Formula One is a sport of fine motor skills and precision – talents that can take years to properly develop for budding drivers. Mentors are widespread, but few are as iconic as Felipe Massa.
At this point, Felipe Massa’s “retirement” at the end of the 2016 season could be viewed as a non-event. Barely had the Brazilian driver declared his desire to step away from the sport before he was pulled back in under the wing of Williams to oversee the development of young F1 rookie Lance Stroll. Despite downplaying his return, Massa has been an instrumental boon to the team as they do their best to groom the new driver.
Despite downplaying his return, Massa has been an instrumental boon to the team as they do their best to groom the new driver.
Accusations of nepotism notwithstanding, Stroll has proven that he can be a dominant force out on the track. The frequency of his inconsistent performances can be largely chalked up to inexperience, but hey – that’s what they’ve got Massa there for. Felipe has proven to be the right call for the British team, taking Stroll under his wing and doing his utmost to help the young Canadian succeed. It’s no secret that at the moment, he is William’s greatest asset – both on and off the track.
Yet despite the focus on his tutoring, Massa remains a capable force out on the track himself. His end-of-2016 retirement could be seen more as a decision to forgo a stagnant driver market rather than an outright desire to hang up his hat and call it quits in the sport which he made 260 grand prix starts in. Massa, after taking a moment to look back on how the first half of the 2017 season went for him, believes that there’s no reason for him to opt out of racing – provided that there is a place for him:
“I’m really in good shape, the way I’m driving, the way I understand the car and everything. I have no reason not to stay in F1, but we’ll see what’s going to happen.” – Felipe Massa
He’s not alone in that sentiment. William’s chief technical officer Paddy Lowe has vocally backed the 36-year-old driver, saying that he still believes him to be capable of clinching the world championship:
“Felipe is world champion material, we saw that from the season he was briefly world champion . He is clearly very talented and it’s a great pleasure to work with him and find out how he works. He’s a fantastic guy to work with: enthusiastic, friendly, very supportive of Lance and the learning that Lance needs to go through.” – Paddy Lowe
However, the most interesting comment that Lowe made regarding Massa wasn’t regarding his aptitude, but rather the slight dig he made at the team’s capabilities of supplying Felipe with a winning car:
“He’s fun to work with and a very stable and dependable guy to have on the other side of the garage. I think if we could give Felipe the right car, he could go and get the job done.” – Paddy Lowe
Williams has undoubtedly been experiencing a bit of a performance slump over the last few years, but should the team find a breakthrough in their seasonal development, Formula One could see the likes of Massa up on the podium sooner than expected.