Monday, March 12, 2007

Felipe Massa – 2007 F1 world champion?

We are less than a week away from the first race of the 2007 season. Pre-season testing is over. It is that time of the year again when every other F1 fan is discussing who will be the next F1 world champion.

For the past few weeks, I have been asking myself the same question that ended up as this post’s title. It is about the driver who has constantly topped the time charts during pre-season: Is Felipe Massa going to be the next F1 world champion? Of course no one can be 100% sure of such answer. All I could do was to come up with a logical approach. If real life is then illogical, as many times it is, things may change – but at least logic gave a starting point.

From what I know about Formula One and logic, the answer is simple.

Yes, Felipe Massa will be the 2007 F1 world champion.

So easy to say, yet so shocking. At first thought, the response by the logical approach would be either Fernando Alonso – 2005 and 2006 champion – or Kimi Raikkonen – 2003 and 2005 runner-up. Further analysis points to Massa, though.

Let’s take the step-by-step method to show how I came up with this answer. I will divide the response in match-ups with the other title contenders. If Massa wins them all, he is the virtual champion.

Match-up #1: Massa vs. Raikkonen

Ferrari will be the team to beat in 2007. The second half of 2006 and 2007 pre-season has shown that. I believe Ferrari will be the constructor champion – for more on that, check out my post ‘What about McLaren?’. If I am right, this is the key match-up for the drivers championship: Massa versus his own Ferrari teammate.

I believe Massa will beat Raikkonen. Massa is focused: He knows what he wants, is working hard and has learned everything he could from Schumacher. His mental state is great. Ferrari is his home. He loves the team, the team loves him. Kimi is the new guy there. When anyone makes a job change, there is a period of adaptation. In F1, this is not different. Even ‘The Iceman’ wil take some time to adapt. When he does, it will be hard for him to catch up to Massa, who will have a few more points.

Maybe it is just the press, but the fact that Raikkonen is told to be partying and drinking every other week does not seem to be a good thing. This blog is not about protesting against alcohol, but I have not heard about any recent champion athlete who drank half as much as Raikkonen is told to drink. Even if it is not entirely true, the fact that the press states it is will bother Kimi at some point. Felipe does not have this type of distraction in his quest for the championship.

Massa will win this match-up.

Match-up #2: Massa vs. Alonso (and Hamilton)

Both Massa and Alonso have always been lighting fast drivers. In the beginning of their careers, both would make many mistakes, trying to be faster when the car did not allow. At one point, Alonso stopped making mistakes. After that, he has 'suddenly' won 2 titles. Massa is at that point right now. He has stopped making the stupid mistakes from his early F1 career at Sauber.

Since both are - in my opinion - equally fast, and Massa is now becoming equally consistent, only one factor will be really deciding: the car. And Ferrari is better than McLaren at this time. Therefore, Massa will also win this match-up.

Note: I will not compare him to the less experienced Hamilton, since Alonso is the current world champion and should score more points than the rookie. If Massa can beat Alonso, he can beat Hamilton as well.

Match-up #3: Massa vs. Kovalainen

This match-up should be versus both Renault drivers. But I think Kovalainen will be faster, and Massa already beat Fisichella in 2006, so there is no point comparing to him. Still, the only way Kovalainen would beat Massa would be if Renault were faster. This has not been the case since the second half of the 2006 season in most tracks. Add to that Kovalainen's lack of experience and Massa wins another match-up.

Match-up #4: Massa vs. everybody else

Who else could be champion? Kubica or Heidfeld and the surprising BMW? They still have reliability problems that will cost them a few points. They will surprise at some races, but will disappoint in many others.

No one else seems to have a car good enough to consistently beat Ferrari. Not Honda, not Toyota, not Williams, not anyone. Therefore, Massa wins all the remaining match-ups.

The bottom line

Massa is a winner. He has won every category he has raced after karting. He has won Brazilian Formula Chevrolet in 1999, the Italian and European Formula Renault in 2000, and the Formula 3000 Euro-Series in 2001. Why can’t he also be Formula One champion? This seems to be his year.

--Andre N.


Anonymous said...

I stand by you in your comments. I do believe that Massa will be on the top this year.

João Paulo said...

I hope you are right!!! Although Massa had a problem in the first race, I do believe that he will win this season…. but it is very important for him, to stay in front of Kimi in the beginning of the year, otherwise Ferrari will consider Massa as the second driver.