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Talon64's Motorsports Corner writes:
"F1: Felipe Massa and his place in Ferrari futility history"
Posted by Talon64 on November 2, 2011
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Almost 3 years removed from missing out on the F1 world championship by just 1 turn, things couldn't have taken a worse turn for Scuderia Ferrari driver Felipe Massa.

In his first 3 seasons at Ferrari, from 2006 to 2008, Massa's 11 wins ranked 2nd only to Fernando Alonso. After being mentored by Michael Schumacher in Schumi's (supposedly) final season in F1 and then making a good showing compared to new teammate and 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen, Massa took over as the team's #1 driver both in spirit and results as he lost one of the closest championship battles in F1 history in 2008.

But then Massa lost the last half of 2009 after suffering head injuries due to an errant spring during Hungary GP qualifying. That, with the combination of 2 time F1 champion Fernando Alonso joining Ferrari for 2010, seemed to throw Massa off his game. Except for a solid start to 2010 that saw him leading the standings after 3 races, the last two seasons have been Massa quickly fall to 2nd driver status within Ferrari and by far the least productive driver of the Big 3 (Red Bull, Mclaren, Ferrari).

Massa only had 5 podium finishes in 2010 after recording 27 from 2006-2008, and 2011's been an entirely new low; after 17 races Massa's best finish is only 5th and he's dangerously close to going the entire season without a podium finish.

Which begs the question, when was the last time that a Ferrari driver went an entire season without a podium finish?

One possible answer to that is Ivan Capelli, who didn't have any podiums for Ferrari in 1992; he ran the first 14 races for the team before being subsituted by Nicola Larini for the last 2 races. He finished 13th in the standings with just 3 points and a best finish of 5th at Interlagos. But the Ferrari machine that year was a brittle one, as Ferrari drivers combined to finish only 11 of 32 races; Ferrari's top driver, Jean Alesi, still finished 7th in the standings on the strength of 2 podiums and scoring points in all of the 6 races he finished, but the two drivers combined for only 21 points; 1992 champion Nigel Mansell outscored Ferrari 5-1 (108 points).

But if you want someone who drove the ENTIRE season for Ferrari, then the answer is Didier Pironi in 1981. This actually came off the 1980 season where Ferrari AS A TEAM went without a single podium finish, scoring only 8 points combined (under the old top-6 point system); Ferrari was late to the party on ground-effect cars and only thanks to a good start to 1979 were they able to hold off Williams, who debuted their ground-effect car halfway through the season, to take both championships (Jody Scheckter as driver champ). 1981 was a good rebound, as despite attrition (finished just 6 of 15 races) Gilles Villeneuve won twice. But Scheckter retired after 1980 and his replacement, Didier Pironi, could only muster a best finish of 4th at Monaco along with 3 finishes of 5th.

The difference between Pironi/Capelli and Massa is that the 2011 150° Italia is hardly as big of a dog as the 1992 Ferrari F92A or the 1981 126CK; Fernando Alonso is fighting for 2nd in the standings on the strength of 1 win and 9 podiums, and has scored 2.3 times more points than Massa (227 to 98). Massa's struggles has put his future at Ferrari in serious jeopardy as Nico Rosberg and Robert Kubica (even with his rallying injuries that's cost him his 2011 season) have been rumored to be potential replacements at Ferrari as soon as next season.

In 2008 Felipe Massa came painstakingly close to putting his name in the Ferrari record books in all the right ways. In 2011 he could also put his name in the record books but in all the wrong ways.

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