kimi Raikkonen at Spa, his fourth and to-date last Belgian Grand Prix victory, and came at a time when Ferrari were still reeling from Felipe Massa’s horrific accident in Hungary just two races before.
Raikkonen stood on the podium in Ferrari colours for the final time at the next round at Monza, when he finished third in the Italian Grand Prix. At the end of the season, Raikkonen was a distant sixth in the championship with 48 points, marginally more than half the tally of 2009 World Champion Jenson Button.
At the end of 2009, Ferrari and Raikkonen parted ways. Ferrari wanted to sign Fernando Alonso and were not willing to split with Felipe Massa, and as a result they chose to buy Raikkonen out of the rest of his contract. Raikkonen reportedly looked for other drives in Formula One before turning his attention to other racing series. He spent 2010 and 2011 competing without much success in the World Rally Championship. In 2011, he also tried his hand at NASCAR, making appearances in the Camping World Truck Series and the Nationwide Series.
Throughout his time away from F1, rumours of a return persisted. In advance of the 2010 season, he was linked with possible drives for McLaren, Mercedes Toyota, although none of those came to fruition. Rumours surfaced of a return to Formula One with Renault in 2011, but those also proved false. Ultimately he would return with Lotus (previously Renault) in 2012, the team with which he won the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and finished the season third in the standings, behind Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.
Raikkonen has remained with Lotus for 2013, and is currently fourth in the Drivers’ Championship, 88 points behind championship leader Vettel and realistically out of the title race. He won the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, but has not stood on the top step of the podium since.
In 2014, the Raikkonen-Ferrari story will resume, after it was confirmed today that Raikkonen re-signed by the famous Italian team. He will have a chance of becoming the fourth driver in history to win multiple championships for Ferrari, after Alberto Ascari, Niki Lauda and Michael Schumacher. He will also provide followers of Formula One with the opportunity to watch what could become a great Ferrari rivalry, when he lines up on the grid in the same car as Fernando Alonso next season.
Following Ferrari’s announcement today that Kimi Raikkonen will be rejoining the team on a two-year deal from 2014, Raikkonen has expressed his enthusiasm for his historica return to the famous Italian team. Raikkonen told the Ferrari website:
“I am really happy to be returning to Maranello where I previously spent three fantastic and very successful years. I have so many memories of my time at Ferrari, memories which have stayed with me these past years, first and foremost, winning the World Championship title in 2007, which was really unforgettable.
“I can’t wait to be driving a Prancing Horse car again and to reacquaint myself with so many people with whom I had such close links, as well as working with Fernando, whom I consider a great driver, in order to bring the team the success it deserves.”
Raikkonen’s future partnership with Alonso will be watched with interest, as it is expected that Alonso will have a much harder time establishing himself as Ferrari number one with Raikkonen in the team, particularly as Raikkonen has already won the World Championship for Ferrari, whereas Alonso’s two titles came before he joined the Scuderia.
2014 will provide a concrete indication of just how quick Raikkonen is on his return to Formula One. After leaving Ferrari at the end of 2009, Raikkonen spent two season rallying before returning to F1 with Lotus in 2012. He has won two races (in Abu Dhabi last year and Australia this season) and consistently delivered strong points finishes for Lotus, but has had a relatively inexperienced team-mate in Romain Grosjean, which makes it difficult to establish just how well he is driving.
Alongside Alonso, however, measuring Raikkonen’s performance will be no trouble at all. Alonso is considered one of the top drivers in Formula One, and is in perhaps the best form of his career. If Raikkonen can match or beat Alonso, it will confirm the consensus that Raikkonen came back to Formula One perhaps even better than he was before.
Kimi Raikkonen will drive for Ferrari again in 2014, it has been confirmed by the team. The initial agreement between Ferrari and Raikkonen will last two years – 2014 and 2015. The news comes less than a day after Felipe Massa confirmed on Instagram and Twitter that he will be leaving Ferrari at the end of the 2013 season.
Raikkonen’s return to Ferrari is unique in the team’s history. No driver in history has won the World Championship for Ferrari, left the team, and then returned on a permanent basis. It is also not normally Ferrari’s strategy to employ World Champions, although that trend has already been broken in the last two decades with the signings of Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso.
In 2014, Ferrari will be in the unique and not necessarily enviable position of having two World Champions in the team – Alonso is a double World Champion and Raikkonen has a single title to his name. Having two such competitive drivers alongside each other in the team could create negative internal friction, as happened at McLaren in 2007 when Alonso partnered Lewis Hamilton (although Hamilton had not yet won the title). On the other hand, it could also launch Ferrari into an unparalleled period of dominance, as the red cars will be driven by two of the best and most in-form drivers in the world.
Alonso extended a word of welcome to his new team-mate, saying on Ferrari’s website: “I’d like to welcome my new travelling companion: together, starting next year, we will have to tackle a very demanding technical and racing challenge.”
Ferrari Team Principal Stefano Domenicali welcomed Raikkonen back to the team, saying: “I am pleased to welcome Kimi back to the Scuderia, the team with which he won his World Championship title. I sense he is very happy to be returning to Maranello and very determined to tackle the work that awaits him in the best way possible.”
Domenicali and Alonso also paid tribute to Felipe Massa, who has driven for Ferrari since 2006 and come closer than Alonso to winning the title for the Scuderia (he lost out to Lewis Hamilton by a single point in 2008). Alonso said:
“I want to thank Felipe for all the support he has given me and the team during this journey we have made together over all these years. Come the end of the season, it will not be easy to say goodbye to a team-mate like him. He has always been truly professional and loyal to the team and I am sure that right to the end, he will do his utmost for the Scuderia that he loves so much.”
Domenicali said, ““I wish to thank Felipe with all my heart and also on behalf of all our fans around the world, for the extraordinary job he has done for the team over so many years. Felipe has always behaved like a real team player. Together we have lived through some great times and also a few dramatic moments, which have helped to cement a truly unique relationship on both a professional and personal level.
“He will always be part of our family and we wish him all the very best for the future. Now we must concentrate all our efforts on the remaining seven races of the season and we know that, as always, we can count on Felipe’s contribution, while we work together to reach our goals. Our determination will not waver one iota right to the very end.”
With seven races remaining in the season, Alonso and Massa are still in the hunt to secure the Constructors’ Championship for Ferrari and Alonso is still in with a chance, however slim, of taking the Drivers’ Championship. Massa, being the loyal Ferrari driver that he is, will no doubt be giving his all to make those goals reality before he departs from Maranello.
It’s official: Felipe Massa will leave Ferrari at the end of 2013 after eight seasons with the team in which he won 11 races (to date) and narrowly missed out on the 2008 World Championship. The Brazilian is looking to stay in Formula One in 2014, but has not yet provided any indication of which team he could join for next season. Although it has not yet been confirmed by Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen is expected to be announced as Massa’s replacement in the next few days.
Massa made the announcement on Instagram and Twitter today, saying:
“From 2014 i will no longer be driving for Ferrari. I would like to thank the team for all the victories and incredible moments experienced together. Thank you also to my wife and all of my family, to my fans and all my sponsors. From each one of you I have always received a great support!”
“Right now I want to push as hard as possible with Ferrari for the remaining 7 races. For next year, I want to find a team that can give me a competitive car to win many more races and challenge for the Championship which remains my greatest objective! Thank you all. Felipe”
There is still plenty of time left in the season for Massa to have an impact on the Constructors’s Championship and to help Fernando Alonso during his challenge for the Drivers’ Championship. For next season, things are not quite so clear, and it remains to be seen whether or not Massa will be able to find a competitive drive for 2014.
Felipe Massa is the second longest-serving driver in Ferrari’s history, after Michael Schumacher. Massa joined Ferrari from Sauber in 2006 to partner Schumacher after three seasons with Sauber. In his first season with the Scuderia, Massa took three pole positions, won two races (including his home Brazilian Grand Prix) and stood on the podium seven times on his way to third in the Drivers’ Championship.
The following season, Massa’s new Ferrari team-mate, Kimi Raikkonen, won the title while Massa won three races, stood on the podium 10 times and started six races from pole position. Massa was clearly moving forward in Formula One, and delivered his strongest season to date in 2008, when he lost out on the title by a single point to Lewis Hamilton after thoroughly outperforming Raikkonen all year.
In 2009, however, Massa suffered a severe setback. He had an horrific accident during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix, when a spring from the rear suspension of Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn car struck Massa on the helmet while he was travelling at over 200 km/h. Massa’s injuries nearly cost him his life, and prevented him from taking part in the rest of the 2009 season.
He was back in 2010 to partner Fernando Alonso, who had arrived at Ferrari from Renault, but Massa never managed to regain his pre-accident form. Now in his fourth full season since his accident, Massa has scored no wins, no pole positions and just eight podium finishes. In contrast, Alonso has won 11 races, stood on the podium 40 times and started from pole position four times in the same period.
Based on his form in recent seasons, it’s no surprise that Massa is being replaced at Ferrari. But after eight years with Ferrari, including almost losing his life in a Formula One car but returning to drive for the team again, it will understandably be an emotional farewell, both for Massa and the team that he has called his “racing family.”
Massa’s stats, as a Ferrari driver and overall, correct until and including the 2013 Italian Grand Prix are:
|Best season finish||2 (2008)||2 (2008)|