With the three driver announcements confirmed officially yesterday, (Bottas – Mercedes, Massa – Williams, Wehrlein – Sauber) directly following the Autosport International show (What a missed opportunity to announce), have Williams just cashed out their best driver and gone for too safe an option in Felipe Massa?
The Brazilian driver’s form was really off last season, despite the emotional farewells in Brazil, the gestures of good-will from the team and the other lovey-dovey stuff, it’s a bit hard to believe that Massa will be as motivated as he could following his short departure from the sport.
“I think what happened at the end of last season with Nico’s unexpected retirement sparked a unique turn of events. Valtteri has been offered a fantastic opportunity and, as a result, an opportunity arose for me.
I was touched by the response from so many fans who wanted to see me back in the sport. That was certainly a factor in the decision, so I’d like to thank the fans for their support. When I received the call it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
My return is not about seeing Formula One as the best option, but is about seeing the role at Williams as the best option. I would not have returned for any other team.”
– Felipe Massa
We were never going to get a Felipe Massa back who is hungry for race wins, but we get the relaxed Massa, the one who doesn’t mind finishing as second-fiddle in an inter-team rivalry. Lance Stroll has an easier benchmark now – make no mistake. If the Canadian had been pitted against Bottas, he probably wouldn’t have looked ready for Formula One. Now, against Massa 2.0, it will probably be more of an even fight.
Williams needed a driver over the age of 25 given their Martini sponsorship, but was bringing Felipe Massa back a bit conservative? What does it say of their intentions as a team heading into 2017 with a rookie and a veteran that you have to say, with all respect, is past his absolute prime?
Williams go into 2017 with a weaker driver line-up, it has to be said, because Stroll would have to out-Verstappen Max Verstappen from the off to show the pace that Bottas had at Williams. It’s hard to begrudge Felipe Massa’s return – He’s reliable in terms of feedback and will help Stroll develop, but in terms of outright pace and hunger, the appointment goes against the team’s ambitions to finish 3rd in the Constructors next season.