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“Thoughts on Felipe Massa, Williams and team orders”

April 1, 2014

Since the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday, there has been some talk about the team orders delivered to Williams driver Felipe Massa toward the end of the race.

Massa, along with teammate Valtteri Bottas finished 7th and 8th; however the team believed the latter to be quicker at the time and in a better position to tackle Jenson Button for a top-six position – a position lost to the McLaren driver off the start.

While this might be considered harsh action had it been a race for the lead – à la Hockenheim 2010 – the reality is Massa and Bottas were battling over some of the more minor points paying positions.

However Williams are in a position where they need points and in a situation where points pay big money, each score at this level is critical. If the team had felt that Bottas’ progress – and the potential for further points – had been hampered by Massa, then they are right to feel aggrieved about the Brazilian’s conduct, irrespective of whether Massa believes he was right or not.

Yet at the same time, Williams should have considered this a distinct possibility. Prior to the Australian grand Prix, I noted that this could genuinely be Williams’ year or possibly another false dawn, like in 2009 when they failed to take advantage of the double diffuser.
While no team wishes to publicly (or privately) realise that they are not as far forward as they should be, Williams should have made their drivers understand prior to the race (and maybe prior to the season) that team orders were possible considering the position they were in.
Realistically, each party involved played this very poorly.

In the grand scheme of things, one could also ask if this another case of FOM picking a specific radio message in attempt to grab the attention of the viewers? The answer is quite simply “of course it was.”
Let us not forget that this is “entertainment” and Formula One as an international sporting entity is catering to millions of viewers worldwide and as such, resides very much in the aisle of sporting show business. Entertainment serves little purpose if no one is talking about it afterward and Williams’ radio message certainly did that for a time.

Meanwhile, the team have said the drivers have moved on and maybe, for now, it is time to leave things at that.

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