Felipe Massa believes Sebastian Vettel’s time at Ferrari should not be classed as a failure, saying the team’s 12-year wait for another world title is not only down to their drivers.
In a special and entertaining ‘Ferrari Legends’ edition of the Sky F1 Vodcast, three key members of the Scuderia’s last title-winning line-up – Massa and his former race engineer Rob Smedley, along with their ex-team boss Stefano Domenicali – were reunited to reminisce about their years together at F1’s biggest team.
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Massa also gave his take on the transfer goings-on at his old team in recent weeks.
“You cannot forget that the last time Ferrari won the [constructors’] championship was in 2008,” said Massa, who famously came close to making it a title double that year.
“It’s true that many good drivers [were] passing through the team and were not able to win. Including after 2008 I was there, and we never had really the car or the team to win.
“Fernando [Alonso] definitely made an incredible job in 2010. He arrived really on the limit fighting for the championship. But maybe, to be honest, the car was not able to win in that year. In my opinion, he did an amazing job.
“All of the drivers that are passing there [since] – Sebastian, Kimi [Raikkonen]- were not able to win because the team was not completely perfect to win the season.
“So it’s not only related to Sebastian. Sebastian did many great races, he won many races or he fought [for them], and he was always in front of his team-mate – even a good team-mate and champion like Kimi.”
Vettel’s supremacy was unquestioned, until last year’s arrival of Charles Leclerc.
“Maybe last year things changed a little bit,” added Massa.
“We can’t really forget what Charlie did. He’s a driver I’m watching since karting and he showed that he’s really a big talent and can be a champion, or can be a top driver in whatever team he raced.
“[Sebastian] had some pressure inside and maybe that also was [which led to] some different decision that Ferrari took in front of them.”
Massa, who spent eight seasons in a Ferrari race seat and won 11 times before making way for Raikkonen’s return in 2014, said it was “not a surprise” that his former team and Vettel decided to go their separate ways at the end of 2020.
And the Brazilian admits he would not now be shocked if Vettel left F1 entirely.
“To stay in the team, he needs to be 100 per cent sure that he wants to stay – and the team as well. So he’s just arriving in a moment that they’re just trying to have a different direction,” said Massa of the impending split.
“Now if he will stay in Formula 1 or not is another question.
“Sebastian is a driver and a guy who is always very focused on what he wants. So I’m not surprised that maybe he decides even to stop. Definitely, in his position, to stay, he needs to find a team that gives him the opportunity, or maybe the talks or the ideas, that he’s sure that, ‘OK, it’s good to stay’.
“Otherwise. I’m not sure he will stay [in F1].”
How will Sainz get on next to Leclerc in 2021?
Although Sainz is three years older and more experienced in F1 than Leclerc, it is the two-time race-winning Monegasque who is being viewed as Ferrari’s team leader into the future.
Massa thought that Daniel Ricciardo would have been the front-runner for the other seat but believes Sainz has shown that he deserves the coveted drive.
“What I can say is I also expected Ricciardo maybe to be the Ferrari driver because everybody is thinking ‘Ricciardo will be the guy’,” admitted Massa. “But I think we need to respect the decision of Mattia [Binotto] and the team to get Carlos.
“Carlos shows that he has the talent. On his first year of Formula 1 if you really get back and try to see all the races, I think he and Verstappen were really close. He really showed he has the speed, he has the talent and he works a lot.
“He is a big worker in the physical way, but also in the team. He grew a lot in his career and last year he did a really fantastic year for McLaren. He has the experience so has the capacity to give what the team wants.”
Massa, who was hired from Sauber in 2006 as Michael Schumacher’s team-mate when only 24 years old, added: “It’s nice to see Ferrari is investing in the driver that is coming from not a top team winning races or with the results, but believing in the driver.
“This is nice to see in the sport. But also now he needs to show what he is able to do. Now it depends on what he will show to the team. To get along with the team in the right way.
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